Maximising the outcomes from revision
Posted 13 November 2003 - 06:16 PM
The first thing I believe about revision is that it must be an ongoing process. Seeing it as simply the bit at the end of the course is a mistake and misses out of possible enrichment of the course. An example of this would be that in the scheme of work for Germany 1919-1945 that we do in Year 11, every fifth lesson (we have five lessons a fortnight) is a revision and exam skills lesson. Students are required to be examiners and mark a set of model answers ranging from U to A* for questions on the topics they have studied in the previous week's lessons. This is instant revision of knowledge and understanding as well as developing exam skills in a direct and relevant way. The use of exam marking for revision is a very strong way of covering a lot of ground in a relatively short space of time. Building it into the entire course rather than just at the end means that writing the correct type of examination answer becomes second nature to students rather than being something they only get to grips with at exam time in Year 10, Mocks and June of Year 11.
Exam practice is also key. Many schools will do this at the end of their course during the official period of revision. Again this is something that I believe is best tackled continuously in the course. During our Year 10 Medicine Through Time course and our Year 11 Germany 1919-1945 course every single homework is an exam question homework. The questions will be on the topics studied in that week. Students have a separate exercise book in which to do these questions. We use questions from the papers where possible, but otherwise write our own. The same style of question is used for a few weeks at a time to get students to be familiar with the question type and their grades reflect this. We give students a revision book (BBC Bitesize or CGP) from day 1 of the course to use for these homeworks. Of course this inflates the grades, as does the fact that they get the questions on a sheet that has stacks of advice on how to do the questions, but their exam skills are constantly developed and tested. By the time they do their exams in each year they have done dozens of exam questions covering all types and go into the exam with far less fear of how to do the exam
Becoming involved as a GCSE exam marker is the single best way of being able to do this as a teacher. Even just one year spent marking GCSE exam papers for your exam board is perhaps one of the single biggest impacts you can have on both your own teaching and the quality of revision that you are able to deliver. The amount of understanding that you gain of the course, the thoughts of the Chief Examiner, the requirements of each grade and the knowledge actually required by students is immense. You cannot get this to such a great extent in any other way. When you then come to write model answers for your students or to write your own versions of the markschemes in language suitable for students it is so much easier for you as a teacher. It is not a task you will do for high financial returns or to improve your July social life, but as a tool to allow you to be able to maximise the outcomes from revision it is invaluable.
Aside from being able to write the correct style of answer for the exam, students obviously have to know their facts and information. This is perhaps one of the biggest problems for many students, who are simply overwhelmed by knowledge that they have learnt in a lesson and then not been tested on for months afterwards. A way of tackling this is to build this process of factual knowledge checking and development into the scheme of work on a regular basis. In our Germany 1919-1945 Scheme of Work we use one lesson out of every five to ensure this takes place. To out it simply we play games. Bingo, blockbusters, racing, time quizzes. All of these are done with each class each fortnight based on the knowledge they have built up in previous lessons. Students are completely engaged in this process as it is active and, dare I say it, exciting. We award sweets as prizes for questions answered and winning teams etc. Students become completely obsessed with getting it right and group discussions in answer to questions are amazing at times if you get the groups right.
This use of quizzes is, I believe, vital to revision success. There are so many on offer. The SchoolHistory quizzes - Walk the Plank, Fling the Teacher, Hoop Shoot, Penalty Shootout etc. - are always popular with students. I have had a group of Year 11s do the whole of a revision lesson on their own with my interactive whiteboard. I put one girl in charge and she ran the lesson, choosing which quizzes to do, asking for answers, getting others to justify their ideas. I do not teach in a Grammar School or to setted students. The quizzes engage students and allow them to discuss which answer is correct and why. This means this is not a simple fact test, it allows for so much more. If you do not have access to the internet with your laptop and projector etc. you can download the quizzes or go to an IT room to use them. You will not regret your actions. We all know how kids can sit in revision lessons at the end of Year 11 wasting time and making you tear your hair out as you see more slipping grades. The solution is to excite and engage them using every quiz method possible. The tools are there so apply them.
In addition to these things that you can do yourself, there are so many other options available to help students. The "Doctors Show" run by Chris Culpin and others is but one of an example of getting your students out of the classroom and engaged in a new way with their topic. Visiting speakers can be booked to do this for Medicine Through Time, and students can get to live and breathe the topic.
