Tag Archives: Revision

How to Revise AS Sociology Efficiently – Focusing on Marriage and Divorce

Riveting title I know, but then again it is ‘revision season’. Basically I’m trying to get the point across that there are 5 stages to effective revision (none of which have got anything to do with ‘learning styles’:

1. Know what you need to know!
2. Get your hands on/ make some revision notes – effective teachers would have already got students to do this during the year. Students who haven’t already got these before revision season stand a much higher chance of failing the exam. This is good – this is meritocracy.
3. Refine your notes into mind maps – these are the most effective and efficient way of memorising material
4. Practice short answer questions
5. Practice longer essay questions – planning is more efficient than writing.

More details on all of the above in the Screencast.

NB – A secondary point of this Screencast is to demonstrate what you can do with some software called ‘Explain Everything’ which I’ve been playing around with the last couple of days. It’s great software – you can basically drag any kind of document you want into a ‘slide’ and then point at things, move things around, scribble over things, all while doing a voice over – I ended up with this Screencast. It’s not perfect, and the topic’s awfully dull (but at least timely!) but it does demonstrate what you can do with the software.




A2 Sociology – Best revision techniques

These are some my favourite revision techniques – ranked in order of how useful I think they are.

1. Essay title on the board – with a selection of words (studies/ names/ perspectives/ evaluations that are related – students to write sentences that answer the question. For example…

Examine the explanations for why crime rates vary across differnent localities and times of day  (12)

Some of the words below are related, try to match them up and then write coherent sentences in answer to the question above….

Fortress cities Cognitive maps Tipping
Drink culture Rational Choice Theory Domestic Violence 
Crime Displacement Zones of Transition Sink housing estates
Brantingham Broken Windows Rape
British Crime Survey Charles Murray Opportunity
Underclass Night Time Economy Masculinity
Inner cities Higher crime rate at night Relative deprivation
Victims Winlow Feminism
Situational Crime Prevention Wilson and Kelling Rural areas


2.  Completing a gap fill essay plan and then memorising it – to be modified and combined with other similar gap fill essay plans depending on the questions that come up in the actual exam.

For example look at this gapped essay plan on control theory – EP social control blank 2010

3. Podcaststhese are a little more passive than the essay writing practise techniques but still offer useful overviews

This is a good example of one on ‘Is Sociology a Science!’ – actually it seems to be more about ‘Sociology and Value Freedom! You may have to go through the sub menu to get to actual podcast

4. A Cartoon dialogue overview of a topic in the course. Like this…from the previous post! 


5. A quiz game – like this!

Big_Board_Answers-v2 – This opens in powerpoint, you have to view the slide show to get the feel for how it works…

If yer an A level student let me know what your fave revision techniques are and why! – Us teachers love ‘hearing the learner voice’ after all – we’re literally mad for it.

The best revision techniques – AS Sociology

Just a few last minute reminders for AS Sociology students – for the exam this Friday I recommend the following two most excellent revision techniques

Firstly, you should make sure you can answer a 24 mark question on each of the following topic areas – you should be able to use concepts (sociology words), research studies and statistics where appropriate, and be analytical and evaluative.

  1. – Couples (equality in relationships)
  2. – Childhood – the way its constructed, whether things are getting bad/ worse. whether it’s disappearing
  3. – The perspectives on the family – (focussing on the nuclear family) – Functionalism/ Marxism/ Feminism/ The New Right/ Postmodernism and also Giddens/ Beck
  4. – Demography – the causes and consequences of falling birth and death rates and
  5. – Changing family patterns – reasons for and consequences of changes in divorce, marriage, cohabitation and childbirth.
  6. – Family diversity – how family life is becoming more diverse and perspectives on increasing family diversity.
  7. – Social Policy and the Family – examples of how the government can influence family life and perspectives on this.

Secondly, and related to the first thing, you should focus on learning the ‘model essay plans’ I’ve given you for each of the above areas – you can tweak the plan to fit the actual essay in the exam – test yourself constantly over the next 36 hours – make sure you know the content of each topic area as well as the general structure of the essay you are likely to get.

