Revision strategies: one sheet summaries

Like many of us, I am in the midst of revision with my exam classes, and so I am constantly on the look out for activities which will be both meaningful and provide a break from crunching exam questions.

One strategy I enjoy is the one sheet summary. I can’t take the credit – nor can I remember where I first saw it done – but it combines a range of different processes designed to prompt students to really think. They must retrieve knowledge, fill in gaps, select information, write a summary, and rehearse answers.

Step 1: the brain dump

Give students 4 headings (for example, 4 characters or themes from a text). They have 5 minutes to write down everything they can remember under each heading.

Step 2: discussion

Students have 2 minutes to share ideas with their partner, and then time to discuss the topics as a class. During this time, model how to add information to the brain dump using a different colour of pen or text.

Step 3: summaries

Give each student a blank A4 sheet. They should fold it twice to create 4 boxes, which correspond to the 4 headings. Students work in silence to write 4 summaries of the information from the brain dump. This should take about 10 minutes.

Step 4: select key words

Students fold the page in half so the page is A5, and they are writing on the blank side. Create 4 more boxes and write in the headings again. Then students select 10 key words from their summaries to write here. If they have included quotations, they may want to select one resonant key word from the quote to act as a trigger.

Step 5: finishing touches

Fold the page in half again so it is A6. Create the 4 boxes again, and this time ask students to just write in the 4 headings. Then fold it a final time and write the name of the topic or text on the outside.

Step 6: rehearsal

With their notes complete, students then work in pairs to test one another. Student A takes charge of the sheet and selects one of the headings. Student B then has to recreate their summary verbally as best they can. Student A can use the key words to prompt their partner, or evaluate their success. Then the students can swap over and repeat the activity.

Step 7: embed

Whilst this can be used as a one-off revision activity, it could also be embedded across a series of lessons in the build up to exams. Students could be directed to create a bank of these sheets, as they would with flashcards.

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