Planning an effective student-lead revision lesson can be a challenge. We sometimes feel that the best way to make sure they understand everything is to re-explain it all, or that we need to leave them to their own devices to revise in the ‘way that suits them best’.
Sometimes both approaches are necessary and/or appropriate, but providing a number of different revision strategies within one lesson helps to build up the key skills they need to become effective revisers later in their schooling lives.
Having 15 different classes all doing exams around the same time means I’ve had to plan so many revision lessons that I am not getting a bit bored with it. I’ve steered completely away from practice exam questions and self-guided revision time – both of those things the students can do at home.
Testing out a wide range of different ideas for these lessons means that I’ve worked out what activities seem to be working best across the board. I have the full variety of ability levels amongst all of my classes, and the following four activities have worked well for all of them.
Starting the revision lesson with Taboo is a great way to get the students engaged. They become competitive about their knowledge while having a quick review of the whole unit, and will help you identify areas of concern right from the word go.
Use all the key words needed for the exam (adjust time limit accordingly) and have the students play in pairs. You can either give them one big list, or divide the list across two slides and have the students swap roles. Once the time is up and you have your winners, work as a class to describe each of the words in terms they understand, and use it as an opportunity to correct any misconceptions.
If the class can’t come up with a good enough description/definition of a key word, you know that is a topic you will need to go over again for them as a whole. If it seems like smaller groups are struggling with different topics, sit them together working on that topic.
In a nutshell, you print out all of the topic titles with short descriptions of the things the need to know for their exam. Keep it very short and simple, no more than a sentence per sub-topic.
The students should glue this into their book and colour-code it according to their confidence of each particular topic. We do a RAG system – Red for completely stuck, Amber for struggling, and Green for confident.
You can even have them code half of each box at the beginning of their revision, then again before the exam (ideally at the beginning of their last revision session so you have time for any last-minute content reviews!).
Not only does it give them the list of topics to revise, it gives both of you an idea where they are all sitting so you can tailor your revision sessions appropriately.
Placemats are a fantastic revision graphic organiser. Depending on the topics covered for the exam, you can have a whole unit condensed into a single page.
The real benefit of these is that they allow the students to record and arrange their knowledge in a more visually-pleasing way. I’ve yet to have a student say they don’t prefer these over the usual practice exam-style questions normally done for exam revision, even when they’re done as a whole class or presented in some other way! Some even prefer these to any other visual form (flash cards, posters, etc) because they are much more focused.
Here is an example of one I created to use this year – Winter Revision Placemat.
Basically, create a box for each topic and put in questions, diagrams, formulas, whatever you want the students to work on and remember. My boxes are quite boring and uniform, mostly because I wanted to fit so much in, but you can make them any size or shape you like.
Writing Exam Questions
This is something I’ve tried properly for the first time this year.
This does not involve me writing/finding practice questions for the students.
This is the students going back through their own notes and writing exam-style questions for other students to answer. I have done shorter versions of this in the past, but since I have so many different classes this year I wanted to hone it a little.
I set a challenge of writing three exam-style questions from each topic that will be covered on the exam. The students must write them in their books or on a separate sheet of paper, with enough space in between questions for the answer to fit in.
They then give their ‘exam’ to another student to complete. We do this under exam conditions, with the first 15 minutes exactly like a normal exam would be. If the students can’t understand a question, they are to leave it and move on for now. Same deal if they do understand it but don’t know the answer.
After the first 15 minutes are over, I allow the students to look at their notes to answer any remaining questions they had to leave before.
They then swap the exams back to the writer, who marks it and gives them a score. They then have to write a What Went Well (WWW) and Even Better If (EBI) comment for the student who took their exam. I then give them 10 minutes to get back together and discuss their questions and answers.
They all really enjoyed this activity, especially ‘properly testing’ their classmates instead of just quizzing each other verbally (something I used to do a lot of).
This strategy seems to work better with higher ability groups, as I’ve found lower ability groups can often get confused in their writing or disagree too much on the correct answers.
If you are after some more ideas, David over at Chalkys Teaching Ideas has a fantastic post with loads more practical, actually useful activities! Check it out here.
About the Author:
Emily is a secondary science and math teacher in Australia. She enjoys blogging about her experiences, facilitating the ‘light bulb’ moment in her students, and drinking tea and wine. Emily is currently on maternity leave with her first child. You can read more teaching articles from Emily here, or about her life as a new mum over at Actual Mums.