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Revision Tips and Techniques

Sunday, April 14th, 2019

As you may be aware, The Daily Telegraph isn’t my go-to source for Education (in either the tightest or loosest sense of the word), but I did happen upon this set of revision tips and techniques they published a few years back (roughly 5 or 6 years ago). Although they’re a bit of a mixed-bag, the articles are relatively brief and to-the-point, so it’s possible you might find something useful that could be applied in either the short or long term.

In no particular order of relevance, significance or usefulness, these are the articles:

Top 10 last-minute exam revision tips:
Exactly what it says in the title – and while there are no earth-shattering revelations here, just a load (well, 10, obviously) of simple tips to help you come to terms with last-minute revision, the advice seems solid enough.

5 top tips for managing revision time:
Again, does exactly what it says: 5 simple tips to help students manage their revision time to best effect.

Revision techniques: how to learn complex concepts:
Break big ideas down into their individual component parts. Simple.

Revision techniques: The secret to exam revision success:
A number of simple tips and techniques to help improve memory and recall through revision.

Example of a Spider Diagram

Spider diagrams: how and why they work:
Spider diagrams (or Mind Maps if you’re planning to construct something much grander that includes diagrams etc.) are an incredibly useful tool that aids recall and planning in an exam. This short article shows you how to create them. If you want some AS / A2 sociological examples, you can find a selection by following this link.

Revision techniques: how to build a memory palace:
This technique, as featured in Sherlock, is not really something you’re going to pick-up as a last-minute thing, but it is a hugely-effective tried-and-trusted memory technique that’s been around for a long time. In basic terms, you make connections between related ideas by constructing a narrative around them. It’s not difficult, but it does require time to master.

The real test of learning? Not forgetting:
If you’re looking for a short-term revision fix this may be a little late. However, in the longer-term it’s an algorithmic process that uses a variation of the “spaced revision” technique that will stand you in very good stead once you’ve mastered it.

Revision techniques: How to learn boring facts:
Spoiler Alert: create mnemonics. And if you don’t know what they are, this article will show you. While I’ve always sworn by them – for reasons much too dull to mention – they’re not everyone’s cup of tea. But, on the basis you shouldn’t knock something until you’ve tried it…

Revision: from GCSE to A-level it is all about the scheme:
In a nutshell. Plan your revision. And if you don’t know how, this article has some tips and techniques to help.

Try to rise to the exam challenge:
A few simple tips focused on how to approach and handle revision, exam preparation and the exam itself. Nothing too revelatory, but every little helps. And if you’re reading this when you should be revising, you may find you need every little bit of help you can get.

10 ways to survive the exam season:

Some Very Sensible (this is the Telegraph, remember) ways to manage pre-exam stress.

Without giving too much away, one of these is sleep.

It’s so important we even made a film about it.

5 Research-Backed Studying Techniques:
This short article isn’t from the Telegraph but I thought I’d tack it on the end anyway, because it contains some useful study techniques (well, 5) to help you “avoid ineffective studying habits in favour of ones that increase learning outcomes”.

And you can’t say fairer than that.

Sociology in Focus for A2: Theory Resources

Friday, April 12th, 2019
Theory Map

It’s been a while since I posted anything (busy is as busy does) and since I’ve just finished editing a new sociological methods film I thought I’d turn my hand to posting the final set of resources designed to enhance your experience and enjoyment of the free A2 textbook.

This set focuses squarely on sociological theory.

Admittedly, theory’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but personally I find it fascinating and not a little challenging.

The two are probably not unconnected.

Anyway, since trying to make the challenge a little-less daunting is my middle name (it’s not, obviously. That would just be ridiculous – akin to, say, a Mr and Mrs. Johnson naming their child “Alexander Boris de Pfeffel”. Less a name, some might say, than a drunken slip of the pen) these resources might help.

Overview Map: This is just a simple one-page guide to what has to be covered. As such, it could serve as a useful introduction to the topic (or “overview” as it’s technically known).

Revision Maps: These are more-substantial and detailed content overviews, focused around keywords / concepts in a spider diagram format. Aside from a basic “What is sociological theory?” map the main focus is on an historical overview of modern / postmodern theories: from the classic (Marx, Durkheim, Weber) to the more-esoteric (Lyotard, Baudrillard) by way of globalisation, structure and action. You probably get the drift.

Activity Answers: The Textbook has a whole host of activities that include lots-and-lots of lovely questions to keep your students amused for hours. Marking their answers might not be quite so amusing, so I’ve included example answers to every question. That way you can get your students to mark their own work. Tell them it’s good for their soul. Or whatever.

