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Cards, cubes, consequences and bingo

The most difficult revision topics in GCSE chemistry are:

* balancing equations;

* mole calculations (although moles are not strictly in the specification, they are still needed to complete some calculations);

* electrolysis;

* how melting points relate to bonding in elements and compounds;

* how to show ionic bonding in dot-and-cross diagrams (the charges are often missed out).

To help students master and retain these topics for exams, I find the following activities helpful.

* In small groups, mark fictitious pupils' answers to questions (preferably ones that highlight common misconceptions detailed in examiner reports).

Then discuss what some groups have given marks for and relate this to what the examiner said (in the published examiner's report, available on the internet and from exam boards).

* Mind mapping: good for visual learners (see article by Ray Oliver on page 10).

* Card sorts: create a pack of cards with, say, 30 GCSE questions and a pack with the answers. Small groups or individuals then pair the questions with the answers. These card packs can also be used as a loop game: each pupil is given one answer and one question (which don't match). The teacher reads out a question, the pupil holding the correct answer reads it out, then reads out their own question, and so on.

* Revision posters - cut out all the types of diagram the pupils will have come across in a topic and stick them onto an A3 sheet. Give each pupil a copy of the sheet. They should be encouraged to use lots of colour (especially if there is a key - eg underline all acidic substances in red).

They then annotate the diagrams. This idea differentiates by outcome. Once they have completed a few of these sheets, more able pupils could be given a blank piece of paper to do their own.

* Revision cubes: provide pupils with copies of a net of a cube. Each cuts it out and scores the edges. On each face they must put a different aspect of the topic, using pictures andor words. They then make the cube.

* Revision cards: pupils cut cards 5cm by 7cm and punch a hole in one corner. They then summarise different topic areas on the front and back of the cards and fix them together with string or rubber bands. When the test is over, they can be fixed to the book by punching a hole in the cover.

* Flashy whiteboards: each child has a small whiteboard, a rubber and a pen. It's a kind of snap: as you blast the students with questions, they display their answers on the board to you. They are encouraged to play the game, to use their textbook or exercise book or wait and "copy" other people's ideas.

* Interactive whiteboard: create self-marking quizzes using hyperlinks with PowerPoint. These can be used in small groups or as a whole class.

* Key word bingo: provide a list of key words on the board. Pupils are given a bingo card and choose some of the key words from the board. Cards are then swapped with neighbours. The teacher then calls out clues for the key word, which pupils have to match.

* Active listening, for kinaesthetic learners: play a revision CD or read out a relevant passage. Key words should have actions that the students play out.

* Consequences: give students small pieces of paper. Phrase questions, such as: what is the most interesting fact you have learnt in this topic? What is the least interesting fact you have learnt in this topic? After each question, the child folds down the paper, and passes it to the next person.

They then write the answer to the next question, and so on for about five questions. The sixth person reads all the statements, then picks a few pupils to read their papers to the class. This is a fun way to bring out exam technique (are the answers easy to understand?), persistent misconceptions and key facts.

Sam Holyman teaches science at Wolverhampton Girls' School

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