Teach your teen the skills to revise well
The skills your teen needs to develop so they can revise effectively and do well in exams and coursework are the same skills they will need to do well in the future - whether that’s going on to further education or entering the world of work. These skills include:
In the words of Larry King, the US television host: “Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening”. This is a fantastic philosophy for a chat show host, but it’s a worthwhile philosophy for everyone: we can only learn by hearing or reading something new; what we have in our heads we already know.
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Many people listen to the beginning of a conversation (or explanation) and then stop listening while they try to think of what they will say next or what that first point means. Consequently, they will have missed much of what the other person said afterwards, and this results in poor communication, lack of understanding and sometimes following up with the wrong action.
Encourage your child to listen actively - can they recall information after they’ve heard it? Can they summarize important points made? Are they able to take notes whilst listening? Can they do this when they’re listening to a video as well as when someone is actually in the room talking? An easy way to test this (without them feeling they’re being tested!) is to chat about something you’ve watched together – have they taken in everything they’ve seen, or is their recollection selective?
Ways you can help: After watching a programme together, ask for their help in understanding what was said and see whether they can summarize. If their take-aways are different to yours, you can both chat about why that is.
Your child won’t need to remember everything they read word for word but, as with listening, they need to be able to read information, understand what’s being communicated, summarize key points and know where to go back to review detail. Skimming an article first, asking what it’s about then reading thoroughly with a view to answering those questions can be a helpful way to take in information. As with all skills, the more they read, the easier it will be, which will give them more brain power to focus on content rather than the act of reading.
Ways you can help: Where you can, encourage your child to read for pleasure as well as their school work. This will broaden their vocabulary and make them more accomplished readers. Reading of any sort is valuable, so don’t discourage them – even if you’re not too keen on the content.
It’s still important that they can express themselves in written form (which is less likely to be handwritten and more likely to be typed). Employers appreciate clear, concise, simple written text. It’s good to hone this writing style from GCSE – it will help them be clearer about the answers they are trying to communicate to teachers, it will improve their English and it will also help in job / further education applications.
Ways you can help: Encourage them to write thank you letters (or emails) to family members for gifts at Christmas and on their birthdays. It will help them learn to adapt their writing depending on the recipient – how they write to Gran is different from how they might write to a friend, for example.
This may seem an unnecessary skill now that we can look anything up online, but your child will need to be able to remember facts during examinations. There are lots of techniques they can use to help them remember things including:
Summaries of information;
“Key points” cards or flash cards with more detailed explanations on the other side (great for you to use with them when testing their knowledge);
Mnemonics (a pattern, such as song, rhyme, acronym, phrase, or sentence to recall something more complicated);
Memory maps (this involves taking a familiar place or journey and imagining the things to remember in strange situations on that route).
Ways you can help: Play memory games together, such as matching pairs of cards or playing ‘I went shopping’. Alternatively, help them create a memorable mnemonic to help them revise key words or facts.
Critical if they go on to further education and certainly used in many different jobs, they need to be able to find out stuff for themselves. The internet has made that much easier than it was when we were young, but they should use a variety of sources to gather information, not just a google search. They will need to discern what is factual (proven) and what is not (suggested). Quoting and referencing the sources they’ve used is a good habit to form.
Ways you can help: Is there something the family needs that you can ask them to research? A day trip out, a holiday, comparisons for a new purchase (such as a TV, washing machine etc). Researching something that has a real-life purpose can feel useful.
If they learn to summarize well, this skill will serve them both in studies and work in the years ahead. They should practise communicating lengthy, complicated information into a straightforward, short format. This will help them with their own studies, it proves they understand the longer piece and can take out the most important facts contained within it. They should practise this across all their subjects.
Ways you can help: Read some of their summaries to see if it encapsulates the original text well. Alternatively, ask them to shorten one or two paragraphs to a few sentences, conveying the overall message.
A note for you
There’s lots more things you can do at home to help your teen get the best out of their GCSE or sixth form years, so do take a look at our specialist guides, The Parents' Guide to Study and Exam Revision - GCSE or Sixth Form
We always love to hear from you, so do let us know if there are any subjects you’d like us to chat to you about. Stay safe and keep happy, Vanessa and Darius - email@example.com