It’s getting light in the mornings now so that means it is probably time to look at revision. This is a new post that is attempting to improve upon an older post. Here’s how I’m planning to
drag help my year 11s through their final listening and reading exam.
Make a plan
My plans tend to work like this. As I’m running a fast-track course then we probably have no more than 1 lesson per common topic on the Edexcel Spec. Therefore my students need vocabulary, listening practice/reading practice and things that they can actively take away from the lessons and try. The following is an example:
|Topic to be taught||Vocabulary||Focus L/R||Take away exam technique||Take-away revision technique|
|General interests||Sports, hobbies, free time.||L||Dealing with the picture questions||Mindmapping|
|Lifestyle (healthy eating)||Foods, drinks, gern/nicht gern
|L+R||Dealing with multiple choice (pick 4 from list of 8)||Flashcards|
|School and college||Subjects, likes/dislikes,||L+R||Dealing with past/present/future questions||Make a Tarsia|
Vocabulary – Revise / Refresh / Build
The listening and reading exams are essentially one massive vocabulary test of 2 or 5 years worth of learning (depending how you run your course). Therefore most lessons need to begin with some refreshing of vocabulary.
I have the following principles when it comes to selecting revision activities:
- The students need to be made to think or to listen carefully
- It has to involve the students using and hearing target language
- How much do students gain from it?
Here are a few go-to ideas:
Worksheets – For a few years it was almost heresy to suggest a worksheet but if it is a good worksheet then use it. The benefit is that the students have something to take home to revise from and they may appreciate not having to write things down for a bit.
Last man standing bingo – students write five words from a vocabulary list and then stand up. Teacher (or willing student) calls out the words. If all five are called out the student sits down and has lost. Winners are those left standing.
Environmentally friendly strip bingo – students write a list of seven words on the mini-whiteboard from a vocabulary list. Teacher (or willing student) calls out the words. Students may only rub off the top or bottom word when they hear it. Winner is the first one with a clean whiteboard.
Normal bingo – You’re reading this and you’re a language teacher. I’m not going to explain this one!
Vocab battles – Students have two lists of vocabulary and test each other. Winner is the one with the most correct.
Wordsnakes – Students have to separate the words in the snake. Here is one for work and work experience topic. If doing German, you will probably need to remove the capital letters.
Tarsia puzzles – This involves chopping up a sheet of A4 into 8 pieces and writing matching English and German along each inside edge. The idea is to put the paper back together again with every English and German definition matching perfectly with no text around the outside. They can be automatically made here.
Dictation – minimal preparation. Read out sentences from a past paper transcript or textbook reading activity. Students have to write down exactly what they hear.
Discovery Education Puzzlemaker – This was a staple of my NQT year until I accidentally and rather dramatically exceeded my photocopying budget . I only recently remembered its existence. Well worth a look and free to create simple puzzles involving vocabulary.
Vocabulary Toolkit – These are some rather old but still very good books in our department. They are sadly out of print but perhaps purchase a few for PP students. The book in question is here. Whilst it will not relate exactly to your exam board they are good little tools for revision. German and French versions only I think..
Collaborative Mindmaps – Students work in a group of 3-4. Start with the topic area in the middle and give them 4 branches out. They have a minute to add whatever they can before passing it on to the next person. Rinse and repeat.
It is worth mentioning that in the above activities I will probably focus on non-cognates over cognates. Most students can deduce a word such as “telefonieren” but may struggle with “anrufen”.
Teaching Exam Technique – some thoughts on past papers.
This technique of going through past papers is something I have found valuable. My thanks to Chris Hildrew’s website for this:
PQRST Past Paper Method
Preview: revise the topics before tackling the paper
Questions: now do the paper.
Review: see questions below
Scribble: note any new vocabulary on the paper that was not known.
Test: test yourself two or three days later on that vocabulary to check retention.
Past papers should not just be an end in themselves. Completing a past paper is good but using it to push revision and learning forward is better. Students should be looking at the following after completing a paper:
- What new vocabulary is there that I didn’t know?
