One of the most widespread problems in teaching and learning nowadays is making sure that the learning material is not only assimilated by the students and practised on spot, but also is retained in their memory and becomes part of their active knowledge.
Considering the fact, that there is very little time left for revision activities as mostly the curriculum is rich in information and material that should be covered, teachers, willingly or not, do not manage to allocate enough time to revision slots which would help the students retain the information longer and give the brain the time necessary to completely assimilate it. As a result, 50% of the taught material is filtered by the brain within days and only 50% stays intact if we are lucky enough.
Probably, it’s worth mentioning here the role of the forgetting curve, a study, which shows how the brain forgets information without any support to retain it within days, months and years. Below is a graph illustrating the forgetting curve. You can read more about it here.
Here are a couple of ideas that can help to make your revision sessions more interesting and resultful.
- Get rid of the destructions
When revising a material, anything at all, it is crucial to make sure that the students are focused, nothing unnecessary grabs their attention and they will able to dive deep. Ask students to set aside the gadgets, the most popular distractors nowadays, switch off the music, though some people say they focus better when listening to music, it might be true when you are busy with physical activity. When your brain is busy with mental work, listening to music is just another distraction and it puts quite a lot of pressure on your brain. To put it simpler — your brain has to choose between work — revision, and pleasure — music. Guess which one will win :).
- Define your learning style
We know that there are different types of learning styles — visual, kinaesthetic and auditory. Before starting the revision section, it will help a lot to understand which type your students belong to. It will ease the job for the brain and create a more favourable condition to adjust the information properly.
For visual learners, for instance, it is important to reinforce their learning through pictures, graphs, flashcards, etc. Preparing them to support their learning will save them up a lot of hours spent on revision.
For kinaesthetic learners, it will be much easier to experience things when revising. On job learning, practical exercises when they can use the information they are trying to memorise are of great support to this type of learners. Depending on the material you are trying to revise and retain, different types of hands-on experience can be organized. E.g. if you are trying to revise the difference between past simple vs. present perfect tenses, practising them with another person, let’s say a role-play can help a lot.
For auditory learners, it is important to listen to the information to remember. So, listening to recordings where those tenses are used, reading dialogues out loud using the same structures can speed up the revision process
- Space out the revision slots
Leaving revision slots and sessions just to the end of the course is not a good idea, as the brain is structured to assimilate information within some period of time. Piling it up on the last day, won’t result in long-term retention. Instead, it’s much wiser to create smaller revision slots for this or that material and then come back to it periodically, so that the brain manages to create links between the information and the real world.
This being said, it is important to remember that overwhelming will not speed up the learning process. It will simply exhaust students and they will have to start from point 0 again. Taking breaks and giving a chance to breathe will be a favour to them.
- Check yourself
Part of revision is making sure that your students are developing some solid active knowledge. Let them test themselves on the material they are trying to learn/revise and give themselves scores will not only help to see the progress at hand but also will motivate them to go forward.
This being said, remember that you need to reward them when they hit a target. Depending on your preferences, rewards can be anything, starting from something tasty to treat to, to taking a break for a day or two.
- Revise smart
Finally, choose the information you really want them to remember and revise. Ignore the secondary details, focus on the key information, the most practical one and build your revision sessions accordingly. Trying to remember everything will simply result in the brain filtering the unnecessary information again. Why not start with it?