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Helping my son structure his GCSE revision

(26 Posts)
nathanmcgurl Mon 24-Apr-17 09:49:53

My son is a fairly typical 16 year old. As such he'd found it really hard to be disciplined about revision (added to an ever growing list that also includes picking up after himself, putting empty glass into the dishwasher, etc!).

In a bid to encourage good studying behaviours ready for A-levels and beyond I've worked with him to create a nifty more engaging way of scheduling tasks. Its based on an agile project management style I use in my work. There's also a spreadsheet that helps track tasks.

I wanted to share my experience and wrote it up on my seldom-updated personal site. I can't promise that your own little darlings will suddenly become consciencious and study hard, but it has certainly helped mine get a bit more focused.

Allthebestnamesareused Mon 24-Apr-17 11:11:47

I have had a look at your link.

Initially I was like yada yada yada revision timetables we know how to do them etc but I have to say FANTASTIC!!!! grin

I really like the idea of time blocks (as a lawyer charging by 6 minute blocks this is a familiar concept to me). I like the idea that rather than rigidly thinking its day 1 so its chapter 1 of subject 1 that the "topics" can be moved around to suit time available and mood etc.

And I like the spreadsheet showing exactly what percentage has been completed or more importantly is still to complete. DS is year 10 but I think we'll be giving it a trial run for end of year exams this year so we know what we are doing by next year's GCSEs!

nathanmcgurl Mon 24-Apr-17 11:46:16

@allthebestnamesareused thank you. I was a bit worried that I'd lost the plot. So it's good to know someone else might be into it. My wife's a lawyer, but she is so much more self-disciplined than either my son or me. I think that's why this is working more for him.

I wish we'd started this last year. Instead we went through end of year 10 and yr 11 mocks as proof that he can't rely on natural ability or luck!! I hope you'll come back to this thread to let me know how you get on!

Jng1 Mon 24-Apr-17 12:09:19

Thanks Nathan - really useful. We've been trying to introduce something similar with our Year 10 son. However what we sometimes find is that we get to a topic and discover that he doesn't have enough/any notes for it, so the 1 hour session becomes 'learning for the first time' rather than revising!
192 topics equates to about 28 days of 7 hours a day doesn't it? Wow.... that's a sobering thought!

nathanmcgurl Mon 24-Apr-17 13:14:39

@Jng1 It definitely is sobering. I should really have shared it sooner!

On the upside, some of those are really half units. He's got case studies for his geography and he can get through 2 in one unit. Having the exam dates helps. He can see that no done topics in Further Maths is less urgent than 28% in English because of time until the first exam.

There have definitely been a couple of occasions where my son didn't know the topic (HTML and CSS). So what we did was put it back into the pile to be revisted. Year 10 is exactly the time to find it out though!!

kitnkaboodle Tue 25-Apr-17 00:01:32

Nathan - I'm agog. How has your son reacted to this detailed managing of his revision time?
Have you known from the outset what all his different topics and subtopics were, or did you have to look them all up in order to do the timetable??
I honestly can't think of a single 16 year old I know who would be happy to let a parent lead the way like this.
I'm curious/amazed

nathanmcgurl Tue 25-Apr-17 06:50:06

Hi @kitnkaboodle The conundrum with my son is that he's ambitious without any real drive. To be fair we tried the more shouty approach over end or yr 10* and mocks, and it worked out exactly as you'd imagine for everyone involved!

There was a lot of upfront work to this - that I put in. I googled the exam boards to find the topics, wrote up the magnets and prepped the board. What I did was talk to him about the whole idea and 'sell' it to him. Once you've done the ground work then the weekly business of what to do is straight-forward and he does that.

Revising for his exams is inevitable. This way he has a clear view of what needs to be done, and when he can do it. It's not rigid (things move one week to the next) and it's blameless (if something wasn't done, predict if it'll go wrong again and account for it in future).