I think the key to maximising the outcomes from student revision is to make it a vibrant and continuous process. Do not see it as an add on at the end of the course. We do not finish our full teaching for GCSE History until comparatively late, and therefore our formal revision period is actually quite short. However I know that we have revised constantly as the course has gone along and I have no great concerns about exam technique or subject knowledge. Our students are never able to go for weeks, let alone months, without having their skills and knowledge constantly tested and improved. Our students look forward to their fortnightly "fun" lesson (as they call it!). They are tested rigorously in this lesson with no hiding places (on the spot questions ensure this) but are so keen to win their prizes and show their knowledge that they go for it in a big way.
I have set out some of my key ideas and beliefs for how to maximise the outcomes from student revision. I hope that much of it has got people simply saying "I do that" or "We use that idea", but equally I hope that this seminar will prove to be a collecting point for lots of excellent ideas and techniques from a whole range of teachers.
So please post away and let us create a Seminar that really meets the needs of all of us who want to ensure that our responsibility to ensure the potential of our GCSE students is met as much as is humanly possible!
Posted 13 November 2003 - 07:37 PM
There are many examples of excellent practice here, and I would like to comment on two: 1) regular testing 2) being a gcse examiner.
1) I am now seriously regretting missed opportunities with my current year 11 class. They are in need of almsot constant reminder of the basic skills that are needed for success at gcse and I fear that it is already too late. They have got into bad habits and recently almost mutinied at the prospect of writing a timed essay. This contrasts with my Year 10 class who are being regularly tested and are really seeing the benefits. For the most recent test I managed to 'con' them into believing that they were all allowed to 'cheat' for the test. This was because I had given them the questions before hand and asked them to prepare their answers. Of course the 'best cheats' got the highest grades and the class approached the test in a much more positive frame of mind.
2) Without any shadow of a doubt the single greatest help in terms of teaching GCSE History came as a result of being an examiner for SHP paper 2. I now have total confidence in my own ability as a marker and spend alot of time (hopefully) transmitting my understanding of the demands of the exams to my students. I regularly write exam style questions and markschemes and have used the GCSE style of marking lower down the school. you rightly point out that GCSE marking is not about the money, it is about pedagogy, but it did pay for a 3 week trip to Brazil a couple of summers ago!
I will post later with some of the examples of the revision techniques / programmes that I have used.
Posted 13 November 2003 - 10:00 PM
One "game" my kids enjoy is when we have big, end of term prizes and forfeits quizzes. I have a number of questions on square cards on my desk, face down with numbers on the back. The kids pick a number and have to answer that question. Some are "prize questions" for which they get a sweet. A couple are Star Prize questions (dead hard) for which they win a bar of chocolate. Some, however, are forfeit questions. These are the very easy ones. If anyone gets one wrong they have to do a forfeit. You can make the forfeits as embarrasing as you like - depending on what you think you can get away with!
Posted 14 November 2003 - 01:57 PM
Some methods I use are "The Idiot's Guide" - they bring in a small picture of their favouriet celebrity idiot, glue it to the centre of the page and surround it with the key facts, important dates and explanations of the topic.
Top trumps - the pupils create a top trumps set containing key facts, biography information and ratings - influence, number of factors, books published, valid theories, advanced medicine by.. etc and then can play with their cards again and again. Works well for Medicine individuals.
I also make them do a glossary of key terms in the back of their books as we go through Medicine and germany so that they can use that as a way of revising.
As an attempt to get them used to developing points to get into Level 3 I use cards with key words on e.g. propaganda, Night of Long Knives ... we pass this round (like pass the parcel) and when the music stops a pupil takes the card out of the envelope and has to explain it. Essay titles with this to give more focus. Sweets make them a lot happier about this!
Posted 14 November 2003 - 08:24 PM
But i do feel a bit depressed .......... GCSE should be about a bit more that jumping through these dammed hoops. The thought that 1 out of 5 fortnightly lessons would be in aid of better hoop jumping makes me very sad.
Posted 14 November 2003 - 09:55 PM
This is all very interesting. Thanks to those who have commented so far.
Some of my revision strategies can be found here
I share Serrie's misgivings about hoop jumping.... however we lost our grip on the agenda some years back I'm afraid
Do bear in mind that this seminar is about 'Maximising the outcomes of revision' rather than examining the frailities of our exam system and the need to make use of such revision strategies - that's a debate for another area. I will now try to think of a revision game that actually involves hoop jumping though - for now there is HoopShoot
It would be good to keep this seminar as a really accessible resource offering useful tips and ideas to help. Last year I did a lot of work to develop a large revision section at http://www.schoolhis...co.uk/revision/ This attempts to link up and provide accessible online revision for all students. It is in need of a little tinkering now though.
