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Give them a route map

Keith Grimwade shows how to navigate geography revision

GCSE geography is "knowledge rich", which presents a problem across the ability range: foundation-tier students often struggle to retain the required knowledge, while higher-tier students often know more than they need to achieve full marks.

One way of helping both groups is to develop "revision frames" that record information under a set of key headings with a limited amount of space. This organises foundation students' material and gives them an opportunity to fill in gaps. Higher-tier students have to "sieve" their notes and record a level of detail pertinent to the exam. A concept map can also be used to structure a set of revision notes.

A related problem is selecting the right case study for the question from the many that will have been covered. As part of the revision programme, select a limited number of key case studies, develop a "revision frame" for each of these and list all the topics the case study could be used to support.

A case study of Glasgow could be used to illustrate urban issues such as renewal and redevelopment, industrial issues such as the changing character and location of industry, or the impact of human activity on the environment.

"Learning" sketch maps is a particular problem, but they are richly rewarded by examiners. Identify a small number of "significant" sketch maps, keeping detail to a minimum. Use the "jigsaw technique" to help students learn these maps:

l organise students into groups of three or four;

* put large copies of the sketch map on the wall outside the classroom;

* give one student from each group 30 seconds to look at the sketch map;

* back in the classroom they sketch what they can remember and then the next student in the group goes to look at the map to memorise further detail etc.

Another requirement is to give examples of places, features and key statistics. It is important to differentiate - giving all pupils the same list to learn will demotivate some and fail to challenge others.

Identifying a set of "core" and "extension" examples is best. Help students master this information in interesting and stimulating ways, for example:

l make a set of cards that can be sorted into "feature" and "example";

* prepare statements that contain deliberate mistakes for students to spot;

* provide a set of answers and ask students to provide the questions - "If xxx is the answer, what is the question?"

Revision must also secure understanding. Activities that require students to transform information from one form into another will help do this and will avoid revision becoming repetition. For example:

l transforming a paragraph of text into a diagram or sketch map, and vice versa;

* reviewing course notes and marking places and examples mentioned onto an appropriate scale of map (local, Europe, world);

* watching a video clip seen earlier in the course, but with the sound off; and then agreeing with a partner the three main points the video was about.

Revising geography requires practice. Activities must be differentiated and, ideally, students need to work at their own pace with plenty of individual support. Are sixth-formers, perhaps from the local college, able to come in to help with these sessions?

Use display for key words (specialist vocabulary) and command words (the triggers in a question). Students can prepare their own displays by analysing exam papers. Displaying examples of answers showing achievement at different grades is also helpful.

Keith Grimwade is head of Cambridgeshire LEA advisory service and junior vice president of the Geographical Association

* See the interactive guides on CBS News. Topics covered range from volcanic eruptions to world trade:www.cbsnews.comsectionshomemain100.shtml

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