It was absolutely essential that this wasn't something that was done to him. Parent lead / child follow has never been particularly successful in our house!! As a [fairly] typical 16 year old, he'd sooner be doing playstation/snap chat/rugby. But he also knows that not putting a bit of effort in now will limit the kinds of things he might want to do in future.

This works for my son. We're five weeks argument free. He put in good work over Easter (with plenty of time off for having a laugh with mates etc). He just gets on with it, because I think he understands why he's doing it and crucially he doesn't have to think too hard about what to do next.

I'm a nerdy dad who wants to help his child fulfil his potential. I wouldn't class myself as a pushy parent (knowing that's what this might look like!).

* these previous exams should be about is getting into the mindset of revising and learning that you get out what you put in.

kitnkaboodle Tue 25-Apr-17 11:35:14

Sorry - posted v late last night when i was knackered so sounded a bit brusque! Don't want to sound offensive, but didn't he just laugh at the idea/roll his eyes? I have eldest son in Y10. Predicted good grades, not quite doing his best tho'. He's a good kid, but I get eye rolls/'stop interfering' if I even ask what he's doing this term! He's very wary of being pushed/encouraged! I do persist though.
He would perceive any kind of flow chart idea as ridiculous micro-managing on my part! But thinking of this time next year and the major revision period fills me with dread. When did your son begin on the revision timetable??start of April?
I plan to leave my son to his own devices for end of year 10 exams and see how those turn out first!

elQuintoConyo Tue 25-Apr-17 11:41:48

I've put this thread on my 'watch' list. My son is 5yo. I'm hoping the links still work in 10 years grin

I was lousy at revising when I was 16, no one had taught me how to. Parents were very hands off yet disappointed when my grades were arse.

Thanks for this!

whojamaflip Tue 25-Apr-17 11:58:38

Thank you - I've just spent hours over the Easter holidays trying to put something similar together with my year 9 son - this is exactly what we were aiming for except ours is all on various sheets of paper!

I've emailed him the link and shall sit down with him and go through it tonight!

Ds struggles to break things down into manageable sections and just gets overwhelmed when faced with a huge chunk of notes - currently being assessed re a processing disorder which isn't helping 😟 but this looks like a way to avoid overfacing him.

Oh and he was the one who asked for help with planning for which I'm actually really proud of him 😊

MaidenMotherCrone Tue 25-Apr-17 12:01:03

If I'd offered that level of micro managing to my DS he'd have thought I was tripping on shrooms and been offended that I didn't think he was capable of managing his own revision. It was his responsibility to put the effort in.

I didn't think he was doing enough at the time, he assured me he was. As I remember he did do an awful lot of gaming with notes in his lap.

He got mostly A*s and a couple of As. I'm glad I didn't interfere.

If it works for your son that's good though.

kitnkaboodle Tue 25-Apr-17 12:28:57

Maiden mother - I'm torn between yours and Nathan's approaches!! The OP's son must have a lot more patience with his parents than mine does. We shall see at the end of this year. I guess I could always use the flip charts as a threat!

kitnkaboodle Tue 25-Apr-17 12:31:27

Nathan - I think you are very rare in your dedication to your son's revision and results. Do you think your own experience of exams as a kid is driving this in any way??

MaidenMotherCrone Tue 25-Apr-17 12:51:15

I suppose the approach you take depends on the relationship you have with your child though. Op mentions arguments regarding the revision. I've never had an argument with any of my DCs ( DS1 23, DS2 21 and DS3 18) .

I very much believe in self regulation once they reached their teens ( phone usage, gaming, bed times, homework etc) and they've all done very well.