Worksheets: If, for some reason, you run out of questions and yet still need a little more “me time” hit them with these worksheets (not literally. It’s probably a sad indictment of Our Times that I have to include this disclaimer, but there you go). Some are individual questions, some involve small group work and yet others can be used for whole-class teaching / discussion (probably the ones to be using should some passing member of SMT be nosing around).

Sociology in Focus for A2: Beliefs in Society Resources

Thursday, March 28th, 2019
An Overview Map.
Actual size.

Having completed the resources for the free AS Textbook it now leaves me free to focus on the last couple of resource sets for the equally-free A2 Textbook.

Having posted resources for Media, Crime and Methodology (which sounds like an interesting module but is, in reality, just three different sets of resources), the penultimate set is for Beliefs in Society – by which I mean “religion” with “a bit of Science and Ideology to lighten the tone”.

The format is exactly the same as the resources for previous modules, so if you liked them, you’ll more-than-probably like these.

And if you didn’t.
You more-than-probably won’t.

For those still interested, the resources follow the same basic format as all the previous sets:

An Overview Map setting-out the broad content of each of the Modules students will be covering in the Unit.

Spider Diagram for
Theories of Religion.
One of many.

Revision Maps: Spider diagrams based on the content of each Module in the Textbook. These effectively map this content to a series of memorable key ideas.

Activity Answers: The Textbook includes frequent questions / activities you can use to test / consolidate learning and you might find suggested answers (approved by The Author Himself) useful.

Or not.
It depends.
Maybe.

Worksheets: The marmite of the teacher’s toolbox, these either involve a combination of individual and group-based tasks that can be used to consolidate and check learning or a complete waste of everyone’s time.

As ever.
You choose.
You Decide.
Just don’t bother me with your “well-considered and pertinent” objections.
I’m not going to be interested.
Thanks.

Exam Focus: As per, a range of question decoding / annotated answers / commentaries that may or may not bear any actual relationship to the types of questions currently being asked in AQA exams (Disclaimer: Other exam boards are available which, all things considered, just adds to the general confusion).

Anyway, the Tips Are Solid (as well they should be since they were written by a Top Examiner for a Well-Known Exam Board That Starts with an “A” and Also Ends with an “A” But Which No-One is Actually Allowed to Name. For some peculiar reason that escapes me) so they should be useful even though they are a bit dated.

Some things never change.
Although, as I’ve just said, that may not apply to exam question formats.

Sociology in Focus for AS: Methods Resources

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019
Overview Map

The final set of resources to accompany the free Sociology in Focus AS textbook is for Research Methods aka “Everyone’s Favourite Module” (Said no-one. Ever).

Although the textbook is aimed at AQA, everyone, everywhere, does research methods so there’s little here that won’t be familiar, whatever the Specification.

Probably.
I’d be inclined to check, though.
Just-in-case.

If you’ve been following these posts over the past few weeks (and if you haven’t you might want to think about Registering with the Blog to ensure you’re notified whenever a new post happens along) you’ll be familiar with the format – activity answers, spider-diagrams, worksheets and teaching tips – and so won’t be disappointed that this is exactly what you’re getting here.

Or maybe you will. Who really knows?

To be a bit more specific, the bundle features:

Worksheet

An Overview Map that sets out the broad content of the Unit in terms of the different Modules. This can be useful as a way of introducing the Unit and giving students a broad outline of the content they will be expected to cover.

Revision Maps: These spider diagrams map-out the textbook content on a module-by-module basis. This makes them useful for both end-of-Unit revision (the focus is on identifying keywords in the text and relating them to other, linked, content) and for introducing the basic content of each Module.

Teaching Tips: These include suggestions for some hands-on, “Doing Sociology”, approaches to research methods, plus a general introduction to what was, at the time (around 10 years ago) a new and highly-innovative type of research method called Visual Sociology. It’s moved on a bit in the meantime and while it’s not exactly a mainstream method it’s something you might want to investigate if you have the time and / or inclination.

Activity Answers: If you set your students any of the activities / questions in the book, a set of standard answers would be quite a handy thing to have. Luckily, I’ve written some handy suggested answers to all the questions so you don’t have to.

Worksheets: In moderation worksheets can be a useful little weapon in your teaching armoury, particularly for small-group work / flipped learning. The worksheets involve a combination of individual and group-based tasks that can be used to consolidate and check learning.

