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"But how am I supposed to revise?"

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by lou1990lou, Apr 16, 2014.

  1. lou1990lou

    lou1990lou New commenter

    The question in the title was asked of me by a student just before the holidays (and after she "attempted" to sit the assessment I had set.

    I've never thought about the fact that students need to be taught how to revise, I would spend a couple of lessons backtracking over what we had done so far (and what I knew would be in the test) and then set them homework to revise. I would say that I have set them tasks on MyMaths if they wanted to use this.

    How do people teach their students to revise?
  2. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    It's not just about being taught to do it, it's also about having the resources to do it.

    Around now, perhaps for the first time in their lives, 15 and 16 year olds all over the country are discovering that the so-called "work" they've done (or avoided) in maths for the past 11 years put together by teachers who would have been called "lazy" if they'd used a textbook isn't there in a way they can access it.

    All those Tarsias (which demonstrated progress to the observer, but could not realistically be marked), all those "follow me" games & card sorts haven't left a paper trail.

    So there's nothing to look back on.

    Nor is there a brown paper covered textbook in the schoolbag to go back to (they're not brown paper covered, they're in torn covers in piles back in the school classroom and there's only enough for one between two).

    So how do they revise?

    Well, if they have the sorts of parents who are interested, those parents will have hit Amazon a month or two ago and grabbed every useful-looking CGP revision guide and workbook for every subject their kid is taking.

    And those parents are sitting with them around the kitchen table with the TV off and phone and iPad in another room while they work their way through those guides.

    Well, most schools I've been in introduce exam questions and mark schemes pretty early on so when they finally do get some motivation (the fear they will fail all their GCSEs), they do at least have the skills to make use of the stuff they can get free from exam board websites.

    And I make the point that maths is like football or a video game - you can't get good at it by watching or skim reading. You have to do.

    That means attempting past papers self marking and asking for help (all the maths teachers in my school make ourselves available whenever a kid comes to the maths office with a "I've tried this question but can't..." approach and that's the same in every school I've been in) when needed.

    And it means me setting a schedule for them - giving out past papers for homework and taking them in.
  3. m4thsdotcom

    m4thsdotcom Occasional commenter

    IMO they do not need to be taught how to revise. They should be exposed to possible options that suit them over long periods of time.

    IMO effective revision is based on 2 things:

    (1) A desire to do it that is fostered by the teacher/school

    (2) A method suited to that kids preference.

    I hate past papers yet the next pupil may love them. I love powerpoints yet the next kid might hate them. Revision groups may really help some. Some may get nothing from taking their books home. Some might really love some 1-2-1 with the teacher in the holiday.

    Start early in the year offering choices and see which method the kids gravitate to. Chucking out one and one only method would not be my way. The better the class the easier it becomes to as you would imagine.

    I hate mymaths homeworks but understand why they are set,
  4. rich_m

    rich_m New commenter

    I've found that giving year 11 classes a past exam paper a week works well in most cases, self/peer mark in lessons quickly (increasing mark scheme knowledge of pupils and how to grab extra marks) or condense a mark scheme to one page (a little work, but a lot less than marking yourself) and again ask to self mark. Once you get it up and running it works well and I've found that they soon begin to see why they need to be able to make the grade on any given paper, not just one particular one.

    Alternatively, I put together a selection of exam questions (using exam wizard) and use that as homework.

    I normally teach a lesson on how to revise as well, I'll give out a selection of revision guides and their exercise books and ask them to complete a past paper, any questions they don't know they highlight it and write the question number on the front of the paper, then after a set amount of time I'll ask them to find the revision notes on those questions and attempt the question again, using an example walk through of the process first.

    Once your students understand that the only way to improve at maths is to do maths, they'll be much better off. You can't learn how to do maths by reading about it, you have to actually do something, which is why so many students struggle to get anywhere because they don't do the required work.
  5. jpayne27

    jpayne27 New commenter

    I almost exclusively teach C/D border students and teaching them to revise is absolutely critical in making sure they get the C. To get them to be good at it takes a lot of time and you need to be prepared to spend the time throughout KS3 and 4 for them to develop the skills. I have a set of techniques that I use and will try to outline them here but it may take some time!


    Revision is all about independent learning and throughout the majority of secondary school this comes in the form of homework. I do not believe in setting students a whole set of questions on the same topic they have just done in class. All it will show me is if there are any glaring misconceptions which I probably know about from lessons anyway.

    I set homework on 5 different topics each week which cover the work in the previous 5 weeks. Each week the oldest topic is replaced with the most recently covered and so on so that each topic is covered for 5 consecutive weeks.

