Posted by: markhowell101 | May 14, 2011

Meaningful revision in class

I am someone who didn’t get revision going through school and as a result didn’t do enough (in fact doing almost none). It is therefore then not surprising that I underachieved at GCSE and A-level dong enough to get by but in reality had to go to college during my year out to improve my A-levels to get onto a decent uni course. It was only at university where I discovered what worked for me and the only way revision worked for me was hour after hour in the silent room at Plymouth University library reading and writing practice essays through exam season. This hard work paid off and I did very well in my degree.

Revision season has therefore been hard for me in both PGCE and NQT years as I have struggled to help students revise in the best way possible. To expect them to revise in the way I did for uni would not be appropriate for many of them but I want to find a way to get them all doing something. Thankfully one success has been the podcasts which all of my classes have downloaded (new Manor Geog Pod on the way) and all have listened to which if January’s results for me were anything to go by this has been a good result. My struggles have come in class with trying to create a focussed environment where students revise the right sort of things and can improve exam technique without it being too dry which might switch some students off altogether.

This was my problem last year where with the majority of classes I encouraged students to sit and read through notes or text books in close to silence and threw occasional past papers at them. Whilst this worked for some, a great number did not gain a great deal from this and though my results were good last year I felt this was not as a result of the 2 or 3 weeks before the exam in which I felt learning had not been maximised.

This year I feel much more positive about the experience and hopefully the results in August will affirm my higher expectations. With all of my exam groups I have 100 minute lessons which allow me to do a few tasks. I have been starting each lesson with a pub quiz style quick fire questions on a part of the course spec (I teach on the AQA B Religious Studies SPEC, AQA Geography A-level and OCR B Geography GCSE spec) then depending on what questions students answer badly they then attempt different revision tasks. So for example if they did badly at questions 1 to 5 they do the population revision task I have set and if they do badly at questions 6-10 they do the settlement revision task. This quiz style intro to lessons has been really fun with prizes and a nice relaxed end of the year kind of feel, a nice break from a lot of the heavy revision I know is going on elsewhere. It takes maybe 20-30 minutes out of my 100 and I then get them doing a revision task for the middle 30-45 minutes. This I make sure is more focussed and addresses areas which have been identified as weaknesses in the quiz. The final half hour or so is given over to exam practice where I set prior exam questions and they answer in timed, exam conditions. We then peer assess these at the end with students reading out answers and us discussing the marking of them.

This method for me has been head and shoulders better than last years approach and I can really see their exam answers improving lesson by lesson. For me they have been a lot more focussed and gained more in the 45 minutes or so directed revision time this year than 100 minutes of unstructured stuff last year. Hopefully the results will show this improved approach and then I can use this method for future years. Lets just hope it doesnt take me as long to find a method that works in the class as it took for me to find a personal method that worked.

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