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Revision- Practising what I Preach #retrievedonthighlight

March 26, 2017

Last week saw the launch of the Penyrheol “How to Revise” guide. Pupils were all given a hard copy and it was emailed home too. It was launched in an assembly for years 10 and 11.

The key points emphasised were for pupils to space out their revision and to spend their time retrieving not highlighting.

This was the last slide from the assembly:

 I really hope that pupils will be using some of the research backed ideas from the guide when they are revising. A few pupils have been “trolling” the hash tag but it proves they have been listening.



I had a great converstaion on twitter with @danielharvey9 about revision and we discused how important it was for teachers to model explicitly how revision should be done. Hopefully the days of saying “just go and revise” are long gone (and this post by @davidfawcett27 suggests it is or needs to be). So in light of all this I had to think about how I was going to structure or model the revision for my Year 10 Science classes. They have an hour and half exam on my unit on June 16th. They have a lot of content to remember. I have tried to enusre that we have revised during the year (see this blog and this blog for how I have looked to enusre that they don’t forget a year’s worth of content that I then have to reteach in the last few weeks).

Pupils have been given a revision list with the 8 topics on it (and the subtopics within it). During the year, for each topic they have a pre and post teaching checklist and they use this to identify areas that still need further work in terms of their understanding. These are very useful to inform revision. But they are not enough on their own.

I quickly realised that I needed to design their revision around the lag homworks that they had been given during the year due to their (relative) success and the pupils’ familiarity with them. Using the lag homeworks as a starting point I produced 2 retrieval revision sheets for each of the 8 topics (well, 17 in total as one topic was too big for just 2 sheets). Here is a sample of a few of them:



Pupils have been given the 15 retrieval sheets as a booklet (further 2 to follow once the final topic has been covered). The sheets are also available to pupils digitally so they can print them off (or look online) to repeat the process. However, they also need guidance on arranging their revision to ensure that they take advantage of the spacing effect. I also gave pupils this:calendar

Pupils are (hopefully) fully aware that this 14 hours of revision, spread over 12 weeks, is far more effective than waiting until the last moment and spending 14 hours revising the week before the exam. These suggested timings also allow for plenty of time to revise for other subjects (some of our pupils have up to 7 exams this summer).

Completing the retrieval revision sheets

Just like for the lag homeworks, pupils should spend 15 minutes trying to retrieve. No internet, no books. Just their brains. The prompt questions should help with the retrieval. They should use dual coding where approprate. They should elaborate as their retrieval improves. When the 15 minutes is up they then get their booklet of notes (specific pages are shown on the retrieval sheets) and check their retrieved knowledge for errors and omissions. Using a different colour pen they then add anything they missed out. This should take 5 minutes. So half a topic revised in 20 minutes. The finished retrieval sheet will look like this(this is a photo of a lag homework from earlier in the year):


I then didn’t want pupils to use the finshed sheet as something to revise from when they revisit the topic. The finished sheet can be used to check for errors and omissions when they retrieved their knowledge on a blank sheet later in the revision calendar. The process is more importent than the “finished” sheet.

I also told pupils that they need to have faith in the process. This will not be fun revision. It will feel harder than reading and highlighting. But it will work. Hopefully they will see how much more they were able to retrieve on their second and third revisit.

We shall see. Already feedback from pupils is positive, both in terms of using the sheets and in terms of following the calendar. I am hoping that pupils keep the faith.

I have put up a display in my office just to show that I am trying to practise what I preach.


It is also really pleasing that staff are using the language of successful revision. This is (draft version) what our Maths team are using as the cover for their maths practice “flash cards”.


And remember:


Post edit- If anybody would like the documents they are available to download from dropbox here:



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