Successful Revision Strategies

With exams upon students in a matter of weeks,  it is important to consider which revision strategies can be implemented – and which are successful.

The key to revision is ensuring that students are using the cognitive part of their brain  i.e. thinking about their own learning. Three commonly used revision techniques that appear to have very little impact on learning because they do not use cognitive thinking, have been identified as:

  • Highlighting texts
  • Re-reading
  • Summarising texts

However, five key revision strategies that use cognitive thinking are as follows, (edited from https://classteaching.wordpress.com/2015/01/29/supporting-learning-through-effective-revision-techniques/):

1. Practice Testing

This technique is pretty straightforward – students keep testing themselves (or each other) on what they have got to learn. This technique has been shown to have the highest impact in terms of supporting student learning. Some ways in which students can do this easily:

  • Create flashcards, with questions on one side and answers on the other
  • Work through past exam papers
  • Quiz each other on key bits of information
  • Create multiple choice quizzes for friends to complete

2. Distributed Practice

Rather than cramming all of their revision for each subject into one block, it’s better to space it out – from now, through to the exams. Why is this better? Bizarrely, because it gives them some forgetting time. This means that when they come back to it a few weeks later, they will have to think harder, which actually helps them to remember it. Furthermore, the more frequently you come back to a topic, the better you remember it.

revforgetThe graph above demonstrates this, by returning to a topic and reviewing it, you remember it for longer.

3. Elaborate Interrogation

One of the best things that students can do (either to themselves or with a friend) to support their revision is to ask why an idea or concept is true – and then answer that why question. For example;

  • In science, increasing the temperature can increase the rate of a chemical reaction….why?
  • In geography, the leisure industry in British seaside towns like Barry Island in South Wales has deteriorated in the last 4 decades….why?
  • In history, in 1929 the American stock exchange collapsed. This supported Hitler’s rise to power….why?

So, rather than just trying to learn facts or ideas by reading them over and over, students should get into the habit of asking themselves why these things are true.

4. Self Explanation

Rather than looking at different topics from a subject in isolation, students should try to think about how this new information is related to what they know already. This is where mind- maps might come in useful – but the process of producing the mind map, is probably more useful than the finished product. So, they should think about a key central idea (the middle of the mind map) and then how new material, builds on the existing knowledge in the middle.

Alongside this, when they are solving a problem e.g. in maths, they should explain to someone the steps they took to solve the problem.

5. Interleaved Practice

When students are revising a subject, the temptation is to do it in ‘blocks’ of topics. Like below:

revinter1

The problem with this is, is that it doesn’t support the importance of repetition – which is so important to learning. So, rather than revising in ‘topic blocks’ it’s better to chunk these topics up in their revision programme and intertwine them:

revinter2

 

 

CamStar Project: Mind the Gender Gap by Kevin White

The CamSTAR project was not one that initially interested me as I knew that it would involve a lot of hours researching around a project area and presenting to a group of teachers as well as producing an essay about the research carried out. However, after speaking to Sophie and others who had previously been on this programme, I chose to continue with this as an option to complete my disaggregated hours.

By going through the process, I can honestly say that I have gained a great deal of professional knowledge about the students that I teach and their individual needs. This project enabled me to research my chosen area of the “Gender Gap” in subjects involving extended writing at KS5. I completed a lot of background reading, but not as much as I thought I would need to do. This gave me an insight into the area of interest and also gave me ideas on how to conduct my research. The support from Sophie and the CamSTAR team was excellent and I had access to their advice when required throughout the programme.

I found interesting facts about the “Gender Gap” and how boys and girls differ in their learning and expression of work that we see on a daily basis. One example is the fact that boys’ brains go into a “state of rest” during the day. This may be when they do not take in as much information as we would like them to. As well as this, there are differences in brain structure development between the genders.

The main reason for my investigation was to try and find out if there was a “Gender Gap” at Goffs in a number of subjects and if so, why; and how we could try to bridge this gap. It turns out that there are no significant gaps between genders within Goffs; in a number of subjects, that is present nationally. This brought me to the conclusion that we at Goffs must be doing things to prevent this gap from forming or expanding when it is present. A number of excellent practices are currently taking place at Goffs to prevent/minimise such a gap from forming. These include, having male-female pairs in a seating plan, treating male and female students the same, providing all students with the same level of support, carrying out personalised intervention where necessary, and many more.

I would recommend this project to anyone that is keen to develop their own professional practice in the classroom and as this programme can be very personalised.

