When is revision not revision?
If you were in my spelling group you would know the answer straight away; the root of revision is vis – to look or see. Re as a prefix means again, and the suffix –ion turns a verb into a noun. Therefore revision means to look at or to see again. But what if for the life of you, you have never seen this material before?
The answer is simple. You can’t revise if you haven’t learnt it.
A parent, particularly one paying school fees, might take umbrage at the fact that their child did not learn physical forces or The Cold War or the French subjunctive tense during lessons. In fact, given a lifetime of school reports suggesting your child is a daydreamer, often without the correct kit and potentially disruptive, you might think your child is to blame. Conversely, you may wonder whether the teacher who was unable to implement even one suggestion off the EP report – handing out prereading for example – has ruined the GCSE chances for your child forever. You may be locked in battle with a school who has let your child down.
What makes a lesson go in one ear and out the other?
It is hard to be a teen. The surge in hormones makes you downright unstable, to which any parent or teacher can heartily attest. Your brain is radically rerouting, expanding and developing new neural pathways in the service of maturation and this feels like a daily rollercoaster. Now add individual daily differences: A bad night’s sleep. Row with a mate. Break up. Bad hair. Social Problems. Unkind teacher. Problem with your Mum. You walk into class preoccupied. Your learning brain is occupied.
Now add a learning difference. Multitasking is impossible, and by this I mean the fundamental demands of the classroom are inherently challenging. Looking at the board and writing notes and listening to a lecture and in a noisy room. Now add to the equation new material which is spelled funny on a topic you may not care about in any way. With bad hair. Or a crush.
It’s a write off.
What homework does, theoretically, is enable students to reengage with the material in a different context. I come home, I look at what I learned (or didn’t), and try to learn it or apply it from the comfort of my bed. This may give me a fighting chance to relearn the material and if the school timetable is smart I will be using this base knowledge again within the next day or two so that it takes root and becomes part of the schema, or knowledge infrastructure, onto which this topic is being grafted. So that when I come to revise, to express this information, my internal storage will be tidy and complete and easy to access and I will tell you everything I know and do so splendidly and within the allocated time.
What could go wrong?