Flashcards

As we approach our end of year exams in all year groups, the teaching and learning team thought perhaps now is a good time to make sure our students know some good ways to revisit and revise. Alongside this we have also attached the Teaching and Learning Newsletter for this term.

In terms of revision, we know what doesn’t work very well for most:

reading
highlighting
summarising
copying
and doing nothing!

Conversely, we also know what is likely to be more successful:

generation
retrieval
elaboration
spacing and interleaving
metacognitive strategies

FLASH CARDS can do all of this

The problem is some students find the language of these strategies off putting – particularly in KS3. The terms can seem opaque and clinical, no matter how many times you discuss and share the underlying reasoning. Different terminology can help – words that capture the essence of effective study strategies but present them in more accessible and memorable language.  Often it is best to present things as clearly and simply as possible. How you word these methods is of course year and class dependent, but the basic ideas behind them are the same.

The Five Rs

The five Rs underpin our approach to independent study, including the guidance we give our students on writing effective flash cards.

  • reduce – identifying learning
  • recall – remembering learning
  • rethink – connecting learning
  • review – reflecting on learning
  • repeat – going back over learning

Flash card guidance

  1. Reduce

Create a learning overview by breaking down subjects into topics, units, modules and concepts. Whatever works best. Use the overview to group flash cards together within each subject. This makes revision more manageable and gives it a coherent structure.

  1. Recall

It can be useful to see recall as production and recovery. Production involves writing short prompts that invite retrieval of everything that can be remembered about a given topic, such as write a list or complete a graphic organiser e.g. Venn diagram or table.

Recovery involves recalling factual details using questions as cues. There are simple what/when/where/who questions, with how and why questions also used if appropriate. These questions strengthen memories and prime for rethinking. Three is about right.

  1. Rethink

This is important and involves designing activities that extend understanding by encouraging connections. Not exam tasks, but tasks inviting something to be done with what has been recalled, such as explanations, reasons, comparing and contrasting.

  1. Review

Planning makes study purposeful. Keeping track means weaknesses are prioritised and strengths returned to after forgetting has occurred. Colour coding (red for tomorrow; amber for a few days and green for a week) and adding dates is simple and strategic.

  1. Repeat

Steps 3-5 are repeated lots of time and at intervals. Dated cards and an overview of topics enable planning and reflection at review. Different subjects and different topics can be deliberately woven into a study session. Repetitions are determined by time available.

Example:

flashcards