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!
Like 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:
- 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!