It’s that time of year again. The exams are approaching fast and the gap between what students need to know and what they actually know seems impossible to bridge. It’s a fine balancing act between ensuring students’ mental health and emotional wellbeing and pushing them to put in just that little bit more effort in the final few weeks. Students need to feel confident and secure in their ability to succeed. So how do we help them to do this? Here’s what I try to do.
First, for my students it’s really important that nothing new is thrown into the mix now. Content and case studies should have been studied and the same key information repeated again and again. Do students have standard versions of annotated diagrams for landform formation? Key fact cards for case studies? The more I can standardise how students see information so they can become increasingly familiar with it, the easier it will be for them to remember; it also means that students will get the same input from all teachers and will come across the content in the same format whichever teacher is running the revision session.
Second, case studies are always the weakest part especially with regards to matching the right case study to the question. David Rogers in his book ‘100 ideas for secondary teachers: outstanding geography lessons’ talks about giving students an image related to the case study with a longer piece of text and asking students to simplify and summarise the key facts about the case study into a 140 character tweet. Another common activity in my revision lessons is giving students a list of signpost words that are used in questions to get students to match the correct case study to.
Third, don’t forget the importance of the skills questions. My students struggle with the questions that are testing skills and general knowledge rather than have a clear answer linked to the content they have revised. Today I spent time looking at complete the map and graph questions and questions based on reading source information with my class and their first reaction to the questions was ‘we haven’t learnt that!’ But by the end of the lesson they were happily just having a go.
Lastly, my students have little idea what it means to revise effectively. They have revision guides and flash cards given to them but to make it more meaningful to them I made a 40 days of geography revision plan for them starting today (see title graphic). Each day they are told which flash cards to spend 10 minutes learning and are given 2 knowledge recall questions to test themselves with. I have these out at parents’ evening last week and we are also tweeting the knowledge questions each day on the school twitter account for students to respond to. The idea was well received by parents as it gave them something concrete to check their child was doing for revision – many parents’ evening conversations ended with ‘we’ll put it straight on the fridge when we get home!’
Ultimately it will all come down to the students and what they write on the day but these doing these four little things does seem to be making them more confident that they can succeed and that’s half the revision battle won!