Sociology in Focus for AS: Education and Methods

Saturday, March 9th, 2019
Overview Map

Continuing to plough the long and lonely furrow that is AS Sociology, today’s offering is a whole bunch of resources for Education with Research Methods. These complement the Sociology in Focus for AS textbook you can pick-up for absolutely nothing if you click the link and then click another link to download it. You might want to read the text that surrounds the download link, but it’s not mandatory.

If you follow the AQA Spec. the combination of Education and Methods will be all-too-familiar but if you follow other Specs (such as Eduqas) you’ll be pleased to know that as far as the resources go they’re basically “all about the Education” and you can forget about Methods (at least in this context).

If you teach / study OCR then you need to be aware these are AS rather than A2 resources.

If you teach / study outside the UK bubble you may find stuff here and in the textbook that relates to your course of study, but I can’t guarantee it.

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Sociology in Focus for A2: Media Resources

Saturday, March 2nd, 2019
Revision Maps…

Another set of free resources to complement the Sociology in Focus For A2 textbook, this batch relates to the Mass Media option:

Overview Map: An introductory map that provides a very general overview of the Module content.

Revision Maps: These Unit Maps go into much more depth and detail about the content covered throughout the Module and they have a number of uses, not least as a way of introducing the content of each Unit.

Activity Answers: If you use the activities that have been strategically placed throughout the Module, you’ll probably need some answers. Luckily, I’ve created some so you don’t have to.

Worksheets: Can be used to set individual and group text-based tasks to consolidate and check learning. These are organised around three activity types:

  • Consolidate, designed for individual work to ensure students have “grasped the basics”.
  • Apply, designed to promote analysis, discussion and application through small-group work.
  • Evaluate, designed for whole-class discussions around arguments / evidence for and against a question.
  • Exam Focus provides Top Tips from a Senior Examiner. Be aware, however, that the specific types of questions asked may have changed in the 10 years since this text was published. There are sufficient generic tips, however, to make this section a worthwhile download.

    Sociology in Focus for A2: Crime Resources

    Sunday, February 24th, 2019

    A further set of free resources to complement the Sociology in Focus For A2 textbook, this batch relates to the Crime and Deviance option:

    A Revision Map

    Overview Map: An introductory map that provides a very general overview of the Module content.

    Revision Maps: These Unit Maps go into much more depth and detail about the content covered throughout the Module and they have a number of uses, not least as a way of introducing the content of each Unit.

    Activity Answers: If you use the activities that have been strategically placed throughout the Module, you’ll probably need some answers. Luckily, I’ve got some.

    Worksheets: These can be used to set individual and group text-based tasks to consolidate and check learning based around three types of activity:

  • Consolidate, designed for individual work to ensure students have “grasped the basics”.
  • Apply, designed to promote analysis, discussion and application through small-group work.
  • Evaluate, designed for whole-class discussions around arguments / evidence for and against a question.
  • Exam Focus provides Top Tips from a Senior Examiner. Be aware, though, that the specific types of questions asked may have changed in the 10 years since this text was published. There are sufficient generic tips, however, to make this section worthwhile.

    Sociology in Focus for AS: Family Resources

    Friday, February 15th, 2019

    This second set of free resources for users of the Sociology in Focus For AS textbook covers the ever-popular Families and Households Module and includes the following:

    Exam Focus

    Overview Map: A basic spider diagram you can use if you want to give students a broad overview of the content to be covered in the Module.

    Revision Maps: Further, more-detailed, spider diagrams that map specific content to each Unit in the Module. These give students a broad indication of the work to be covered in each Module and can also be used as a handy revision aid.

    Activity Answers: Complete, author-approved, answers to the questions that appear throughout the Module. A major time-saver when it comes to marking or an easy way for students to self-check their answers? The choice is yours.

    Worksheets: Setting your students text-based tasks (individually and collectively) can be a useful way of checking learning or starting a discussion going. Each Worksheet is designed around three different activities:

  • Consolidate, designed for individual work to ensure students have “grasped the basics”.
  • Apply, designed to promote analysis, discussion and application through small-group work.
  • Evaluate, designed for whole-class discussions around arguments / evidence for and against a question.
  • Teaching Tips provide some simple ideas for teaching activities

    Exam Focus provides specimen questions, exemplar student answers and analysis by a senior examiner. Be aware, however, that the types of questions asked and the marks awarded to each type may have changed in the 10 years since this text was originally published.

