Last night I invited the parents of our year 11 cohort to a workshop to give them some tips for helping their children revise for GCSE History. A couple of weeks ago I sent home a set of American West flashcards we made for parents to use to quiz our students at home, with a letter inviting them to the workshop. I was quite pleased with the turn out – nearly half the parents came along, mostly with their children.
The session lasted a bit less than an hour and I covered:
The two history papers and what was on each one – the exam entries form that they had home states that paper 1 is “Development Study with American West” – well, of course we well them that “Development Study” means “Crime and Punishment” but they don’t necessarily soak it up, so I wanted to make it really clear to parents what they need to revise for each exam.
Some generic revision techniques – mostly drawing on what I heard at TLAB15 from Barbara Oakley: I explained that regular testing is the best way to ensure the knowledge sticks, giving them some strategies for doing this at home that included our NQT’s suggestion of putting questions around the house on post its that need to be answered before being passed – so, a question on the fridge blocks the fridge and so on; and I told them a bit about the Pomodoro Technique, hoping that they will encourage students to work in short, focused bursts instead of revising for hours at a time.
Some History-specific revision techniques – I picked two things that I thought parents might best be able to help with – developing answers and generic source skills.
Firstly, we looked at developing explanation and how to build a good PEE paragraph. I modeled this with a paragraph on the board and then gave the parents time to discuss with their children how to extend a point about highway robbery that I included on my slide.
Secondly, I talked about some of the most common question stems for the sources paper and gave advice on how to best answer each one. I followed this up with a couple of examples from the news that they can use to get students to think critically about sources. The Sun did me an enormous favour yesterday with their opposing England/Scotland election covers; and the Heat magazine website provided some more fodder (“Calvin Harris posts pictures of Taylor Swift’s cats – THIS MEANS HE’S MET THEM” – how far do you agree with this interpretation? How useful is this source as evidence of a Harris/Swift relationship?)
In all I think I was speaking for about 45 minutes which seemed to be a good length of time. The feedback from parents on the way out was really positive, with several of them thanking me for giving up the time to do it, which was a nice bonus. Hopefully it will have an impact in the summer!
Here are my resources:
Y11 parent workshop – as always, these are converted from Smartnotes – no apologies for weird fonts/alignments!
AmWest Revision Flashcards – in Excel, for the OCR course.