This is a late post I know, but I’ve spent the last 5 weeks looking explicitly at key words and revising them in conjunction to the English Literature exams. Both the class and I really did enjoy this and I think it’s a must-repeat next year!

What did it look like?

If you’ve seen any of my other classroom posts on Twitter, you probably know I don’t have lots of wall space in my classroom. I think a lot about displays and actually, I’m never quite sure which are useful, which are more for me and which develop dependency on the wall rather than the brain. I have a good sized door to a cupboard in my room and I’ve used this regularly for working walls this year (you might have seen this for creative writing starters at Christmas and Easter with my KS3 classes). I decided to let Year 11 have the door for some key word revision. It looked a little like this…

 

This whole display cost about £4 and is truly a Poundland Pedagogy neon spectacular: the string is from Christmas, the pegs, post-its and neon stars are all from Poundland.

How does it work?

Each day I’d give students a different key word and they had to link it to as many ideas from all of their Literature texts as possible in 7 minutes. I’d start the timer as soon as they started arriving, I’d have my post-its in hand, give them out at the beginning of the lesson and collect them in at the end of the time. I’d read through them and have 2 winners and a list of special mentions. Students received a stamp and a good comment (our reward system) if they were on either list and we’d talk about how they interpreted and linked the word the day before. The whole process took about 15 minutes in a day.

Why did it work?

  • Firstly, I had one word per lesson from the first lesson back of half term, to their last Literature paper. This worked as a very subtle countdown to the exam.

  • It meant that I knew they were doing some revision of every Literature unit every day!

  • It was its own form of recall testing – they had to link each word to Macbeth, J&H, AIC and Poetry, meaning they had to know all of these things to be in with a chance of winning.

  • They liked the competition element and seeing their name up on the board – by the end they were literally checking the door as soon as they came in to see if they had won.

  • It enforced some routine and comfort about revision before the exam season started.

  • They started running it for me – handing out the post-its at the door because they knew what was coming first in the lesson (I don’t love the new game of putting a post it note where I can’t reach it though… always the issues of a 5 ft 1 lady teaching a boy heavy class where the average height is about 6ft… seriously, what are they eating to be so tall?!).

  • It blossomed confidence with key vocabulary and just allowed me a little AfL moment to double check they knew as many potential key words as possible without any ambiguity of what they meant (I’m still shaken by one of my Year 11’s leaving his exam last year having forgotten what ambition meant).

  • It was nice to show off little elements of how hard they were working and reward everyone in the room at some point or another.

  • It encouraged more perceptive ideas over time – albeit through competition. They were really thinking about how ideas such as loyalty and fear are presented in the texts.

  • It really did build their confidence over the last few weeks. I think some of this is truly down to a post-it note’s size. A whole empty exam booklet can be a scary thing, but a post-it note is far less so. I know I always go on about them but they’re my most used tool in the classroom!

My Year 10s have obviously seen the wall and have already started to ask if we will do the same thing next year (they’ve been my spaced testing/recall guinea pigs all year so are less concerned by the exams I think). I’ve found this to be a high impact, low energy constant working wall that I’ll definitely repeat next year.

Have you done something similar? Let me know!