This is Part 2 of our blog series on supporting your child with revision. You can find Part 1 here.
It doesn’t matter how well you aced your own school exams, or how advanced you are in your career as an adult. Every parent will one day face a truly humbling experience….. being unable to help their child with a particularly nasty piece of homework.
The sweat tricking down your reddened brow. The long, confused and inaccurate explanation you find yourself giving. The faint look of disappointment in your child’s face as they stop listening to you and pick up their phone to search for the answer.
Even if you were an absolute Maths genuis in school, when was the last time you did algebra? It’s impossible to know everything about the current curriculum, and as a parent you shouldn’t have to anyway. Your greatest strength is your relationship with your child, setting up the right environment and conditions for revision, and helping them to stick with it. The knowledge itself? That’s where Your Favourite Teacher comes in.
Here are some of our best tips and tricks for helping your child to establish and maintain a healthy and successful approach to revision.
IMPACT, NOT TIME
Effective revision is not about the time spent – it’s about the impact made! In fact, sometimes the less time spent, the better. To work best, revision must be balanced with other activities like exercise and sleep. It must also be spread out over time – ‘cramming’ the night before may have a temporary impact, but won’t help your children remember everything they need to know at the end of Year 11. So it’s about working more effectively, rather than for longer hours!
The most commonly-used revision strategies are generally the least effective. For example, reading notes and highlighting, or even summarising longer texts. These aren’t completely pointless, but there are many better ways to spend your time.
Equally, students tend to test themselves on the content they know well – aiming to get 100%. However they’d be much wiser to study their weakest areas repeatedly, and aim to build their accuracy up over time. It’s more painful; and just like exercise, the pain means it’s working!
- Reading notes and highlighting
- Studying the bits you already know well
- Studying each subject for an extended period of time
WHAT’S THE POINT OF REVISION?
Your child probably spends 5 hours or more in lessons every day. So what’s the point of revision?
Simply put, revision has 3 purposes:
- Remembering: to ensure that what is learned today is remembered tomorrow (and well beyond)
- Applying: taking knowledge and skills from lessons and linking it with what they already know to create more complex/extended arguments or theories
- Gaps & Misconceptions: to cover any content your child has missed – for example, information covered during absence, or addressing confusion/errors.
Each of these purposes lends itself to different revision strategies.
Your child has a mind-boggling amount of information to learn and retain by the end of Year 11, when they will probably sit more than 20 exam papers in a few weeks. They can’t learn this all the night before – so making sure they retain what they learn long-term is essential. To make information stick into your long-term memory, you can’t just re-read it: you need to transform it and link it to other concepts.
Transforming (also known as ‘dual coding‘) can be as simple as taking a page of text and turning it into a labelled chart or diagram. Equally it could be taking a diagram and writing it out into complete sentences, or comparing 2 concepts side-by-side with a Venn Diagram or mind map. Taking a chapter of a History textbook and turning it into an illustrated timeline is a great example of dual coding; this will help your child to recall the information when it comes to exam time.
It’s also easy to quiz your child about this by taking the timeline away from them and asking them to talk you through it, without looking. This is an example of ‘retrieval practice‘ – bringing concepts to mind without any prompts, to make sure your brain’s connections to the information are strong! The more students do this, the better their recall will be. Quizzing on YFT is another excellent example of retrieval practice – even better if they look at the answers they got wrong and try the quiz again!
To maximise your memory, your child should switch between different topics frequently within each revision session (interleaving) . This feels more confusing, but that’s because it forces your brain to work that little bit harder: no pain, no gain!
To take their revision to the next level, students should make links between what they already know and what they’re revising/learning fresh. This can take the form of a mind map or structures notes, or planning for extended answers. Many YFT worksheets help students to organise their ideas logically, meaning they are then better prepared to write a long answer.
If your child stares at the blank page, not sure where to start a long answer, they should map out what they know before attempting to write. Starting with certainties and then moving to new info is a great way to prepare. If they’re tackling a long answer, they should use the ‘memory clock’ strategy: aim to spend about 1/4 of their time compiling and organising their ideas, 1/2 writing a long answer, and the remaining 1/4 of their time reviewing, self-marking and identifying gaps to address next time.
GAPS & MISCONCEPTIONS
This is the hardest part, as it takes courage. Your child needs to be reminded (often!) that failure is a part of learning. Therefore to learn well, they should face their frustrations and mistakes head-on and figure them out. This take a different strategy – not reviewing prior learning or re-quizzing; it requires fresh learning.
One easy way to do this is to log in to Your Favourite Teacher and watch the relevant video, taking relevant notes and reviewing the topic pages. This means when they re-quiz or attempt a fresh long response, they have new knowledge to apply! Having access to the video means they can pause, rewind and watch at their own pace, until they have really understood it.
You can help your child with this: ask to see their latest assessment from school, and find the videos and lessons which match each incorrect answer. By focusing on the weak points, your student can do less, but more targeted revision, and do better as a result.