In one ear, not out the other

20th April 2007 at 01:00
Revising, believe it or not, can be exciting and enjoyable. You just need to keep pupils motivated and find ways to help them remember, says Sara Sullivan

Revision can be rewarding and fun if approached in the right way. Show pupils how effective their visual memory is by placing random words and pictures around the room, reading them out, looking at any unusual pictures - then remove them all and get them to write all the details they can remember. They'll be surprised by how much they can recall.

This idea came to me when I was invigilating the modern languages listening exams. I noticed pupils still looked around the room when the tape was played, even though all visible German and French had been covered. They said they were so used to seeing verbs in the past tense or names of pets or cafes on the wall that they could visualise them.

I like to work through past papers - the more papers we do, the more confident pupils become. I advocate doing the same task several times. Yes, I hear cries of "Miss, we have done this one before," but I say, "I know, Kylie, but what was your grade last time?" "B, Miss." "Let's see if you can get an A this time."

I have used this as a motivational tool with low-ability pupils, particularly boys, and keep a tally of past papers and tests we do and draw up a score chart. We then have "Person in the lead" each week for speaking, listening and writing, and the results are shown on a PowerPoint presentation. The reward for success is either a praise card or a phone call to parents - popular among pupils, even if they would not admit it publicly.

A weekend study trip for GCSE candidates is also a great idea. It doesn't have to be far away, just using the conference facilities at a local hotel.

We run a one-day event for 50 of our top-set pupils in French and German.

We focus on past papers, and give pupils one-to-one speaking practice and workshops.

The day is run like a long school day, with hot lunch and afternoon tea, and the result is the sound of the penny dropping for many pupils who just need an intensive "hit" of languages. Our Year 11s have achieved high numbers of As and A*s, partly due to this trip. It's not something we would give up Sara Sullivan is head of languages and an advanced skills teacher at Woodlands School in Basildon, Essex

Tips for pupils

Colour code your notes. Red for "difficult", green for "easy", blue for "needs more explanation from the teacher".

GCSE is not based purely on key stage 4 work, so revise work from key stage 3 too.

Always adopt a "look, cover, write, check" regime when learning alone.

Place key words, quotes etc, on large posters in your bedroom and be surrounded by things you have to learn.

Ask a friend or parent to test you: they set you a question and you respond.

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