Geography: 'Empower students to take charge of their own revision'

Discover how one geography teacher tackles revision in the secondary classroom by exploring these student-led tools and tips

Chris Powell

Geography, Secondary, Revision, Resources, Tips, Tools, Independent Study, Student-led, Study Leave, KS3, KS4, GCSE, Post-16, A-level, Year 7, Year 8, Year 9, Year 10, Year 11, Year 12, Year 13

Do student-led strategies hold the key to effective revision in geography? One teacher offers his insights and top resource picks

Revision lessons are tricky. Geography, in particular, has a huge range of data, theories and concepts that need to be covered... And don't even get me started on the map skills! With such a broad coverage, you'll inevitably find yourself in the position where one pupil is keen to spend time on one topic, while another would prefer to skip over it.

For this reason, I tend to focus more on student-led revision strategies; in other words, worthwhile tasks that can be adapted to suit a range of topic areas, and worked through at any pace. But what exactly does this look like in practice?

Breaking down topics

My exam classes really like being able to break down big topics into bitesized chunks. I find that revision clocks work well as they give students the responsibility of deciding how to divide them up. This process helps them to see how different elements of a topic come together to reveal the bigger picture. Less-able learners may appreciate the more structured approach offered by these blank mindmaps*.

To promote more in-depth thinking, I frequently use Diamond 9 diagrams. If you have an adaptable template to hand, you easily can create activities to suit topics studied at any key stage. Such activities require students to rank various factors in order of importance, and then justify their decisions. They can even act as a handy warm-up* before moving on to exam-style questions.

Board game templates, especially those that require learners to make up their own questions, can also have value with any year group. Not only do pupils have to understand the subject matter, they also have to think carefully about the questions they write. It's worth taking the time to model effective question-writing, as this strategy lends itself to the revision of everything from map symbols to the demographic transition model.

Tackling the exam

Exam command words can be problematic at any level. While most students have got a reasonable grasp of the difference between 'describe' and 'explain', many still struggle with more ambiguous terms such as 'assess'. That's why I like to keep their definitions on display in my classroom, so that pupils can refer back to them whatever they're doing. But for something more portable, I'll often devise some sort of match-up task.

Of course, making examiners' reports readily available to students has a lot of impact. I often set my classes the task of marking example answers and explaining their comments. Naturally, any activity that gets pupils more familiar with the mark schemehas value, as it gives them the confidence to assess their peers' work outside of the classroom. 

Quick links

Topic revision resources Exam practice resources
Revision clock template Command word display
Blank topic-themed mindmaps* Command word match-up
Diamond 9 template Example exam answers
Diamond 9 as a starter* Question-level analysis tool*
Board game template Six-mark question frame 

*This resource is being sold by its author

Chris Powell was talking to Nicola Davison. He is a geography teacher and ITT lead, currently teaching at Parmiter's School in Hertfordshire

This blog post is featured in April's geography newsletter from Tes Resources.

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Check out our newly created GCSE revision hub, packed full of even more engaging lesson ideas, helpful workbooks and challenging quizzes. For further revision tips and tricks, explore this themed hub, including the latest news articles and community discussions.