Obviously this isn't everyone's approach but it certainly made for a very happy, healthy enjoyable and very close, supportive family.

nathanmcgurl Tue 25-Apr-17 13:34:20

@kitnkaboodle mine was exactly the same. Exactly. And we left him to his own devices in yr 10 and yr 11 mocks. By the time we came to GCSE proper he was open to suggestions. If nothing else than to shut me up at first, perhaps!!

nathanmcgurl Tue 25-Apr-17 13:35:20

@elQuintoConyo Hahaha! I imagine the world might be a little different again by then!!

nathanmcgurl Tue 25-Apr-17 13:37:09

@whojamaflip that's what I quite like about the approach you and I have come to; once you see it, it does make sense. Plus you've started nice and early. Good luck with yours!

nathanmcgurl Tue 25-Apr-17 13:58:44

@MaidenMotherCrone I wouldn't rule out him at least starting off by thinking I was off my head!!! I've no doubt I'd have a different perspective if I didn't think he'd be affected by a 'bad' result (wants to go into medicine). I'm not sure that we're at self-regulation, but we are always open and honest about stuff and everything is negotiable. And even though there are rules and boundaries I'd like to think that's what makes us as close as we are.

@kitnkaboodle there is definitely an element of my own experience shaping this. I did well in education but because I didn't have to work to get good results in GCSEs I never got into the habit. I could have had much better results in my degree. But I'm relaxed about my own path, because I never had a goal to be disappointed not to reach!

As I think I said, he is very much like me in so many respects other than being goal-driven like his mum - it's not a great combination in one person! The fallings-out absolutely came from wanting him to achieve his potential despite his nature to leave everything 'til tomorrow!

Mostly though, I just wanted to share an alternative way of planning revision. I make no promise that it'll suit everyone - or anyone for that matter!

nathanmcgurl Tue 25-Apr-17 14:09:13

@kitnkaboodle Who isn't motivated by the fear of a flip chart?! I'd definitely hurry through a meeting the moment I saw anyone eyeing a whiteboard marker!!

kitnkaboodle Tue 25-Apr-17 15:50:28

So - with your system - when would you recommend starting a timetable like that for the gcses proper??

Jng1 Tue 25-Apr-17 16:59:38

I think how much you decide to help/intervene with yoru kids depends on a lot of things.
My eldest DS - quick to learn, bright etc - we just helped him map out a paper calendar for revision and prodded him a bit if we thought he wasn't doing enough hours. He got straight A*As without too much stress.

DS2 - totally different. Has processing issues/poor memory/poor short term recall, so we need to help much more.
Somehow my DS2 also seems to have had less well organised teachers, so in several subjects doesn't really have an overview of his board/syllabus. Some of this is because he is currently Year10 and is a guinea pig for some of the new syllabuses, so even the teachers don't seem to know what's going on angry. We 're going to do anything we can to help him!

MaidenMotherCrone Tue 25-Apr-17 17:07:35

Op it's very interesting isn't it. How completely opposite approaches can achieve the desired effect. My DS would also have not been happy with lesser results ( he has chosen Theoretical Physics) he knew he needed to do well to show he was capable but also for his own satisfaction. It was up to him to do his best and considering his DF died the first week of exams I think it showed great resilience and strength of character to continue to apply himself under such tragic circumstances.

I've just spoken to him regarding my approach v yours as I was interested in his opinion. He said he wouldn't have appreciated any more pressure, he thinks GCSE's are made out to be far more difficult than they actually are by the the pressure placed on students.

nathanmcgurl Tue 25-Apr-17 18:54:35

@kitnkaboodle I'm not really sure - I guess it'll all depend on your child. For mine we didn't come to this until after the mocks sometime after the half term as I remember. I think that was right. I definitely agree that there's enough pressure already without making this a thing.

That said, I'd have loved to have also thought of it sooner, and had a really lite version to set the pattern.

nathanmcgurl Tue 25-Apr-17 18:58:52

@Jng1 I completely agree. I've a daughter who's 11. And really curiously she's everybit as consciencious as her mum but with absolutely no suggestion of drive or goal!! Funny, really.

It would be interesting to see what actual revision techniques might work for your DS2. Index cards might not be as good as some sort of sound bite/voice recording mechanism.

nathanmcgurl Tue 25-Apr-17 19:17:39

@MaidenMotherCrone I completely agree. There's so much in the whole nature and nurture thing - both of our children and ourselves. Still, it would be boring if one size fitted all!

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