Sunday, 11 October 2020

Losing my Revision

 You have a test next Friday so your homework for this week is to revise for this test.

You see systems and processes differently to teacher when your children are in a secondary school. You see the impact of the processes.  Revision is one such process I have seen differently. A process that is a largely invisible process in schools. We expect it to happen. We expect students to do it. We expect it to have a benefit. We expect students to have learnt it through primary school. We expect students to have a clear idea of how to do it . We expect all students to do, but it is an invisible thing. Hidden. Locked away. Secretive.

If truth be told, the majority of interventions in school are largely based on the principle that a student will not be independent enough to do the work at home. That’s why we have booster sessions. We have catchup sessions. We have mad panic dashes of knowledge, because the students don’t revise. We, in fact, have a constant cycle of topping up of knowledge when, all to often, the answer is the student’s relationship with revision. I’d be bold to say that when teachers compile lists for interventions it leads heavily on the underperforming and lack of revision. The lovely student with pastel coloured highlighters and a itemised plan of revision doesn’t get a look in. Really, you want to come to the afterschool session? But, you revise?

I also think Knowledge Organisers haven’t helped with revision. They have added to the over simplification of revision. All you need to do is revise what is on the sheet. Just revise the sheet. What we see as obvious and easy isn’t always so. The process is assumed rather than modelled. The assumption is that by giving students a sheet of people they will know what to do with and how to use it.

Our current situation has highlighted how important we get what students do at home right. Revision is even more important now than ever. But, we can’t expect to paper over the cracks with extra interventions. We can’t expect that students will pick up the knowledge through natural osmosis. Osmosis occurs when the student is in the room. That osmosis doesn’t happen when a student isolates for weeks. Thereby, revision is paramount and we have to look at how that revision looks.

This week I have set my Year 10s to revise for an assessment. They have been studying six of the AQA poetry anthology poems. Instead of giving them a simple instruction to revise and leaving all the complexities of revising to inference,  I have created a sheet for them to use for revision. Now, I don’t think it will change the world, but it is a staggered approach to helping Year 10s revise. See a picture of the sheet here:


I have based this on the principle of sifting and refining their notes. They are to give three bullet points for each box. Then, at the end, further summarise with three overall things to remember. The sheet will
show me they have revised for the assessment. I have even said to the students that I will collect the sheet before the assessment. The thinking is that if something goes wrong in the assessment, they have a back-up to prove they had revised. After all, the default reasoning in a poor assessment is that the student did not revise.

We need to make it clearer to students what revision looks like and we need to be explicit that it involves more than reading over their notes again and again. I think as teachers we should model the revision processes for students. Instead of telling students to revise, we model steps and approaches to do. Here, I am trying a ‘summarise in three’ approach. I am sure you could use questioning or dual coding for whatever you are doing.

I feel that we need steps in building revision into our curriculums. We have a note sheet system in KS3. Students can take one sheet into an assessment. That sheet is A4 in Year 7, A5 in Year 8 and A6 in Year 9. We are in the business of teaching our subject but we need to be better at teaching how to revise for our subjects. We might talk about how to revise and give some tips, but do we really check and study their revision? Or, do we just rely on it being invisible and intangible? The problem is: if we treat revision as invisible and intangible, then the students who really need to revise will also see it as invisible and intangible that they don’t have to do it.

Revise. A word that has so much packed in it. A simple command but a whole lot of untapped potential. Let’s change that! Show me your revision. Show. Me. Your. Revision.

Thanks for reading,





1 comment:

  1. Hey Xris,
    I really enjoyed the discussion and ideology you pose surrounding the loaded stage of revision. I think your statement that “the process is assumed rather than modeled” is unfortunately very accurate. Personally, revision for me in my years of secondary/higher education studies have always meant revising for submission with a deadly time constraint in mind; and although it has worked for me, I know it is not the intended or even logical option. As someone who is entering the world of teaching English, reminders to exemplify my teaching rationales and expectations, especially regarding the stages and phases of writing is extremely important. I struggle with trying to identify/create helpful scaffolding steps when it comes to writing because I am someone who has never done so. With that being said, I really liked the writing organizer you included - I find the logic behind it really insightful and beneficial!


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