You may get a ‘hybrid’ essay question that asks you to voer two topic areas in one question – in which case keep an eye on the clock and adapt.

The time for gimmicky learning is over, you must now force yourself to learn the information for the exam in the format of the exam- you must be able to write for one solid hour – don’t think too hard when in the exam either – quickly plan out what knowledge is relevant to the question and then regurgitate all the cocepts/ theories and research studies you know and relate them to the specific question, and evaluate constantly (which mainly means criticising)

I’m not going to wish you good luck – luck only benefits students who are ill prepared – when, for example, the two out seven topics they have happened to revise come up – in fact I hope students playing that sort of game are positively unlucky and fail so I don’t have to deal with them next year. This way justice is done and it makes my life easier – and who doesn’t love the two birds one stone thing.

If you are prepared – then luck is irrelevant.

Oh and you only answer the section on the family – five questions in total – three short answer questions and the two essays worth 24 marks each

Edutainment – the infantilisation of education

blockbusters_boardEdutainment is a word I’m claiming to have invented  – It refers to the use of gimmicky techniques such as cross words, blockbusters and other active learning methods that engage students in ‘creative’ ways in the learning process, rather than more traditional, calm and reflective modes of learning – i.e. reading something, summarising it, analysing it, and then using it, in conjunction with other texts, to answer an essay.

There a basically  two schools of thought when it comes to edutaintment- firstly there is the  ‘they love being allowed to be children’ brigade – who think that we should cram lessons full of active learning techniques to cater for student’s short attention spans. This school of thought holds that teachers should adapt their teaching techniques to suit the students – make them feel comfortable by giving them what they want, or what they think they need, fitting into their ‘preferred learning styles’.

Then there is the school of Karl which holds that too much edutainment amounts to patronising twaddle. I believe that instead of teachers adapting lessons to students’ short attention spans, students should adapt to a style of learning that involves concentrating on the material at hand in a calm and reflective manner for extended periods.

Obviously over the course of a term, you would include a range of edutaining and useful teaching techniques – some blockbuster games and some more serious essay planning activities – but I believe the tendency should definitely be towards the later, more serious and concentrated lessons – obviously this may be different for other subjects – I’m just talking about Sociology here.

I write this at the beginning of a new term – when we have another week of revision for the AS and nearly three weeks for the A2s, a time when it is especially important to be making the most of ever minuted of in-lesson revision time.

My own approach to revision is, naturally, to shun edutainment and focus on more serious revision techniques. There is a reason for this – In sociology exams, most of your marks come from essays – and you need to demonstrate a range of conceptual, analytical and evaluative knowledge – so my favourite revision activity – essay writing and planning in class. This assumes that students have been revising previously before the lesson and know most of the knowledge. Essay planning involves selecting and applying this knowledge to specific questions. The lessons are duller than the ‘active lessons’ but they work better for those studious students who have done the work.

But I find myself under increasing pressure to ‘play revision games’ in lessons – because this is what other teachers do. I was horrified to learn in a recent lesson that a certain teacher, who shall remain nameless, apparently played a ‘good half hour’ (in student language that probably means 20 minutes) of blockbusters’. Students seem to think that they learn better from ‘active learning’ techniques, and this is how they justify their demands for ‘more fun’ lessons – by saying this and then juxtaposing the ‘fun active’ lessons to more traditional lessons – claiming that these are boring and make them ‘zone out’

If I allow 17 year olds to lead my lessons, if I ‘listen to the learner voice’ and allow them to be children by playing infantile revision games – then surely I’m failing them? Every adult that has genuinly achieved something in life knows that you have to discpiline yourself and do things you don’t want to do in order to get there – much of what you do is not fun. Furthermore, academic learning invovles pushing yourself through ‘pain barriers’ as you struggle to comprehend new ideas and arguments – this is not fun. Learning to learn means learning to put up with a certain amount of suffering.

Starting off with the assumption that students can’t concentrate and that lessons need to be fun is not only letting down students by encouraging mediocrity, it is letting them down by making them think it is acceptable to exist in a state of extended infantalisation. If we head doen the path of edutainment, we are not preparing students for life in the real world.