Having regular revision lessons and allocating a part of your lesson, usually the lead-in stage, to the revision of previous lessons is an essential part of teaching. Studies show that our brains learn by associating new inputs with previous pieces of knowledge, and sleeping consolidates memory. When learners come to regular lessons, we notice their progress in learning. Their attention increases as they make more sense of our lessons. They transfer previous learning to new things they encounter in our lessons. So, we have to give them more chances of making these connections to consolidate their learning. Revising regularly gives our students a great opportunity to retain what they have learnt in our lessons.
I advise my students to revise regularly what we’ve covered in our lessons. I tell them to revise daily in their self-study plans and at the end of each week and month, they should revise what has been covered so far in their lessons.
The lead-in stage of my lessons is allocated to the revision of the previous lesson. I try to elicit what they have grasped as content knowledge from the previous lesson rather than checking their productive skills. I check whether they can relate their learning with past lessons and see how they can transfer their learning to today’s topic. In learning a language, the acquisition of productive skills, especially the speaking skill takes time. Students are pretty skilled in explaining what they have understood. Instead of speaking the language, they’d prefer explaining it.
Here are my tips for revising at the start of lessons.
Don’t revise skills but concepts:
Getting into an activity suddenly which requires students to use the target language from the previous lesson shouldn’t be the first activity on our agenda. It’ll make most students stressed and it won’t be a smooth lesson intro. Besides, you probably won’t get satisfactory outcomes from your students in this way. However, if you want to elicit basic rules or concepts from the previous lesson, you’ll have a much better intro to your lesson. When students give correct answers and contribute meaningfully to a lesson, they’ll be much more willing to participate in the rest of the lesson. I sometimes bring an empty poster-size sheet of paper to class and make a poster filled with rules or essential points from the previous lesson with my students. I ask meaningful questions to elicit the rules and collate them all on one poster. And then we display it in our classroom, which becomes a great reference point for them in the class. This is also great for absent students of the previous lesson to catch up with the class and for students who didn’t grasp the concept when first introduced.
Don’t focus on native-like imitations:
Studies have shown that the practice for trying to pronounce the language like a native speaker is not as effective as a drilling activity in which learners say the words from memory. This is called retrieval practice or testing effect. Retrieving the language helps us advance in learning a language. When revising a set of vocabulary, you can simply show the same flashcards of the vocabulary set from the previous lesson and just try to elicit what they are. This will force students to use their memory. You can also ask questions which will reveal the vocabulary reviewed in the answers. For example, if you’re reviewing jobs you can ask: “Who designs buildings and then constructs these buildings?” which will reveal jobs architect and civil engineer. In both ways, you’ll focus on meaning not the pronunciation in the first place. When you’ve elicited the word, you can make them imitate you if there are problems with their pronunciation. Checking the meaning should always come before the proper pronunciation of a word.
Tell personal anecdotes or create short stories:
This one can apply to both grammar concepts and vocabulary revisions. At the start of the lesson, it’s great to tell personal anecdotes. It really creates a genuine interest in the lesson. You can tell personal stories or create a story to suit your grammar point or vocabulary. For example, after a vocabulary lesson on crimes, I create a chain story of a burglary event. I start by saying “I heard a strange noise last night from the living room. I saw a man taking money from my wallet on the dining table.” Then I ask what’s the action called? Stealing. What’s the man called? A thief. What can I do later? You can run away and call the police. What can the police do? Arrest him and put him in prison. Of course, the answers to these questions can be a fun time in your class, which will be a great beginning warmer for your class.
Playing short games right at the start of a lesson is great for breaking the ice. It really warms students right from the start. I use a wide range of games which are easy to set up and bring enjoyment to class instantly. You can read my blog post of warm-up games to get ideas of games. I strongly suggest using noughts and crosses. You can adapt it for almost any grammar or vocabulary revision lesson. Besides noughts and crosses, word tennis is also great, especially for vocabulary revisions. If I have time, I leave it to the end of the lesson and create a word tennis tournament. The class gets very engaged in this way and participate as the jury of the games in final rounds. A variety of games can help them learn and retain the vocabulary.
Make them prepare short quizzes:
Giving your students a quiz at the start of a lesson might be very challenging for them and make them tune out. Some students get stressed and worried easily and cannot participate eagerly in a lesson after quizzes or tests. However, if you arrange teams and ask them to prepare a few questions on their own to quiz other teams in the class, you’ll get much better results from your class. Collaborating gives them a fantastic opportunity to learn from their peers. They can revise together and teach each other the things they‘ve missed from the previous lesson. When they have prepared the questions, you let them ask each other and check the answers together as a class. Don’t confirm the correct answers right away but wait for the class to approve them. When you get incorrect answers, again ask the class to correct it by eliciting the rule or vocabulary on the board as a reference for your students.
These are my suggestions for successful revision lead-ins to your lessons. Please leave your own revision ideas in the comments below.