When is revision not revision?
Initial learning is when you learn something new, begin to lay the groove in your memory which homework (a form of revision) then deepens. Initial learning is the first encounter with material, during which time you find the mental drawer into which you will come to file this new information. So in some respects, initial learning is rarely new material per se, it is additional material on a topic which has previously been introduced. It deepens understanding, adds facts, begins to create a network of information like a map. For the purposes of revision, I like to see it as a filing cabinet.
So picture this:
You have a filing cabinet called HISTORY. In the world of learning support, it may be purple – to correspond to the purple folder in which notes are stored, the purple highlighter in which history is added to the revision timetable, the purple ink in which you write history homework into your diary. For current GCSE history students, there are drawers labelled Cold War-America-Treaty of Versailles: our broad topics. Within the drawer of Cold War I have Truman, Churchill, Tito, Stasi, Marshall, Berlin. Attlee and refugees. I know they all go into this drawer because IT SAID SO IN THE TEXTBOOK.
Why all caps? Because if you have a learning difference, and heard this information but couldn’t muster the cognitive resources to accurately store this in the Cold War cabinet during class – because you’re tired, feel sad, can’t read the board fast enough, can’t listen when there’s noise – then you are going to have to learn this properly when you get home. The beauty of the textbook is that it is a living file cabinet, neatly organised and ready to help you file facts into categories.
Assuming you went home and revised.
Most students with learning differences are bone tired at the end of a long day, take 2-3x as long to finish homework and don’t really know how to manage time. So the opportunity to take fresh, half formed ideas and stories and securely file them through additional homework seems unlikely. Which is why I pose the question about revision in the first place. 9 times out of 10, our well-meaning (albeit anxious)student with a learning difference wants nothing more than to learn the topic, revise, feel confident in the timed test and have a hope of passing. Have you ever wondered why your child doesn’t just just sit down, manage their time and revise? Why they faff and weep and appear to be trying to swerve the only path to success?
They can’t revise because they haven’t learned it properly in the first place.
In part 1 of this blog, I proposed 2 different scenarios – frustration with the avoidant child and frustration with the incompetent school. Imagine a 3rd scenario.
Kids with learning differences need a formalised approach to revision, one which begins with ascertaining whether they are revising, or indeed learning this properly for the first time. They need to be taught how to file, why homework is their best ally, and how to cross file information because Churchill is in more than one drawer and his name is certain to come up on the GCSE.
Storage and Retrieval: the keys to exam success.
Have an educational/SEND/research/schools question for me? I love to answer questions! Email Julianne@juliannemiller.co.uk. You could become a blog post.