Been thinking about a few different strategies for A-Level recently, but one lesson I think is really valuable in prepping revision techniques is this one.
Here’s a list of 60 comparative questions (OCR, pre-1900 drama and poetry)
- Put them on separate cards (or get students to cut them up first)
- Get them to categorise into themes e.g. love, death, power, gender
It’s great. It’s the only ‘card sort’ type thing I ever do, but why it works so well is it really crystallises their exam preparation. This isn’t a teaching the texts and concepts lesson; it’s pure exam/revision technique. It’s about making revision seem manageable.
What it does is relatively simple but often helps students target their ideas more. It forces you to look at the statements and think: “what are they really asking me about?” It enable students to go into revision knowing they have to prep on themes, so they can structure a ‘love’ essay and then in the exam tailor it to the statement they select.
If you provide the themes list they can slot them into place, but higher-ability students are often good at categorising themselves. If you get them to do it by themselves, give them a limit – say 8 themes, for example, or they’ll go too granular and miss the point. Once you’ve got the list under each topic, it’s a good opportunity to move onto creating introductions or thesis statements on the topic of ‘love’ but tailored to each statement, which demonstrates to them how similar the themes can be but also that important nuanced response to the statement that gets them thinking in the higher levels of the markscheme.
I also think the aspect of choice is really hard in this paper; I’ve known A* students completely foxed by the idea of having to choose from six and spending far too long on it. Here, you can also go through each of the individual sheets and practice choosing – teach them to immediately cross out three that are a definite no, and then think more closely about the remaining three. Tell them – it’s likely there’ll be three that won’t fit your text combination, so get them out of the equation and make a manageable choice.
A couple of caveats:
- Don’t use this to plan teaching – it’s reductive, but at revision time I think a lot of students need that reducing to a pinpoint clarity so they can get going with purpose. It’s a better starting point than randomly choosing quotations from the text to learn.
- Add an “other” with the themes for ones like the “endings” or “town and country” questions. I also sometimes put in a ‘narrative techniques’ category.