Posted by: mrlock | December 2, 2014

Revision: Advice for parents

We’ve recently rewritten our (42 page) booklet giving advice to parents on how best to support their children in advance of examinations.

This booklet use to contain advice on post-it notes, making up songs, sticking posters to the ceiling above their bed, and hundreds of other strategies, many of dubious efficacy.

Alongside advice and guidance evenings, our booklet has been reduced to a leaflet, written by Mr K Smith (@KMSEducates on twitter). ie 42 pages has become 1.5 pages. Some reduction!

The main point is that ‘generic’ advice is not as powerful as subject specific advice, and that revision is actually just trying to learn better in order to change long term memory.

Have a look at Mr Smith’s first draft. Feel free to borrow anything, and of course we’d appreciate feedback:

Helping your child to revise.

As we enter the exam period parents and carers will be wondering what the best methods are to help their children revise. Below are some tips which based on research are some of the best ways to help students to revise effectively.

Our mantra for revision is to recap and practise.

1. Get them to self-test, a lot.

Research shows that testing in order to recall content is the best way of getting us to think hard. Thinking about and getting the answer is much better than re-reading notes. The more we recall information the better it sticks in our long term memory. This should be in the form of quizzing themselves where possible.

2. Encourage them to redo any past exam questions; however they must be sure of what the correct answers are, so get the mark scheme and help them with this.

Past papers can be found on any exam boards’ websites.

3. Get your child to tell you what they have learnt or are revising.

Then quiz them at random times. At breakfast, at the dinner table or even in the car. Ask them questions that relate to their studies and get them to think hard about the answer. Their books should be beautiful and hence a good source of quizzing information for you.

Get them to explain their answer. Adding reason to an answer helps to remember.

Only accept the right answer – no half marks.

4. Read around the subject.

Even if the content is not in the exam, understanding the subject area better helps to build links which may be valuable for those higher grade questions. Recommended documentaries, websites, exam board resources and places of interest to visit can also be beneficial.

5. Distribute their practice of different subjects or different areas of a subject.

By spacing out practice this aids memory.

Cramming will help for a short period and may be useful the night before an exam but this is not the most effective for long-term memory. A time table can help with this.

6. Learn keywords and definitions by heart.

Learning the correct definitions in some subjects will help gain a few extra marks, so long as they use them correctly. Produce memory cards with the key word and the definition on to test them regularly.

7. Mnemonics, such as “Richard of York gave battle in vain” to remember the colours of the rainbow.

These can be a good way to helping to store larger chunks of information. Write these on posters and stick them up around their room or the house.

8. Rereading and highlighting key points is not the best way to revise.

However if they are unsure on a subject this may help to learn a topic. Always get them to check with a teacher that they have understood properly what they have read.

9. Make sure they sleep, eat and stay hydrated.

Exercise can be beneficial for the mind and body and students should not ignore this. Exercise and all the above revision can lead to tiredness and learning is hard work, so the brain and body need plenty of fuel.

10. Ensure they have a balance of rest.

Even splitting up a study day in to small study and rest periods can be beneficial. Remove any distractions to rest such as computers and other media sources, especially mobile phones. These can be a reward for studying hard.

It is useful to have learning environment, a dedicated space that is clear and equipped for revising so there is no procrastinating.

11. Start now.

The December pre public examinations are a good indicator of where they are but with a balanced programme of study they can gain those few extra grades between now and the summer.

12. Subject specific is best.

The nature of revision varies from subject to subject. The subject content is the most important thing for them to learn, rather than examination technique.

Their job is to remember what we taught them in class. The whole purpose of revision should be to help with that.

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Responses

  1. If all 42 page documents could be both improved and reduced to 1.5 pages, the world would be a better place: good effort! Mostly this looks spot on to me but I question the bit about mnemonics. I think sometimes students dedicate a lot of time trying to generate a mnemonic when they could have used the time better just doing some learning. Certainly in science, where a mnemonic is helpful, it is likely to have already been taught. I’m afraid I can’t back up this assertion though. There is some support for the Mind Palace technique but I’m not sure that students should be trying to start using this technique as part of exam revision – my feeling is that it would need development and practice well in advance to be productive so I think you are right to omit this.
    Finally – I’m sure you’ll spot as part of proof-reading but 9 just needs flipping round to make sense. Best wishes.

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    • Thanks! I tend to agree regarding mnemonics.

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  2. […] Edssential article from @StuartLock: […]

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  3. Thank you for sharing this work – a useful template which we will certainly borrow and adapt for our families. It’s so important to join up the efforts of home and school – families want to do the best for their children but they don’t always know how!
    Thanks again – and congrats to Mr Smith on a job well done!

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  4. Just swiped this wholesale and wanted to say thanks. It’s a great launchpad and useful for engaging parents with their children’s revision as opposed to making sure they are revising. Not previously a fan of the mind palace but coming round to the idea that it’s useful in terms of learning a script to a particularly tricky explanation – not because of the technique as much as the fact that you spend a lot of time thinking about the material.

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  5. […] investment in learning” said one evaluation. We also adapted Stuart Lock’s Revision Advice for Parents  post into a handout for all families in Year […]

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