‘Your revision time is precious. Don’t waste it’

I was recently asked to take a year 11 assembly during the last week of term, with the focus being on maths revision (English and science having had their go during the weeks before). After a few discussions, particularly with Andy Lewis (@ITeachRE) I thought that rather doing an assembly on what to revise, I would focus on the how of revision. Revision time is precious after all, it shouldn’t be wasted. Here are some thoughts and reflections on what I told them:

1: Know the domain

I asked students to try and split their subjects (in particluar maths) into 4 areas:

Known/Easy (the things they know they can do – also what they are most likely to revise)

Known/Hard (the tough things they know they struggle with)

Unknown/Easy (the basics that they know they slip up on or are not confident on)

Unknown/Hard (the things that they either have no idea on, or aren’t aware of being on the course)

The message was simple. Don’t spend too much time on the first section. The middle 2 should be revised a lot, and the last section needs to be identified and discussed with a teacher ASAP!

2: Revise in ways that are effective

I don’t think telling students ‘do what you think works best for you’ is very helpful. Most won’t know what works best, as they won’t have done or read any research into it – why should they? We are the professionals and are paid to be aware of things that will and won’t work. Lots of students¬†will also do things that are ‘fun’ (easy) or spend time revising things they are good at (we all love being good at things and getting them right). Not a great use of their precious revision time.

To this end, I explained and told them to: Interleave their maths revision, test themselves regularly and to distribute their revision of skills (and to revise the skills 3 times at least). I also told them that just highlighting their books, and reading notes/revision guides without doing questions wasn’t a good use of their precious time. Thanks to Andy here for pointing me towards Dunlosky et al.

3: What to use to revise

As ever with maths, I pointed them towards http://www.corbettmaths.com, http://www.hegartymaths.com, SAM Learning and a host of printed resources that we have in school (some of which are excellent collations of practice questions made by my HOD).

We then ended with this.

Revision time is precious. Help your students use it effectively!

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