The big countdown has begun. Mock data is in and results have been given back to students. So your thoughts will now be back to how you can make the biggest difference to your students’ grades between now and the final exams.
It’s a really tough time for teachers. Hopefully, the majority of the course has been delivered so the mock data can clearly highlight the gaps in students knowledge and skills. If the results aren’t where you want them to be it may feel as if there is not enough time to do all you want.
Prioritising your efforts and focusing in on the right areas will not only make a big difference to students grades but also to well-being. Having a clear, data-informed action plan helps both students and teachers to feel in control and know their energy is being put to good use.
How are the kids feeling?
Students will be getting pressure from all sides; all teachers, parents, tutors & peers. They may not let on, but they are acutely aware of the time and work needed before the exam.
If it feels like an impossible task ahead of them, the bravado may cover up their fear of failure and students may completely disengage. Specific feedback with one or two simple actions will help to make the unmanageable manageable. Keeping the actions small with quick wins can build confidence and the motivation to push further.
Providing students with a breakdown of their mock results will really help them avoid feeling overwhelmed. Seeing an overview of their results across the course, with question level analysis, will help them target their revision. This is one reason why our student reports have had such great feedback from teachers and students.
Identifying key areas
Your tracking should clearly help you to identify which students require help, and in which areas. By having question level analysis you should be able to spot what needs work on (see our blog on When it comes to school data what is a tracker?). It should also support you as a teacher to group students who may have similar specific areas of weakness.
Group students into smaller focused activity groups to allow you to hone in on specific skills for development. Soon after focusing on that skill/ knowledge, provide a specific exam question to help them to connect what they have learnt to the format it will be in for the exam.
It is likely that confidence will be a big issue here, so stagger the activity with different levels of support so they can see that it is achievable. Is knowledge the blocker? Let them use their revision guides or notes to prove they are capable of scoring highly if they learn the info. Is the application of understanding an issue? Break down the question with them so they can apply what they know. Then build it up until they can do it without the support.
It is crucial that a revision period is built into your long term plan and is not a token gesture or an afterthought. As a rough guide, for year 11, six weeks before the first public exam will give enough of a buffer in case of “lost” lessons and enough time for a second mock and review.
Use your data to prioritise the areas and skills that need to be covered. Each teacher should have slightly adapted versions of the action plan depending on the weakness of their class. Provide a time to share the plans and discuss what teachers are focusing on. That way if there is repetition then teachers can organise to share the planning/ resource making/ resource finding. Some of the best activities I learnt as a teacher came from these shared planning sessions and went on to be used in all my year groups.
Extra sessions: Target students, open door
There is often some controversy about whether extra support should be targeted or open to all. My experience is that, in this case, you can have your cake and eat it!
If you are running extra sessions, don’t be afraid to target your key students and make it explicit that it is for them. Keep it open door so all students are welcome to the session, but put your time and focus on getting your targeted students to the session:
- Make the phone calls home
- Send personalised letters
- Invite the parents in for a support evening
- Ask tutors to remind them
- Give your pastoral teams the hit list
- Remind those students directly in every lesson
- Pull them aside for a chat if they miss the session
The open door aspect means that keen students who voluntarily come to the sessions will add extra energy and provide a bit of FOMO for those who are targeted. It will feel less like a chore for targeted students and more like a bonus they are taking advantage of. It also means that if the hard to reach targeted students don’t attend, then your time hasn’t been wasted.
Maximise your lesson time
There is a big temptation to slip into activities based around knowledge recall in lessons. Memorising facts outside of lessons is far more efficient.
With such a wide range of revision guides, revision apps and tools there are loads of ways students can be supported doing this independently. The challenge can sometimes be too much choice for students. By choosing one or two different options as a department that you recommend and encourage (based on initial student feedback) you will avoid the generalised “find an app and revise” trap. Encouraging knowledge recall revision at home frees up time in lessons to practice higher-level skills. If you are focusing on a skill, provide “cheat sheets” or encourage the use of revision guides. If they need to use these, then they know they need to revise their knowledge at home.
If the group is really struggling with knowledge recall, model the revision techniques and activities they can continue at home. Limit the time you spend on this in the lesson. The bigger challenge is to recall knowledge in different exam contexts. Giving lots of different practice questions in different contexts will help with this. See our PE exam question practice written by examiners as an example.
Know your limits
Teaching is a relentless profession; there is always more you can do. All students are important, and we want to make sure no-one is left behind, but we have to be realistic about time constraints.
Putting a well-targeted, data-informed plan in place following mocks ensures that the marks you have collected do not just become more meaningless data. It will put you firmly in control, giving you better peace of mind and contribute to better wellbeing. You can then be confident that you have chosen a well-informed strategy to make the best use of your time.
Ready to get in control of your data?