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Fifteen minute forum

Thursday Morning Thriller 27th November: Study Skills

Each year a new group of students join the 6th form; they come back in their ‘own’ clothes, with the enthusiasm that is fired by choosing a few courses that really excite them and in which they feel they will excel. They look and sound different in some ways, and there’s the catch; as teachers we expect them to BE different. Suddenly, we expect them to metamorphosed over the lengthy summer break into independent and resilient students; academic powerhouses who will talk and think and write like experts from the get go. Except…

They don’t. They are still 16 year olds, and 16 year olds who have just had the longest break from education of their lives. It’s no wonder by October that some students feel they aren’t coping, and don’t know how to get back on track.

panic homework

Fundamentally, we need to teach students how to study. I spent a long time researching how we could best do this and despite my natural resistance to paying an outside provider to ‘deliver’ study skills I really like what I saw when I encountered ‘Elevate’. So far, they have worked primarily with our Year 12 students. They don’t tell them there’s a magic bullet, just what the most successful students do. They LEARN, they MASTER, then CREATE.

‘So, where do we start? These are some of the key strategies we shared in our Thursday Morning Thriller:

  1. The first thing all students need is a folder; folders equal notes that are movable; replaceable; that can be added to in a way an exercise book cannot. Why does this matter? It matters because the perfectionist soul will otherwise spend hours REWRITING class notes at the point they come to revise so they are all in one place, not a smart use of time. It matters because the most successful students learn by ‘chunking’.
  2. Work with your spec; printed out in the front of the folder it should be an ongoing checklist of what you need to know and what skills you will be tested on. Colour coded ticks at the end of topics allow students to focus their revision on the parts that are insecure.
  3. Revision notes; these should be written THROUGHOUT the year. They should be succinct, TOPICS/TRIGGER WORDS and colour coded. If students create a colour code they use across all subjects (blue for dates/ red for key terminology/green for …) this becomes even more powerful. Every week they should review where they are at in terms of their revision notes, again using a RAG colour code for each subject. If History doesn’t get the attention it deserves one week, it becomes a priority the next.
  4. Mindmaps: these are at the core of revision mindsets because they work; but they can be onerous. Get students to download one of the many mindmapping apps and they can have revision notes with them wherever they are.
  5. Student led starters; ask the students to find an example from real life or wider reading that demonstrates the learning to their peers.

The ideas are accessible and the students like them. It’s early days for us and our students; we will continue to review as we go and reinforce the messages; we are creating our own ways in to the mastery and create levels and offering those vital past paper opportunities. But, fundamentally, it’s about bridging that gap and giving all students the skills and strategies we take for granted as people for whom study is now natural.

Blog by: Clair Denman. Assistant Headteacher, Head of Sixth Form. Oriel High School

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