- Did I miss out on marks from misunderstanding the question requirements?
- Did I miss out on marks because I didn’t know the material?l
- Did I miss out an answer – the crime above all crimes on an MFL paper. When the odds on a correct answer are 33% or higher, missing answers out is silly.
General Exam Technique Teaching Ideas
- Teach features of language such as prefixes and suffixes. For example, “ent” always implies removal of something in German (entfernen, entspannen).
- Test them regularly on the little words and the negatives “jamais” “rien” “personne”.
- Use the listening 5 minutes well. Model it on a visualiser if you have one or get your entire group stood around you while you do it and invite their contributions.
- Have a twilight with your higher level students where you practise the target language question at the end of the higher reading papers.
- There will be a question on tenses – can they spot them? Sometimes time markers play a role here. Students need to be aware of the features of each tense. Chris Fuller made a good point that anything future adds and anything present/past takes away in French and Spanish. If they spot an infinitive it is likely a future tense unless preceded by an opinion phrase.
- Higher level papers will often mention all three of their multiple choice options. The trick is working out the right one. Two are probably close to right so listen carefully the second time to the ones that appear similar.
- Exam boards have to promote SMSC just as schools do, students need to remember the exam is written for teenagers. When the question says “What are Karla’s views on smoking?” The answer is unlikely to be “it is harmless and we should all just light up now”
- Remind students that Edexcel exams follow a peak-trough model where harder questions are preceded by easier ones. They need to make sure they do not give up too quickly. Question 9 can be a walk in the park after question 7 on nordic walking or the training of guide dogs.
- Leave nothing blank! I’ve had a student get 5 extra marks in past paper as a result. When the kid said he got an A, he shocked most of his classmates! He later admitted not answering 8 questions but guessed them and was rewarded for it.
- Some subjects have introduced walking/talking mocks. I prefer to brief students before they do they paper, allow them to make any notes of reminders and then let them go.
Remind them that they have been preparing for this for 2-5 years but shouldn’t assume that they can just do it without revision. Make the following your mantra:
EverydayMFL’s typical revision lesson
As a teacher of a mixed ability group on a fast-track 2 year course. Here is a lesson outline that I would use. There are so many good revision activities out there and I’ve seen all sorts of ideas on the Facebook groups involving balloons, jenga, trivial pursuit etc. You will notice that these do not feature heavily in the plan below. It is simply that with the time pressures of such a course, I’ve had to prioritise listening practice and as much vocabulary input as possible. The final lesson will generally involve some revision fun and German or Spanish food.
Topic: Healthy living and lifestyle
STARTER: activity that refreshes their memory of large amounts of vocab eg: odd one out, make a mindmap, 30 word vocab test German–> English or English–> German.
Present: a revision activity students could do at home on any topic but model it with this one. Students do the activity building in vocabulary from the starter and what they can remember.
Listening practice using past exam questions or revision workbook questions. Immediate feedback and discussion of where the marks were won and lost. Suitable for both higher and foundation although leaning towards higher. Sometimes completed with transcript.
Split class into two groups
Highers do some practice reading questions on the topic while foundations do practice listening appropriate to their level on the topic, then they switch. Students doing the listening will be talked through how to approach the question, what the question is looking for and any handy strategies that come to mind. We then attempt it. Those doing reading are largely left to it.
Set homework: revision via vocabexpress / samlearning / past paper / make a mindmap / make a tarsia puzzle / languagesonline / linguascope / language gym workouts etc
Students then may face one more listening text (because you can never practise this skill enough) or another vocabulary building activity based on my experiences over the course of the lesson.
Students on study leave – what to do when you cannot do anything to help them anymore!
- Make sure they know what constitutes effective revision – for a blog that changed my practice, click here.
- Mail a document on useful ways to revise for languages to the parents.
- Set them up some vocab lists on Quizlet / Memrise / Vocabexpress.
- Give them a pack of past papers to work through and the mark schemes.
- Give them a sheet of QR codes leading to language revision websites.
- Make them purchase a revision workbook or guide to help them revise prior to study leave.
All the best with the final furlong.