It’s nearly exam season and I’ve been thinking about revision and what that means to students. It’s common for language schools to have internal exams which check students’ progress. In my experience, these typical end-of-term exams might cover three to four units and we ask our students to review the topics covered.
When I first started teaching I think I was guilty of just telling students to revise and reminding them of the units which were going to be tested. I’d normally include a revision class or two and I had presumed this was enough. I’d include some time in class where students would produce a list of what we had covered and therefore would need to review.
I’ve been giving support classes this year and it has really shown me how much help students need when revising. The default understanding of revision, particularly among younger students, seems to be sitting with your coursebook open for an hour or two the night before the exam.
This again raised the question of our role in teaching study skills. As teachers, I think we often discuss revision activities we can try to help students revise in the classroom but I’m not sure that the idea of helping students revise independently is given as much attention.
Having seen my students struggle to revise effectively, I decided to try and encourage students to start their revision earlier and plan what they are going to do and when. The aim is that students increase their awareness of what they need to study and to avoid leaving everything until the last minute.
I created a very simple revision planner which included space for students to list what they needed to revise.
This is followed by a number of dated boxes between that point and exam day. The students started to plan their revision for the next couple of days in class. They took it home and were asked to bring it in and show me along with any notes, exercises they had done in the following class.
So far, the process has proved to be very positive. While not all students have really taken full advantage of the planner, a lot more than I expected have. A student surprised me by asking if he could stay at the end of the class to ask for help with a grammar point that was unclear to him following his revision. I’d say around two-thirds of the group used the planner well.
A colleague also tried it. He was more structured with his instructions and asked students to bring their revision in to show him. He signed each square in the planner when he was happy there was evidence that work had been done. His students were given a mark for their revision plan and this will contribute towards their homework grade for the term. As a result, he has had a very high take up. We’ve both noticed that the majority of our students enjoyed filling in the paperwork and seem to get satisfaction in ticking things off the list.
This was a last-minute idea and I’m sure it could be improved. There’s definitely work to be done with students on what effective revision is (i.e., reading, reviewing, note-taking and practice), but it feels as if this has been a useful exercise.
I’d love to know what other teachers do to help their students revise.