Tonight’s 15 Minute Forum was led by our Director of English, Kate Bloomfield. She has presented twice before, about how student exercise books have been used as revision guides in English and these can be read here and here.
A year on from her last presentation, Kate has reviewed how effective this technique has become with her students and how useful her Year 11 students have found this technique to facilitate their revision. Kate’s starting point was the shift to 100% terminal exams in English and the need for students to have clear and concise notes from day one in September of Year 10.
The importance of this approach is that students view their exercise books as a valuable resource, which will be used throughout the two year GCSE course. Kate stressed the importance of the students’ exercise book because:
• it contains the whole course content
• it is the language and expression that has been used by the teacher and will be used by the teacher throughout the revision process
• it is the students’ own work and therefore personal and relevant to them.
This is in contrast to the vast array of revision guides which are available for students and parents/carers to purchase. The issues with these ‘bought’ revision guides is whether they are specifically relevant to the student and which one is most suitable for the student?
Kate then discussed how she has ensured that students’ exercise books are able to be used as a revision guide. Firstly, she insists on immaculate presentation. Students must ensure that they include dates and title and present their work neatly and in an organised fashion. Secondly, Kate insists that all worksheets are stuck into the students’ exercise books. To facilitate this she cuts all worksheets to size, so that they fit in the students’ books, without being folded. This obviously takes a bit of preparation and organisation, but the benefits to the students outweigh the preparation time. In addition, students are provided a new exercise book for each topic that they study, thus ensuring that only the specific notes for that topic can be found in each exercise book. Again, this adds clarity and facilitates easy access to their notes.
A big shift forward, in how Kate has used the students’ exercise books as revision guides came in September 2015. English teachers now use the last lesson of each half-term as the final lesson of each topic. In this lesson, students turn their exercise books into revision guides. The students number each page and then create a contents list for that topic.
The students take ownership of this process, as they are responsible for what they write as the ‘contents’ of each page. This allows the students to develop links between different sections of the topic and also to understand how one part of the topic is linked or dependent on another part of the topic. In addition, it allows students to review their work as they are completing the activity. Furthermore, the teacher is able to facilitate discussions with students who are unsure of what to write thus deepening their understanding.
However, more importantly the students now see their exercise books as revision guides from the beginning of Year 10. In the past, students had only seen revision guides as something to use after Christmas in Year 11. Now, students have an on-going and regularly updated revision programme.
The final part of the process is to use the front and back covers of the exercise books as a stimulus for the contents of each topic. Again, students are given free choice as to what they can include. To help ‘less creative’ students, Kate provides a set of images which they can select from, but many go beyond this and include their own drawings our key quotes.
The finished product looks something like this and allows students to feel proud of the work that they have completed. In addition, the students are left with a specific, individual revision guide which contains all of the key information provided to them by their teacher.
This approach seems to be working, as the students are engaged by the technique. In addition, it allows students to constantly review and reflect upon the work that they have produced for each topic. Other departments have begun to adopt this approach and students have even taken it upon themselves, to adopt this approach in subjects where the teacher has not explicitly instructed them to do so.
And here’s Kate talking about her session: