Sixth Form Tasks
This revision tip is using the Cornell Notes method. This is a useful way to create notes that you can revise from. One of the best features of this method is that it requires nothing more than a piece of paper, a pen and a ruler, and it works for any subject.
Before we start, be sure you know what you’re trying to learn. The topic needs to be small enough to fit on a sheet of A4 paper. It’s not going to work for ‘Geography GCSE’, but it will work for ‘Geography – Rivers’.
Think along these lines:
A theme in a novel or play (e.g. poverty in ‘A Christmas Carol’)
A topic (e.g. landscapes and physical processes in geography, medicine in history)
A key aspect of grammar in MFL (e.g. using the subjunctive)
A process in maths (e.g. solving simultaneous equations)
You can use a revision guide, a knowledge organiser, a youtube revision video or your class notes as the starting point. It’s a good idea to start with your knowledge organiser and add details from another source.
HOW TO DO IT
Step 1: divide up your piece of paper. Divide the page to create a new margin (up to 5 cm wide), a wider main box and a section at the bottom. You can see an example of what the page looks like in the video or the completed example at the end.
Step 2: Box A – the main notes. This is where you put your detailed notes. Having said that, try to:
be concise (why waste words?)
use abbreviations to save time and space
use graphs or diagrams where appropriate
use different colours for emphasis
include everything you want to learn
Step 3: Box B – the recall column. This is where you put the ‘keys’ to remembering whatever is in Box A. This could be:
a key word or phrase
an image (this is called ‘dual coding’ – associating information with an image)
questions to prompt the information
Step 4: Box C – the summary box. This is where you write a concise summary of your notes. You can include any ‘academic language’ that will help you.
HOW TO USE IT
Recall practice. You can simply cover up the main notes using a piece of paper. How much can you remember? Could you write it onto the piece of paper? What have you missed out?
If you find you are missing out a lot of information, put a small R in the top right hand corner, or a red dot. This tells you it’s a ‘red’ topic. If you get about halfway, go for A or amber, and if you have no trouble at all, go for G or green. This allows you to sort and organise your efforts into the topics and processes you feel less confident with. You’ll then have a clear idea of which areas you need to focus on.
You want to do this over time. Try a week later and a month later.
Make flash cards. Copy the summaries from box C or the questions from box B. You can use these as prompts to quickly revise.
Get ahead of the curve. You can do this with any topic in any subject, or even with your class notes. If you want to remember what you’re learning, you have to do something with the information. Getting used to taking notes in this way is a proven way to learn more, and independently doing this as part of your normal routine will help you at Heathfield and beyond.
The completed example on Lady Macbeth available to download by clicking here should help you see how the notes can look. That’s the first part. The next part is to see if you can remember the notes!
This is a great technique that requires only a revision resource, a couple of coloured pens and some paper. Creating a mind map should only take 20 or 30 minutes, so it’s a good activity for a 30 minute slot in the revision timetable, or to give you an activity in between your lessons on Teams. It’s actually a really good technique to help secure learning, and would ideally be part of a your independent study routine.
Mind maps work for all topics, but the example in the video is me making a mind map for one of the poems in the anthology.
Mind maps work for all topics, but the example in the video is me making a mind map for one of the poems in the anthology. Here are the basics steps I go through:
Step 1: Read through my revision material. I need to know what I’m on about. I used a knowledge organiser that contained notes on every poem in the anthology. The knowledge organiser is great, because it’s got a lot of information on it, but it won’t stick in my longer term memory unless I do something with that information. Reading is not enough – it’s only the starting point. The same is true of all kinds of revision material – just reading the revision guide will not make it go into my long-term memory; I need to do something with it.
Step 2: Get some pens and paper together. All you need is a few coloured pens / pencils and a sheet of paper. It’s worth noting that you can create mind maps on computers and tablets, but the act of writing makes it more likely that you will remember the information. You’ll notice that I write in capitals as I create the mind map. This is because it is easier for me to read it, but also the slightly greater time and effort it takes makes the info more likely to stay in my memory.
Step 3: consider the outline and appearance before you begin. You need to know how many branches to create before I begin, and also have a general idea of which bits will take up the most space. You can vary colours and sizes for emphasis, and if you use a 3d box or two it will add a bit more of an anchor for the memory.
