All set for success: How to help your students plan their revision in 2020

By Sue White


The exam season is approaching and we need to prepare students to revise effectively. The best preparation starts now. My mantra has always been ‘little and often’. It is important that we support our students’ revision, offering clear direction with modelled examples showing what and how to revise. So what are the top tips for revising Literature? 

1) Visually map out revision.

Begin revision early. Map out the breadth and scope of Literature revision, showing how ‘little and often’ will be effective. Demonstrate to students how to plan their time, balancing Shakespeare, poetry, the modern play or prose and their 19th century novel using a spaced repetition approach so their revision is thorough.

2) Utilise tutor time.

Create dedicated Literature time where students share a specific revision tool. Week 1 is Shakespearean characters, Week 2 is a favourite literary device from across the anthology poetry, etc. Prepare quizzes covering the basic plots of modern drama/prose and their 19th century novel.

3) Re-read the text(s).

Encourage students to read texts again: Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by the end of January and Macbeth by the end of February, followed by An Inspector Calls in March and the poetry anthology by Easter. Display a poem, act or chapter on your PowerPoint or IWB at the beginning of each lesson to support their focus.

4) Alternatives to re-reading the texts.

Create colourful visual timelines, focusing on key scenes; for example, illustrate the rise in tension in Macbeth Act 2 Scene 2. Add information about characters’ actions and support with key quotations.

5) Getting quotations right.

Decide a set number of key quotations for each text and adopt a whole school approach. Display quotations in stairwells, on scrolling PowerPoints as students enter assemblies, publish on the revision section of the school website and provide take-away copies. 

6) Quotations every which way.

Model revision techniques that can be replicated at home, such as a visual analysis of quotations (exploring deeper or hidden meanings), pairing quotations for characters such as Mr Birling and Gerald to show similarity, or the reoccurring theme of good and evil in Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Encourage students to produce quotation flash cards or quotation Top Trumps covering Who, What, Why, Where and When.

7) Emphasise the importance of thematic revision.

Character and thematic maps are great for visual learners. For example, start with an image representing Power and Conflict, and add key quotations from the poems around this image.

8) Make use of visual aids.

Produce effective, high quality mind mapping. Focus on a character; for example, what are the 10 key points we know about Sheila? Arrange these points as headings around her image, adding quotations to show what they reveal about her.

9) Promote independent thinking.

Demonstrate solo hexagons, study stars and other graphic tools to illustrate and link ideas. Practical revision activities such as these are great ways to revise in pairs or to utilise the support of a willing parent/carer.

10) Avoid a ‘one size fits all’ approach when promoting revision.

You have a wide range of students to reach and you need a wide offer to reach them all. Be creative in the revision approaches you suggest, model and promote. 

Sue White has been in teaching for 23 years, in roles including Head of English and Assistant Headteacher.