    The first time a topic is in the homework it is relatively straight forward as it is in weeks 2 and 3. In the final two weeks the difficulty increases as students have the previous 3 weeks worth of questions to fall back on. Each homework is peer marked in class with students writing correct solutions down for each other. A video of the solutions to the homework is also posted on the school VLE. Every 6 weeks or so I will show the video in class and the students mark from that. Many of the students will not even look at the video on the VLE until they see the benefit of it from the lesson. As soon as the video has finished I will give students an almost identical sheet to do in lesson. They invariably do a lot better the second time and this gives them a real boost and motivation to look things up for their regular homeworks.

    I expect students to get almost all of their homework correct and they have to come and redo it if they get below a certain percentage. In September/October this results in about 60% of the class coming back at lunchtimes. This number soon drops as students learn how to help themselves before the homework is due in. By this time of the year it is rare I need to bring any students back and it probably averages 1 a week from about 90 C/D border students I teach.


    We do an assessment each half term which covers the work taught in that time. I will always make room for atleast 2 lessons of revision before that test (one non-calc and one calc). Students will work through practice questions and I will not help them at first. They must look back through their exercise books or through the text books and try the question first. The first time this is quite a painful process but with perseverence they get better.

    After the test students have to diagnose the areas that they struggled with and we have a lesson in the computer room to address this. We tend to use either method maths or mymaths for students to individually work on their areas for improvement.

    In total this amount to 4/5 lessons each half term on revision and testing but for me it is the more important than the teaching lessons, afterall, if they do not have the skills to recall the work done previously then what was the point of teaching it in the first place?

    Open Book Tests

    Every so often I will give an open book test for students and ideally they will have computers as well. For these tests students will have their exercise books, text books, old homework sheets and access to videos on the VLE and mymaths. Each question in the test will be very similar to a question they have seen before in a homework.

    The first time I did this the students did not really get it but they settled into it and through the experience I saw a massive improvement with the homework of some of the students.

    Year 11

    Our foundation classes have a programme of study that moves quickly and covers all the content by the end of year 10. Year 11 is purely about plugging the gaps and revision.

    I have a large set of small tests that are all marked out of 10. Each one covers a specific topic. At the start of each lesson the students have 5 minutes to revise a topic (sometimes one I dictate or sometimes free choice). They then complete the test in test conditions, have it marked and record their score on a big whiteboard on the wall. Students can take the same test as often as they like (but only once per day) and will see their score change as they improve. For my classes this works incredibly well as it gives students something small that they can work on and see the benefit quickly. I also love having the scores on the wall as the first thing they see when they walk in is a reminder of what they can do and what they need to work on.

    Once the students are familiar with what we are doing I sometimes make them redo topics they got 10/10 on previously. Often this means their scores go down and they adjust it accordingly. After initial dissappointment this often leads to students going away and working at a topic until they can get back to 10/10.

    In the summer term we switch to more exam based practice. I like the old OCR graduated assessment papers as they take around 20 minutes each and target 2 grades at a time. I like to tell the students to do 20 minutes every day and these tests are perfect. I encourage students to spend about a week at each level and move it up as they get closer to the exam. For foundation classes this is going from module 1-7 and for higher going from module 6-10. There are hundreds of these papers still available on the OCR website.
  6. I impress it on my students as a mantra - "How do you revise maths? You DO maths!" Amazing how many of them answer the question at first with "Well, I look over my work..."

    I think the resources to revise come from good habits all year long. I am a terrible nag about referencing all their work - if it's a worksheet, glue it in. If it's a text book exercise, write the page number. Date it. Indicate what the topic / skill is called. Mark all work, that is one of the main things I am checking on when I take in their books each week - is it all marked, and are any wrong questions annotated with notes on why they went wrong and / or correct reworking (again, MARKED either by me or them) and / or at the very least, the correct final answer written in.

    So when I set a test or an end-of-year exam, they can redo a few questions from the worksheet / text book exercise and use their exercise book to check if they've done it correctly.

    Also when we do work in class, completing exercises to practise skills, I encourage them to choose their own questions to do - do the first few until you're finding it easy and a bit repetitive, then skip down to find a hard / interesting / challenging / different looking one. This habit IMO makes them be independent and develops the skill of revising, assessing when they know well enough how to do something, and moving on before they get bored.

    Most of my students love past papers, although again I make sure they have access to the markscheme in time for revision - no point in telling them to do questions if they haven't the resources to check they're doing it correctly!
  7. Can you point me in the direction of the past papers on the OCR Website? I can only find the most recent linear past papers unless I am being blind? Thanks
  8. edit- just found them!

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