29 April 2017

Structured Revision Lessons

Revision season is upon us! I mainly teach exam classes (Year 11, 12 and 13) so exam preparation is currently a big focus for me. For Year 12 I feel a sense of urgency - I only finished teaching the C2 specification yesterday and their C1 exam is fast approaching. Eek.

Thankfully I finished teaching my Year 11s the GCSE specification at the end of last term, leaving me a good 20 lessons for revision. I teach a top set - their target grades range from 5 to 8 and I think their current grades probably range from 4 to 9.

Throughout the year I've been drawing up a list of topics that I need to reteach. The list is very long! It includes indices, constructions, bounds, congruence, linear graphs and algebraic fractions. This information mostly came from marking mocks, plus the weekly quizzes we've done over the last two years. I also used AQA's revision list to check that I hadn't missed anything on the specification. 

Unlike previous years, I'm following a set format in my Year 11 revision lessons. Routine works well with my students. 

On arrival to each lesson they find a Corbett Maths 5-a-day on their desk. This is printed on A5, double sided. On the front is a set of Higher questions, on the back is Higher Plus. This combination is exactly the right pitch for my students - even the strongest are finding the Higher Plus questions sufficiently challenging, so no one is getting bored. These 5-a-day exercises are perfect for getting students to revise a mixture of topics, including the topics that I can't devote an entire revision lesson to. When they get stuck they ask me for help or confer with a friend. It takes quite a while for my students to work through these questions - a good 15 to 20 minutes to complete both sides. Then I go through the answers, briefly summarising the key points for each of the topics covered.

This leaves me half the lesson to focus on a particular topic - for example one lesson last week focused on circle theorems, another on similarity. I speak for about 10 to 15 minutes, reminding my students of the key points and common misconceptions, and running through an exam question or two. Some years ago I realised the importance of this teacher-led instructional element of revision lessons. If they're struggling with a topic, they won't magically get better without some additional teaching.

I then give them 15 to 20 minutes worth of practice questions focused on that topic. For example in my revision lesson on compound measures they completed these density questions. The questions by topic from JustMaths are particularly useful.

I think this lesson format is working well. Now I've established a set structure, these lessons are pretty quick to plan. My students get through a lot of revision in each lesson, and I feel that we're revising all the high priority topics in sufficient detail. There are no gimmicks. Importantly, I'm addressing common misconceptions and reminding students of key facts and procedures.

I occasionally do a Churchill Paper lesson too, though the majority of practice papers are done at home and in Papers Society. Churchill papers are quite challenging. Next week I intend to start quizzing my class on facts and formulae. But most of my lessons will continue to follow the format described above.

Three weeks and counting until the first GCSE exam!

Maths Exam Meme Posters from Paul Collins


  1. I'm struck by your sets range of 5-8. Are there only two sets?

    1. I only have one student with a grade 5 target. The rest are a mixture of grades 6 - 8.

      We have 5 sets on each side of the year. 240 students in the year. I guess it's more mixed than a true 'top set' because the year group is split in two.

    2. I should mention that I have very high expectations of them. Regardless of targets, I hope for all 7s and 8s this summer, maybe even a couple of 9s. But we shall see.

  2. Thanks Jo this is really useful, I have a very similar class - top set, same targets, same current grades!