#20 An idea to improve topic-specific revision
Identifying the topic is half of the challenge
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💡 A quick tip to try in class this week 💡
A sensible approach to whole-class feedback is to identify a topic where students have struggled and base a revision lesson around it. For example, students have struggled with Pythagoras’ theorem in a recent assessment, so you decide to compile a selection of questions on Pythagoras for them to work through with your support. Something like this:
This is all good. But the problem students often face in exams is identifying exactly what topic a given question relates to. Announcing this is a Pythagoras lesson, or labelling the booklet of questions or worksheet as such, robs students of an important opportunity to practise such identification, and can lead to an illusion of mastery where we assume that if they can successfully complete the questions in the lesson then the topic is no longer an issue.
A simple tweak can help. Present students with the same set of questions at the start of the lesson, but with no hints or cues, and challenge them to identify the topic. You could say something along the lines of:
Today we are going to go over a topic I know we have found difficult in the past. But before we start I wonder if you can work out the topic from these first four questions. Once you have figured it out, try to put into words how you know.
Students could then share their thoughts with their partners, and then you choose a few students to share their thoughts. This can spice up the start of the lesson and help students get better at determining what exam questions are really asking.
If all is going well, you can take things a stage further by using my SSDD Problems framework. SSDD stands for Same Surface (structure), Different Deep (structure). In other words, these are sets of problems that look alike - maybe they have the same image, context or set of numbers - but they actually relate to different areas of the curriculum. The idea is that such sets of questions force students to delve below the surface features and to think hard about what the question is really asking, as well as tapping into the benefits of retrieval practice.
Returning to our Pythaogras lesson, following the successful completion of the booklet we might present our students with something like this:
You can find all my SSDD problems here.
What would you need to change to make this tip work for you?
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📺 A video to discuss with a colleague 📺
Teacher and author, Jade Pearce, discusses the active ingredients to make retrieval practice effective
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👂 A podcast episode to listen to on your way home 👂
Head of mathematics, Charlie Burkitt, shares his five tips:
Be clear and follow through
Enjoy the kids’ company
Ask the whole class questions
Develop systematic revision
Study the teachers you respect
Listen to the podcast here.
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