Revision Tips and Techniques for Teachers and Coaches

It is the season for revision and wrapping up courses so with this in mind, I have pulled together a few ideas for this important stage of the year.

  1. Spin the bottle trouble-shooting

This is a group activity that surfaces aspects of the syllabus that learners find tricky and allows them to share questions and key learning points with each other.

  • Get learners into groups of four, ideally with a variety of skills and abilities in each group.
  • Give learners three post it notes each and ask them to write down on each post it either one topic that they found tricky on the course or one query they have about content within a topic. Give some preparation time, access to course files and textbooks and get them to work in pairs for support, if required.
  • Use an empty plastic bottle as a spinner. Each learner spins in turn and whoever the bottle points to asks the group one of his/ her questions or provides the tricky topic as a prompt for the group to remember key points. The teacher circulates to listen in, note common problem areas, correct any major misconceptions.
  • One variation of this is to label all the post it notes with a number between 1 and 6 and put them in the corresponding piles on the table. Use a dice to throw and choose a number and then the group responds to one of the post its in that pile.
  • With younger learners, I tend to nominate a Game Leader who has the role of keeping everyone on task, ensuring turn taking and deciding if the group needs to ask the teacher to clarify a key point or area of dispute.
  1. RAG rating your topics for revision

 I think there can be benefits in helping learners prioritise what to revise and in what depth. With groups used to self and peer assessment activities, I often create a list of key topics or themes and present it as a checklist for RAG rating, in different ways, for example:

Group activity with learners in clusters of three, ranking the topics individually as

Red –  lots of revision needed as the content is rich, tricky or not entirely clear

Amber some revision needed as knowledge feels patchy in some areas and/or confidence is middling

Greenfeel confident that I know lots about it and it is clear

    • Once individuals have RAG rated the topics, they explain why they scored each topic as they did in a group discussion. I encourage the use of questions to challenge and deepen the thinking, sometimes providing those as prompt cards.
    • Then as a group they discuss the kinds of questions and tasks in which those topics or themes could emerge in their final exam/assessment and weigh up their relative importance within their revision plan.
    • In the plenary, I give my view of key areas for focus and where those topics could fit into the final tasks/exams. I suggest at least four key areas for substantial revision and ask students to identify at least three more to fit their needs.
    • For homework, they devise a revision plan of topics with dates and activities and bring it into the next lesson. Where required, I provide a template for this, acting as a writing frame for them.
    • As a starter activity the next lesson, I then give them a quick peer review slot in which I nip round signing off plans and making suggestions if any student is way off track

3. Revising key terminology

For an array of engaging activities for revising key words/ technical terminology, see this link about the Vocabulary Box

 4. The revision cheat sheet 

Share with learners a range of graphic organisers, such as this sample from Geoff Petty:


  • Set learners into mixed ability/knowledge groups of three and allocate each group a different topic from the course to prepare a cheat sheet full of useful details, presented through a range of appropriate graphic organisers.
  • Have a short class discussion on the relative benefits of different graphic organisers for presenting different content from your course.
  • Once completed, the groups present their cheat sheets in a show and tell or gallery walk activity, during which the other students peer review them against criteria such as:
  1. Coverage of key points
  2. Appropriate choice of organiser for the content
  3. Use of key words
  4. Clarity of presentation and legibility
  5. Usefulness as a revision aid
  • In the plenary slot, pick up the theme of note making and elicit when they might use these skills in life, study and work.
  • Copy the set of cheat sheets as a pack for the group or photograph them and add to SoW/student portal.

For other uses of the cheat sheet activity, see this case study link:

acase study ESOLthe cheat sheet

  1. Questions to review the learning experience

For some useful questions for reviewing the learning  experience through different activities, click here:

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