I’m in need of hair dye this week or maybe a wig…

Son #1 is in Year 11 and has all his exams coming up.  Son #2 is in Year 10 and moved schools recently.  As he had already completed two-years of study in a couple of subjects that are no longer on offer, we’ve taken the plunge to enter him for those subjects.

Trying to get Son#1 to revise is a little like trying to extract the proverbial blood from a stone.  If he’s in the mood and the topic takes his fancy we can get some time out of him.  If it involves copying notes verbatim in pretty colours onto flash cards I also stand a good chance.  Heaven forbid I should attempt to get him to apply anything he might possibly have gleaned!  He will, however, sit in the same place for several hours without moving.

Son #2 takes mum’s advice on board.  We have a revision schedule and he is diligently sticking to my 12 word rule (from 1 page of revision notes he can highlight no more than 12 words/phrases).  Unfortunately, he has the attention span of a gnat on speed!  So far today, he has taken several long toilet reins, tidies his bedroom twice, volunteered to the a shopping trip, organised lunch and made me enough cups of tea to fill the garden pond.

I’m holding onto the hope that the pair of them ‘pull it out of the bag’ in time for the exam as they seem to have done in the past.

Whilst trying to get the eldest two to revise I have to throw into the mix Son #3 who needs to learn his times tables and Son #4 who will be 2 next week and is currently toilet training although having been unwell the last few days it has gone decidedly backwards.  And then there’s me…I’m trying to write my book on exclusions, I have notes for all the chapters but I just can’t motivate myself to string it together into sentences!

Revision (and homework) is the bane of most households.  I’ve never forced my boys to do their homework, I was never very good at setting it as a teacher either.  If they know they’re going to get a detention for not doing it, then they generally scrabble something together.  I always ask if they have any and if they need any help, but nothing more.  I’m pleased to say that they do complete most of their work and if they don’t they face the consequence of that action.  I’m most proud of the fact that they will come and ask me questions related to their work which I think is far more important than regurgitating something on a piece of paper where the teacher has no idea who really ‘wrote’ the answer.  I never made the boys read at home, and yet by the end of Key Stage two sons #1 + 2 both had reading ages over 15.  Son #3 probably won’t have (he has a visual impairment) but he has more common sense and his mathematics and general knowledge is better that theirs.  Maybe I made a rod for my own back when it came to revision!

Anyway, every year in school I had to deliver revision sessions.  There is a habit in schools of handing out exam questions, answering and then going through the answers.  I’m not convinced this works for the majority of students…those questions are not the ones that come up on the exam!  Although, they do give them practise in seeing how questions might be phrased and the time limits they have to work to.

The most successful method I’ve used with students over time involves using a commercial revision guide (CGP offer fairly cheap ones although my boys prefer the Letts guides).  First, we break the revision into chunks…how many pages today?  (Let’s say 10). Then they take a highlighter and read through one page in the guide.  After reading they are allowed to highlight just 12 words/phrases.  Some students like to write these out and if they choose to do so I suggest using a reasonably sized index card (one side).

At the end of the block of revision they look back over their highlighted words/phrases and try to reduce it to 3 or 4 really key ones.  If they wrote out an index card they highlight those 3/4.

Finally, they reduce their 3/4 key points into a single ‘heading’.  With the index card they then write this on the opposite side.

The next time they continue with the next chunk of revision.  Once all the unit has been covered they have a set of index cards or ‘key headings’.

We then take these and from the heading alone come up with a ‘question we might be asked’ and write this down.  Underneath they jot down the key things they would include in the response.  By checking back they should have included their highlighted 3/4 points (or key points).  If they were to write an extended answer they would include all 12 points.

Now, with my own students I used to have them do this at the end of each unit of work, so they didn’t have to create them towards the end of the course!  A little complaining throughout the year, but they were very grateful come the end of the course!  (This is the only homework I would set…I don’t have to mark it and if they don’t complete it it doesn’t affect the next lesson…they just have more work to do when it comes to revision at the end of the course.)