Generate your own versions of my games, quizzes and eLearning activities: ContentGenerator.net
Posted 16 November 2003 - 04:34 PM
Perhaps the one thing not mentioned so far, although it is implicit in what Stephen has said and I'm sure covered by everyone, is time management. Students need to manange their time in the exam with great care and this will only come about by doing lots of past paper question within the time allowed.
For last minute revision I do try to get my students to sit a mock under exam conditions which means in the room they will do the exam. It does seem a little weird that a student in Year 11 will have taken all of their History lessons, tests and exams in their History room for 5 years and then when the big one come along they all shuffle off to a hall. Obviously I understand why this is done but the unfamiliar surroundings can be unnerving. As History is the first exam in the cycle of exams they have not yet settled down to the routine and a mock in the hall the week before helps them a little.
I think thinking is SO important, my Lord.
Posted 16 November 2003 - 05:43 PM
These short activities included things such as Dingbats, sorting exercises, historical just a minute amongst others. Having a different type of activity and a different focus for 5 minutes each lesson seemed to increased the amount of knowledge that students could recall with confidence.
This year I've written to the parents of my Year 11 group offering a range of revision materials, a suggested revision timetable covering all course requirements - skills and content - between now and the exam and pointing them to several online resources that are set up for them. In many cases this was the first time that the students had actually been given a range of ideas about how to revise, most thought that revision was simply reading and making notes over and over again.
Posted 19 November 2003 - 02:05 PM
Last year several forum members cam up with the idea of identifying the 12 most significant individuals in the SHP Medicine course and preparing a range of short activities focussing on them. This meant that over a course of lessons you could revisit the most significant events and individuals in a number of different ways - without really taking much time from the main part of the lesson.
I am going to try "I'm a medic Get me out of here" style balloon debate this year as a way of revising. Our PGCE student did this last year and it worked brilliantly - no one wants to be voted off!
Posted 19 November 2003 - 03:20 PM
My students use medical monopoly in class. The students amend the rules and add new questions to this pack. They become quite competitive and it has worked well as a group versus group exercise as well as individually.
Other games and quizzes can easily be adapted for revision purposes. 'The Weakest Link' is easily transformed, and many students are quite happy to take on the persona of Ms Robinson.
For revising the skills aspect I've started asking students to colour code / highlight parts of their work. Basically this entails working through each paragraph highlighting the bits that relate to the Point or the paragraph, parts that are explanations, the supporting evidence and links to other factors / the next part of the answer. This has helped to focus students planning of their answers as they quickly realised that there were very few areas of their work that was highlighted as being supporting evidence, and only the most able were making frequent links. Most of the group now do this to their answers without being asked to and are doing a lot of peer marking in this way.
Posted 20 November 2003 - 11:58 PM
Just wanted to say thanks to both Jacko and Jo Norton.
Have used two of your ideas very effectively en mock feedback lessons.
Posted 22 November 2003 - 10:46 AM
Everybody in the class joined in well - one girl was given a hint to get to a star prize - but when she was the last to look at a forfeit card she actually refused to do the forfeit - the class were not impressed with her - but liked this new method of revision and going over exam work!
Posted 23 November 2003 - 07:16 PM
I was reading through the different ideas being put up in addition to my own starting ideas, and was struck with the thought about variety of revision techniques.
Using a variety of techniques is often cited as a key to successful teaching in general, so that you can hit all of the buttons that your students need to have pressed over a period of time.
However perhaps some people might think it is worth applying a different approach at times to high energy revision techniques. Much of the ideas being put forward are really interactive ones which make gerat use of the idea of games. However many teachers will be concerned about the reaction of their students to such "antics" and perhaps feel that once they have dipped their toe into the potentially anarchic waters of fun revision techniques, that they do not want to go through a new type of anarchy each week.
I would say that this is perhaps the time when feeling that a constant variety of techniques is not really always going to be for the best. If bingo, or blockbusters, or forfeits or whatever form of anarchy takes grabs the interest of your students works then sticking with it for a number of repetitions is a good way to go. Obviously not every time, but if one particular game really works with your lot then use it many times and the results will still be great!
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