For more information on CamStar, visit the link below or speak to Sophie Enstone

http://www.camstar.org.uk/

What Makes Learning Fun: Two Year 7 Students’ Perspectives

Two weeks into term, I interviewed some Year 7 students in order to ascertain which strategies used in lessons they have especially enjoyed.  Among them were Ross Haggart and Victoria Ashton.

Ross Haggart is a fan of History and Learning Power.  He vividly explained to me how in History, the starter activity captivated the class’ imagination, with an outline of a dead body on the classroom floor, as the students entered.  The class had to use their imagination and noticing skills, in order to determine what type of job the ‘character’ may have had.  To aid them with this, a leather pouch, some pottery and a dice were used as props.  Questioning featured heavily in the lesson, as the students were asked to consider what the ‘character’ did for a job, the possible causes of death and what hobbies they may have had.

In a recent Learning Power lesson, Ross described how their main activity involved a set of pictures relating to famous people.  For this activity, the class were asked to spot the difference – once again, putting their noticing skills into practice.

buildinglearningpower_brain

Victoria Ashton listed PE and English as her favourite lessons, “so far” (in her words).  For PE, Victoria described how she and her classmates had to pretend they were a flamingo, in order to test their physical balance and strength.  Whereas for English, she enthusiastically spoke about the use of a still image that was to be used as a springboard for a piece of descriptive writing, as part of a baseline test.

It became apparent very quickly that Year 7 students have not only been immersed into BLP habits but that they are definite aspects of learning that they enjoy.  In more general terms, the following aspects of lessons were commented on, by our learners, as strategies that make learning fun:

  • An engaging settler, perhaps something unexpected
  • The use of pictures or images to explore, discuss or ‘decipher’
  • Clear and concise explanations provided by teachers
  • Learning through games or through problem-solving opportunities
  • Improving on previous work
  • Rewards

In general, it was fantastic to hear our new starters comment so enthusiastically on their newly embarked-upon secondary school experience.

Cindy Long- My Favourite Lesson!

Written by Cindy Long in 7E

pearson-creative-writing.jpg (688×404)

Roughly two weeks ago I had a very motivating, enjoyable and fun packed English lesson! Every minute I was thoroughly gripped and could not wait to learn more. However, as well as it being a very intriguing lesson, I also learnt quite a lot too! Firstly, we kicked off with a challenging starter in which we wrote a detailed prediction of what we thought the ‘SOW’ would be for our new term. This excited me as I love using my noticing skills to infer new topics. Moreover, as a stretch and challenge task we were told to summarise our prediction in just fifty words! Then, later on in the lesson, Miss Stewart introduced us all to an AMAZING acronym. AFORESTER is its name; however, for each letter there is a word and for each word there is a meaning. Importantly, they were all key features that are needed in a successful speech. Furthermore, a little bit later we were given the challenge of writing our very own persuasive speech. This was the main activity of our captivating lesson.

I always enjoy a demanding challenge when it comes to my English lessons and I embrace every opportunity to explore my inner creativity when it comes to writing!

Katie Few- My Favourite Lesson!

Written by Katie Few- 7A

sampleMy favourite lesson was in ICT when we learnt how to make QR codes. It was my favourite lesson because it was the one I found the most interesting and we were given the opportunity and freedom to make our own QR codes. The lesson started by going through a presentation with our teacher telling us how to make a QR code and what they are used for. The main activity was to make one or more QR codes and download them onto our year 6 welcome presentation. The main things I learnt were:

  • to use a QR code safely and responsibly;
  • to make sure I have the correct website;
  • and when I or even you scan a QR code it takes us to a website quicker than finding it independently .

I think these are the key things I have learnt because they are the ones that have stayed in my mind and are the most useful.

Goffs ICT Department @GoffsICT

Maximising Your Child’s Potential

Posted by Iolanthe Rodman

When a school starts to look at what really works for ‘gifted and talented’ students, the temptation is  to look for a quick fix or a set of requirements which, if implemented, will magically lead to effective provision for able students to attain the highest grades. In reality, schools that are really effective at getting the most out of all their students’ abilities start one step back from this and take as their starting point the purposes of education generally, the role of their school in maximising those abilities and how that relates to the students’ themselves.

Importantly, high achievement is only reached when the right opportunities are in place and when the individual student is confident and motivated enough to respond to them; this should be the case for all students.

