The BEST revision guide for students

Two weeks ago, the 15 minute forum was led by our Director of English, Kate Bloomfield.  Kate wanted to share something very significant with staff – she had found the best revision guide ever for our students!

kbl2Like most Subject Leaders, Kate has spent a huge amount of time looking through a range of revision guides, trying to find the best one for her students – the one that is going to make a huge difference.  The problem is…she hasn’t been able to.  By their very nature, they all have number of things in common, that aren’t helpful:

  • They all cost money.
  • Students don’t know how to use them – which sections are relevant to them?
  • They are not personalised to the needs of the individual student.
  • It’s not in the context of how the students learnt it.
  • We don’t know if/ how they are used.
  • They are not always up to date with specification changes.
  • They become a crutch – ‘I’ve bought a revision guide’ is often translated in the mind of a teenager as ‘That’s my revision done!’
  • It can be seen as a quick-fix for Pupil Premium students.

So this presents a problem – but one that Kate thinks she might have solved.  She has discovered the best revision guide ever for her students.  It’s free, personalised, adaptable, grows and develop in response to the students’ learning and many of them have one already.  Here it is:

kbl3That’s it – the humble exercise book!  We need to instil in students the idea that this is the most valuable revision guide they can have.  Why?

  • It’s personalised to them – it contains feedback and notes about what they did and didn’t understand.
  • It’s full of up to date, expert advice – from teachers with a great track record of exam success.
  • It’s in the context of how they learnt the material in the first place.
  • It’s organised in a way that makes sense to them.
  • Everything in it is necessary for their exam.

There are some things though that students need to be aware of and do, if it’s going to become the perfect revision guide:

  • Bring it to every lesson.
  • Take pride in it – keep it neat and well organised e.g. dates, title etc.
  • Annotate your notes regularly with hints and tips from your teacher during the lesson.
  • Act on any feedback you are given by your teacher – written or verbal.  Feedback is useless if not responded to.
  • Highlight key terms/ideas.

This list would be a good addition to the front of any exercise book.

Kate has guided her students through the following activity, to help shape their exercise book, into the perfect revision guide.  Firstly, students were told that they needed the following equipment:

  • Their exercise book
  • Highlighter/ coloured pens
  • A list of topics to be covered in the exam
  • Thick black pens

The following slide was then shown:


Students were then given a simple instruction.  They had to look through their books – any work on ‘Of Mice & Men’ they put a yellow tick at the top of the page.  Any work on ‘An Inspector Calls’ – mark with a green tick and anything on ‘Relationships Poetry’ an orange tick.  Anything to do with their Controlled Assessment, could be crossed out – as it wouldn’t be needed for the exam.  Just doing this simple task, made a huge difference to them:

  • They felt their book was organised.
  • It took them back to when they studied that topic and got them thinking about it and discussing it again.
  • They could then start to pick out their weak areas – and mark this with a star, as a reminder to spend more time revising that topic.
  • From feedback they could see common mistakes they had made and what they did about it.

In terms of benefits, Kate has noticed the following:

1. It was a really focused and active introductory revision session

2. All aspects of this revision guide are relevant to them as individuals.

3. Using their book as a revision guide means that is becomes a tool for revision, not a crutch.

4. Encourages independence.

5. Fosters confidence and self-belief – it shows them how much they have done and how they overcame difficulties with the work.

6. No cost.

7. A springboard for future revision activities.

8.  Everything in it is relevant.

9.  It gives their book importance and purpose – so fosters a sense of pride in their work.

After doing the activity, one student said to Kate:

I can’t believe I’ve done all this much work!”

Alongside this, Kate has also been trying to foster a culture of hard work and effort in her classes, by focusing her praise on the effort that they put into their work.  One way she has done this is by catching them working hard, taking a photo of them and then sticking it on the front of their exercise book.  The rule is that the photo can’t be set up – if the student knows the photo is being taken, it’s not used:


This then sets the standard for what they should be doing in lessons – head down, working hard and putting in maximum effort.  It’s like a ‘benchmark of brilliance’ in terms of effort for each student.  When they are not meeting that expectation, they are reminded that they can!

It makes it OK to be working hard!



This entry was posted in 15 Minute Forums. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The BEST revision guide for students

  1. Mr Sugden says:

    This in an absolute breath of fresh air! I have been promoting this with my classes for the past 2 years now. How many times do students just discard their exercise books at the end of a course only to buy a nice, glossy revision guide (that often stays in this condition). If this is the norm what does that say about the content of our lessons? I have pushed forward the idea that there must be some intrinsic personal value to students having exercise books, otherwise why both writing in them at all! This year all of my students have been given an exercise book and an assessment folder. Exam question homework booklets are completed and stored in the folders with a tracking sheet at the front. On the front of each exercise book is a blank coat-of-arms that students have personalised with a picture that shows me something about the person that they are (football teams they support, hobbies they have, favourite pastimes, etc…..) Underneath their coat-of-arms they have given themselves a BLP/Growth Mindset motto such as ‘Achieve’, Never Beaten’, ‘Failure is not an option’, etc. To support their learning each student has in their folder one black pen, one highlighter, one green pen and one purple pen. The green pen is for peer marking, correcting literacy and for group work exercises where answers are communal ones. The purple pen is for addressing any targets for improvement or personalised homework questions that I give them. What better way to promote the value of the humble exercise book and a BLP-inspired Growth Mindset.

  2. Mr Sugden says:

    Reblogged this on petersugden and commented:
    The best revision guide a student can have SHOULD BE their exercise book. If not something is WRONG!

  3. Abena says:

    This is a great idea, but we are a one-to-one school and therefore are pretty much paperless. However, learners have a blog which is supposed to act in place of their exercise books and they can use the tags to organise by topic. I’ll have to consider how best to use the blog for revision purposes but this has got me thinking about how to improve upon previous practices, including when they’ve collaborated on a Google Site to produce a customised revision guide for the class. They take responsibility for one part of the course and produce revision notes alongside questions so they can test themselves.
    Thanks for the post!

  4. joprestia says:

    Very cool – I actually use similar techniques in my PhD journal – good for big kids too! A great way to get students going over their learning – I wish more educators would adopt it, even for those with BYODs. It really would’t hurt for students to have an exercise book – a nice respite from technology. Thanks for posting 🙂

  5. joprestia says:

    Reblogged this on Smart is cool! and commented:
    Worth a read and implementation!!

  6. Pingback: 15 Minute Forums – Autumn 2014 | Class Teaching

  7. Pingback: The Best Revision Guides Part 2 – Now you can judge a book by its cover! | Class Teaching

  8. Pingback: Improving revision guides | George Green's Expressive Arts

  9. Pingback: Contents Page – Try This Teaching

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s