Bambi Gardiner from Oaka Books shares her top ten tips to ensure your dyslexic pupils nail their revision over the holidays without ruining Christmas.
Mocks just after Christmas have spoiled many a festive season. Certainly, for years in our house, my love of Christmas was overshadowed by the amount of revision my children needed to do. This affected our dyslexic daughter massively. Part of the stress was caused because I had no idea of exactly what she needed to revise. As she was so disorganised, her notes were a mess; she had no clue what she needed to get done or how to structure her revision. The result? She either put her head in the sand (and I nagged) or believed she was busy revising by writing her notes out (a complete waste of time). Eventually, I cracked it and here are my top tips for effective revision.
- Preparation is essential and needs to be done in plenty of time.
- For revision to be effective, it must be active. Writing out notes is pointless and will take a dyslexic so long that they will achieve nothing.
- For effective revision to take place over the holidays, you need to get parents, as well as the children, on side. The simplest way to do this is with a plan of action. I often have parents saying ‘he/she has already done that’. It is almost as though they miss the fact that anything in a syllabus could come up in the external exams. Many parents do not know what is in the syllabus for each subject. To be very honest, particularly if their child is struggling, they should. Exam revision is a key time when the triangle of support between the teacher, child and parent needs to be strong and communicative.
- Provide a full list of every topic they need to cover for each subject. Colour code it – ‘I know it’, ‘Needs work’, ‘Don’t get it’. It is a nice idea to get your pupils to create this themselves but it will take a dyslexic child hours and they probably will not finish it! Give them the list and get them to identify their strengths and weaknesses.
- Give them a blank weekly revision timetable (divided into 20-minute slots). Again, don’t get them to design their own as they will waste so much time making the timetable, they won’t get any revision done! Make sure they include plenty of downtime and are realistic about the amount of work they will do each day and how they will reward themselves.
- They can then work back from the exam date, slotting into the timetable every topic they need to revise for every subject. They will soon get to grips with the fact that their revision will take a long time! But they will see it in all its colour coded glory and they have a plan. Most importantly, this can be sent home so their parents can see what needs to be done.
- Don’t get your dyslexic pupils to create their own Q&A cards, it will take them so long that they will just be wasting time. Provide ready-made cards, printed on coloured backgrounds in Century Gothic or Comic Sans fonts. Doing this for every topic as you go along will provide a complete revision kit. That’s why we produce 42 Q&A cards in every Oaka topic pack. They make life easier for teachers, for parents and, most importantly, for the children.
- Slow and steady (or rather little and often in the case of revision) wins the race. Constant repetition in lots of different formats has a huge impact on moving information from short term to long term memory. Cramming for a couple of weeks doesn’t work, especially for SEN children. Too often, my daughter was given a week to revise for a test. For many SEN children, this is simply not enough, especially given that your subject will not be the only one they are revising for.
- Recommend fun revision tools for parents to use over the holidays. Can school lend out games for the holidays? Curriculum based revision games are brilliant ways to keep the work flowing and engaging the whole family. Many parents are happy to purchase resources if they just know which ones.
- You will, no doubt be doing lots of revision sessions at school but don’t assume your SEN pupils are keeping up. Help parents understand that they have a very real role in supporting their child during this period. Here is a little Guide to Effective Revision that you can download and email to parents.
Planning well ahead of the holidays will mean you can have plenty of time off feeling pleased (yes, even a little smug, that your pupils are nailing their revision in an orderly, effective way. Your pupils (and their families) can then all enjoy Christmas with a huge weight off their shoulders. You will be one popular teacher!