For teachers, September is a critical time to set our expectations high and ensure that our students form learning habits which can be maintained throughout the year. Here are some ideas for how we can go about this:
Start revising from the beginning
As soon as content has been taught, we can help our students to really learn it through frequent retrieval. This could be through in-class quizzes, retrieval homework or a fully interleaved curriculum.
I plan Educake homework well in advance before I have a chance to forget, mapping out what I want students to revise across each term. This is a powerful complement to a more responsive approach to teaching. I can be flexible and respond to the need for learning new content, while also embedding previously learned content on a planned schedule over the year.
Engage with parents and carers in term one
Whether it’s a quick email or a phone call to introduce myself, I find that contact with home is always appreciated by families and students alike. It’s a chance to establish positive and open channels of communication, and it helps students to understand that the adults in their lives talk to each other!
Encourage revision of the difficult areas from the start
This may sound obvious to adults, but students tend to revise within their comfort zones. As an English teacher, I have noticed that my students will often revise and over-learn quotations and literary terms, but they are more reluctant to practise analytical paragraphs. This continues right through to the exam season, by which point it can be too late. Starting early with an expectation that students will practise the trickier elements of a course will pay off in the long run.
Promote an understanding of time
I try to do this for both short-term and long-term bases. When we say to students, “Spend 15 minutes reading this,” we take it for granted that they know what 15 minutes feels like. Generating an appreciation of exactly what a short burst of revision feels like can take away the overwhelming feeling that there is just “too much” to revise. Short sessions of re-reading and revising, perhaps modelled in class, is a great habit to be formed in September.
For exam courses and year groups, it can also be helpful to lay out the long-term curriculum plan for them, so they can see exactly what will happen and when. I also encourage my students to reflect on how quickly (or perhaps how slowly!) each term or year has passed so that they can appreciate how the examination season will soon be upon them.
Author Bio: Sarah Barker is an English teacher of 18 years. She grew up in Bristol, where she still lives and works. She is interested in supporting all students to become fully literate adults, and in widening the worlds of our young people through literature. She tweets at @mssfax and blogs at www.roundlearning.org