IOa

Students are articulate and must be heard

If we are to maximise students’ abilities, we should listen to them discuss their learning. Their have views on their own learning and can help to shape the overall learning offer. This really works when these pupils are at the centre of the learning process taking responsibility for their learning. This is a personalised approach and in sharp contrast to the type of cohort led provision in which students are seen as being a homogeneous group with common needs and common issues. The overall requirements for the cohort which underpin this personalised approach are:

  • Formal recognition of students’ abilities and talents
  • Planned learning opportunities offering high levels of challenge on a daily basis
  • Progress in learning in a way that reflects the stage of learning rather than the age of the pupil
  • Access to enhanced learning opportunities offered outside of normal classroom provision
  • To be seen as a child with social and emotional as well as intellectual needs

Active Citizenship – Goffs ‘General Election’ Results 2015

Ballot_box_01_svg

© Nevit Dilmen via wiki commons

By Daniel Chichester-Miles

As voters up and down the country cast their ballots in the General election recently,  May 7th saw students at Goffs School in Hertfordshire get their own taste of election fever as 11-18 year olds in the Cheshunt school held a mock election of their own to select which party they would most want to see in Downing Street for the next five years.

Assemblies were held for pupils in each year group leading up to the vote, to learn about the process and some of the key policies of major parties, with members of the school community encouraged to find out more on the internet and news channels in their spare time.  This culminated in Sixth-formers setting up polling booths in the dining room and acting as election officials as students streamed in to make record their votes.

Enthusiasm and turnout ran high with a variety of opinion ranging across the different age groups. This is important as at Goffs we believe it is important to couple academic achievement with a firm awareness of life outside the classroom. An understanding of how our country is governed and our democracy works is obviously a key part of that.  Students said they found it exciting to have the chance to share their thoughts even if it didn’t effect the result of the Broxbourne constituency itself, which was held by Conservative Charles Walker.

The results however, did not entirely mirror the political scene nationally.

While the Conservatives topped the poll, they were closely followed by UKIP only a handful of votes behind , Labour in a respectable third, while The Lib Dems and Greens came a distant fourth and fifth respectively.

Pop in Classroom: how pop culture engages students at Goffs!

“A high culture is the self-consciousness of a society”, the philosopher Roger Scruton wrote a few years ago in the Guardian newspaper. “It contains the works of art, literature, scholarship and philosophy that establish a shared frame of reference among educated people.”

As a teacher at Goffs, the last part of this statement interested me because one of the aims of our school should be nurturing “educated people”.

Nonetheless, in terms of teaching, learning and the curriculum, our dilemma is relatively simple, but not trivial; should we endeavour to reference high culture in our lessons so that our students can appreciate cultural life at its finest, or, in order to engage students and make learning enjoyable, should we litter our lessons with references to what might be perceived as low culture, which is probably best defined as ‘pop culture’ in the context of young people.

Pop culture would probably appeal to most students more as it is culture that is popular, easy to understand and entertaining to the majority of young people. For example, pop music, romantic Hollywood comedies and soap operas. High culture, on the other hand, may include renaissance art, classical music and opera. The latter is arguably more sophisticated, intellectually challenging and intrinsically rewarding.

However, if I am to add ‘educated people’ to society, can I really do it through referencing and advocating fine art, poetry, classical music and opera, or will this just switch the students off?

I feel that the infusion of pop culture into RS lessons has brought the subject alive and made it more relevant. For instance, my lessons have incorporated music from Alicia Keyes (Karma), a unit on medical ethics included readings and clips from My Sister’s Keeper (saviour siblings) and Weird Al’s I Think I’m a Clone Now (genetic engineering), and lessons on wealth and poverty have included games based around Supermarket Sweep in order to assess how altruistic students really are, if given the opportunity to grab what they want.

Relating Christianity to pop culture may be more fruitful, especially as Christianity is evident in hip-hop (Kanye West’s Jesus Walks, for example), novels, such as the Da Vinci Code, and followed by a host of celebrities.

Other subjects have used pop culture in similar ways. Pop music is often used in PE to settle students, I have observed English lessons where social networking sites, such as twitter, have been used to frame questions related to news items and history have used rap to teach about historical figures.

Of course, it is possible to unite the two categories of culture. My colleagues and I have planned lessons on heaven and hell that mixed clips from Tom and Jerry with Gustave Doré’s illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Furthermore, lessons on the suffering include the literature from Elie Wiese and the paintings of Francisco Goya. And, essentially, there are multiple references to the King James Bible.

Despite these generous dollops of high culture, I would not dismiss the effectiveness of pop culture or, rather, low culture in the development of ‘educated people’. Although Roger Scruton may disagree, it is worth remembering that “a shared frame of reference” often centres on what is popular, and accessing it, even celebrating it, is a good way to initially engage learners.