One way to do revision – letting students choose what to focus on

Here in Czech most schools I know give their students some kind of end-of-year test, which means we teachers need to prepare some revision lessons – and sometime the test itself (whether testing has any value and what that value is are interesting questions that I’m not going to talk about today but for a good discussion on the topic there is this blog post and a full comments section from Scott Thornbury).

So, seeing as I had a class today that had a revision lesson, I thought I would share my favourite way of re-covering some of things we have already done this semester. But first of all there are a couple of problems with revision lessons to think about.

1. Students move at different speeds, some have missed lessons, some haven’t always done their homework and some just weren’t having a good day.

2. This class is shared with another teacher who has covered half the material (and I missed a lesson which meant they had a third teacher). Even with the best kept class register I still can’t be sure of exactly what happened in a lesson.

3. Time. If we have covered the book, and used the Teacher’s book, and set them homework from the workbook, and given them the links to any extra on-line material (this class are really good at doing all of this stuff, which is one reason I love teaching them, they all want to learn), then what on earth am I going to use for revision? I’m busy, I don’t have hours and hours to write a bunch of material.

So I don’t write a bunch of material. I re-use the old material.

First of all I talk to them about the areas they’d like to look at, and add a couple I know they need to work on ( e.g. because it was hard for them first time and/or I know it’s in the test). Then I get the workbook and copy some pages – the workbook is exclusively for homework, they all have a key and it only gets talked about in class when students have had problems. So the material here is relevant, as in they covered it, but the answers are not fixed in their minds the same way a word that came up in a speaking activity might be.

I cut up the individual activities and write the language point they cover on the top. These mini-exercises I scatter on the desks round the room and let students choose what they want to practice. I let them take their books and workbooks with them so they can set their own level of challenge for each exercise. They have the key so they only call on me for help.

Walking around I monitor and do little one-to-one sessions with them – checking why they chose an answer, getting them to give me synonyms, asking them how they have to change a sentence to make an alternative answer work, etc.

We then come back as a group and talk about what was easy and difficult, and do a little peer revision of things they struggled with if possible.

This way the students get to focus on what they want to, in their own timeframe but knowing teacher support is there if they need it. At one point, after about an hour of a 90-minute lesson, I asked if they wanted to stop or keep going and they unanimously wanted to carry on. It’s always great when that happens.



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