A Night of Revision

On Monday 2nd February we ran our first student and parent revision evening at the High School. The purpose of which was to educate our parents in how they can support their child preparing for examinations. We called the evening ‘Success at GCSE and Beyond’ and over 190 people attended. We set out to make the evening as engaging and active as possible with tasks and games for students and parents to take part in. We also adopted a ‘tag team’ approach to the evening, whereby different teachers would take the stage to introduce and deliver a new strategy or topic. We covered all the old favourites and shared some best practice approaches to revision cards, mind maps, organising notes etc. On entry we gave each family a pack of resources to use and take away. These packs came in a ziplock folder and contained:

  • Our Students’ Guide to Revision booklet
  • white board and marker
  • post-it notes
  • The Awesome Revision Board Game
  • example question cards
  • a blank revision timetable
  • The Deep Thinking Dice
  • blank dice nets
  • A guide to GCSEPod
  • Revision reward ladder

We sat families (2s or 3s) around exam desks. On each desk we placed coloured cards with stimulus material that corresponded to each of the strategies covered during the event. For example, an activity on word abbreviations corresponded to a pink card with GCSE Science concepts for them to use to create an acronym, mnemonic or acrostic. We we kickstarted the event with some active games to get everyone warmed up and explain some of the key principles behind effective revision. These explained the value of repetition, ‘chunking’ information and the importance of understanding concepts before a student comes to revise it. For example, the first activity gave everyone 10 seconds to remember as many spanish words/phrases as possible. Most people picked out gracias, salud or adios, but the other phrases we simply made up – no one remembered these! The principle being that we can only retain what we really understand.

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The second activity pitched students against parents to remember a string of letters. The parents (yellows) naturally were able to recall more letters than the students because their brains chunked the information into words and abbreviations they were familiar with (BBC-RAC-CD-IPAD).  Hence, an explanation on the importance of ‘chunking’ your revision.

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Next up came the Awesome Revision Game . The game is designed on the first to finish principle and makes use of four different strategies. Say it, Draw it, Act it and Model it. The board also comes with some handy templates that students can use to come up with different styles of question, such as the jeopardy style questions, missing word or multiple choice. For this reason the board can be used in a number of different ways. The reverse includes instructions on how to play.

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As mentioned, the intention of the evening was to ensure parents went away with a handful of practical strategies that they could use to support their child when revising. ‘Just a Minute’ is one of my favourites from the evening. Inspired by the Radio 4 gameshow, students were required to talk on a topic for 1 minute. A challenging task for anyone, but students could stop the clock by saying the six words or phrases written down on the card held by their parent. We trialled this with the whole audience. Student where able to select one of several phrases to talk about, whilst parents checked off the key words on the card as the timer ran down. Lots of fun and easy to create.

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During the event we also looked at some subject specific revision strategies, including the best ways to revise languages. This included making the most of your learning environment, labelling and using online quizzes  such as Quizlet, Memrise, a website that combines language learning with gaming, and Vocaroo, a handy little site for voice recordings. This next strategy was inspired by Shaun Allison’s recent post on the same topic here. In his post, Shaun uses a quote from Daniel Willingham, a Psychology professor – “Whatever you think about, that’s what you remember. Memory is the residue of thought.” This got me thinking about the ways students could consolidate their revision with some deep thinking strategies. This is how I came up with the ‘Deep Thinking Dice’. Basically, six simple strategies presented on a net of a dice that students can roll to pick a strategy to help them consolidate their learning. I’ve tried to make the strategies as generic as possible so they can apply to any topic or subject. The net includes an explanation of each technique and can be downloaded here.

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During the evening we also spent some time discussing what was involved in an effective revision schedule. The principles we shared here was that revision should be broken down into different strategies and scheduled over a period of time. Revision should not simply be reading over notes, but a variety of activities that make the brain think about the content in different ways. These ‘schedules’ should then be spread over time with the intention of returning to topics on a regular basis. We gave the students time to think about these schedules, the strategies that worked for each subject and the strategies that might work best for them. The revision booklet provided space for students to devise their own schedules for each subject and a guide to constructing an effective revision timetable.

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Some of the other activities included building your own acrostics and acronyms,  a guide to GCSEPod and organising your revision with flash cards, including the best places to buy. We also got students using the whiteboards with a bit of ‘taste for teaching’ All students were given five minutes to use their whiteboards and pens to explain a concept to their parents; another great way to finish off any revision session. Before everyone left we got students (with the help of parents) to think about the rewards they could use to motivate themselves through the difficult points in their revision timetables. Each pack contained a simple reward ladder that students could use to plan their breaks, treats and rewards after a tough revision workout!

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The event certainly got parents on-board and they appreciated the practical strategies picked up during the evening.  There was lots of positivity in the room and it is certainly an event we will run again. A big thank you to Nina Gunson (@ninaparkin), Stuart Campbell (@MrCampbellSHS), Kathryn Boulton-Pratt, Helen Thorneloe and Emma Sandwith for helping to organise and run the event.

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