Step 4: create a central image. You don’t have to be an artist to do this. A simple box with a colour is enough. If you fancy getting creative, just do it. But remember that this is about learning a topic, not passing art GCSE (unless you’re doing it for art GCSE!).
Step 5: create branches to show detailed info. As you add information to branches, again, try to keep the word count down. A word or two on each line is great. Mind maps are great at showing the relationship between bits of information. You might be tempted to use straight lines. I find wonky and wavy lines take a bit longer, look a bit better and are more memorable.
Step 6: don’t worry if you go wrong. The process is the key thing here – spending time summarising the ideas, including images, looking for the important points to emphasise. It’s great if it looks lovely, but that isn’t the goal.
Step 7: look for links. Mind maps are all about a spatial representation of information. They are designed to help you see the links between facts.
Finally, check back through your revision material. Did you include everything? Can you add to it by looking at a different revision resource? Enjoy making your mind maps. The example below was made by a year 10 student in one of my English classes. As you can see, they are useful learning tools, transform wordy knowledge organisers into a series of links, and give you something to be proud of. And of course, they will help you remember what you’re learning.
Here is a classic revision strategy: flash cards. To help you get to grips with this technique I have made a video above explaining how to make and use them.
One of the key things is to know when they are effective. Flashcards work best when you have two pieces of information to learn, for example, a word and a definition. They are great for learning vocabulary in French or Spanish, key terms in any topic, equations in maths and science and quotations in English.
But also, there are times when flashcards aren’t a good idea and that’s because what they don’t do is allow you to learn the relationship of things. The Periodic Table is better for learning atomic numbers, mind maps help with more complex relationships, Cornell notes help with wider range of facts in a topic.
You might be familiar with online apps that do similar things. I have used some myself, and a lot of you will have pre-made revision cards for various topics. Premade cards or online apps are useful because they have been designed with a whole course in mind, and should help you learn exactly what you’re supposed to. However, they miss one of the key points about the way the brain works: if you write them yourself you are much more likely to remember them. Working out what to write on the card is part of the learning process. As with mind maps, if you can do it yourself, do it yourself.
You don’t need much to make flashcards. Paper works, but it’s a bit flimsy for sustained use. I cut up card to make them, and they don’t need to be big so you can get 8 out of a single sheet of A4 card. That’s a lot cheaper than buying ‘index cards’, but the proper ones can e bought fairly cheaply. In the video I show some large cards that I bought, but they were too big, so I chop them in half to make them more usable.
Before you begin, get your equipment. You can use card or paper. You can cut up larger cards to make smaller cards – you’re not going to write a lot on them, so they don’t need to be big. A6 or smaller is best. You can colour code for different topics or subjects.
Some people will tell you to put a hole punch in the corner and using a treasury tag to keep them together. You may be better off just keeping them tied up in a rubber band because part of the way you use them is sorting them, so tying them together won’t help. When you have your cards, write the term, quotation or equation you’re trying to learn on one side. On the other, write the definition, meaning or use. On this side, it’s best to use your own words. Don’t write a whole lot of facts or words on one card. This is so that you learn the individual terms, rather than a group of them. If you put 5 terms on a single card, when you test yourself you might find I know 4 of them and I’ll either not notice that I’ve left one out, or I’ll have no way to sort out what I do know from what I don’t. You may even find you only know them when they are surrounded by the other facts.
With your cards in hand, give them a shuffle (you don’t want to learn them in the same order every time) and then read the top one. Before you turn it over, say the definition. This can be in your head if there are people around! If you can say it before you turn it over, it goes in the ‘know’ pile and if not, it goes in the ‘don’t know’ pile. This helps you keep on track of what you know and what you don’t know.
Remember that you can test either way (can you work out the word from the definition and the definition from the word?). If you only do it one way, you’ll never know if you really know it. The other thing is you need to keep using them. It doesn’t take long to whizz through your cards, so build it into your revision routine.
Don’t forget to watch the video for more tips, including how to sort and keep them.
Remember, every bit of revision you do now will make you more confident when the exams come.