    Sociology in Focus for A2: Methodology Resources

    Monday, February 11th, 2019

    If you’ve bagged yourself a copy of the Sociology in Focus for AQA A2 textbook and you’re wondering what to do with it beside read it, help is at hand with the addition of the resources originally produced to complement and supplement the text.

    Revision Map

    These, in no particular order, consist of:

    Overview Map: An introductory overview that maps the broad content in the book to each Unit in the Methodology Module.

    Revision Maps: Complementing the introductory overview, these spider diagrams delve a bit deeper, mapping specific content to each Unit in the Module.

    Activity Answers: One of the major features of the text is the activities / questions posed throughout and if you need suggested answers – to allow students to quickly check their learning, engage in a little peer review and marking or simply because it’s easier to mark student work when someone has already provided guideline answers – you’ll love this set of resources.

    (more…)

    Sociology in Focus for A2: Free Textbook

    Sunday, February 10th, 2019

    Sociology in Focus for A2 is, as you may have guessed, the companion volume to the previously-posted AS text and it’s no great surprise that its design and layout perfectly complements its AS counterpart. This includes the by-now standard colour-coded sections, lots of pictures, activities and questions that, at the time, were considered a quite radical design departure that was not, it hardly needs to be said, to everyone’s taste.
    The main concern, particularly but not exclusively among those who were concerned about this kind of thing, was that something had to make way for all the activities, pretty pictures, questions and even prettier pictures.

    And that something was, inevitably, the amount of text that managed to squeeze its way on pages crammed with all kinds of attractive, if sometimes largely superfluous, imagery.

    While it’s relatively easy to get away with this at AS level, it’s somewhat harder to pull-off the same trick at A2 level.

    So does it manage to pull it off?

    Well. Yes and No.

    The text, although limited in length, is generally well-written and informative and sometimes takes students into areas – particularly related to sociological theory – they aren’t usually expected to venture. Unfortunately, by meandering off the beaten track the text runs the risk, at times, of failing to adequately cover the bare essentials.

    Although it’s a moot point as to whether this text alone adequately prepares students for A2, this is where you and your students are quid’s in: you can use bits-and-bobs to supplement the more up-to-date texts you undoubtedly use in your day-to-day teaching.

    Alternatively, it’s a nice, big, bold, colourful text with lots of ideas for activities. And questions.

    (more…)

    Sociology in Focus for AS: Culture and Identity Resources

    Saturday, February 9th, 2019
    Culture and Identity Overview Map

    Having previously posted a copy of the Sociology in Focus AS textbook, I thought it might be useful to throw-in a little additional something by way of the resources that were originally produced to accompany the text.

    While there’s nothing outrageously brilliant about the resources, you might find some – or indeed all – of them a useful addition to the textbook. To allow you to pick-and-choose which resources you want, I’ve posted them in 6 separate categories that do exactly what they say on the tin:

    Overview Map:

    A spider diagram that broadly maps the main areas covered in each Unit in the Module.

    Revision Maps:

    More-detailed spider diagrams that map the main content of each Unit in the Module

    Activity Answers:

    Although Johnny Nash may be firmly of the opinion there are “More questions than answers“, in this particular instance he would be wrong. There are exactly the same number of answers here as questions. Which, all things considered, is probably as it should be.

    As to their function, you might find them useful if you want students to quickly check their own learning.

    More adventurously they can be used for things like peer review and marking.

    Worksheets:

    A Worksheet…

    While worksheets aren’t everyone’s cup of hot chocolate, these are slightly different in the sense they place less emphasis on individual working and more emphasis on small-group and whole class work. For each module there are three types of question, each of which is designed to promote different types of responses:

    • Consolidate questions, designed for individual work to ensure students have “grasped the basics”.
    • Apply questions designed to promote analysis, discussion and application through small-group work.
    • Evaluate questions designed for whole-class discussions around arguments / evidence for and against a question.

    Teaching Tips:

    Some fairly rudimentary ideas for different ways to teach various aspects of the Module., including some simple classroom activities.

    Exam Focus:

    Specimen questions and exemplar student answers. Be aware that the types of questions asked and the marks awarded to each type of question may have changed in the 10 years since this text was originally published.

    Free Textbook: Sociology in Focus for AS

    Friday, February 8th, 2019
    Sociology in Focus: Families and Households

    For those of you with long(ish) memories, the original Sociology in Focus textbook first appeared in the mid-1990’s and I remember being quite taken by its novel(ish) attempt to reinvent “The Textbook” as something more than just a lot of pages with a lot of text.

    Although it did, with hindsight, actually have “a lot of text” (they were much simpler times) it also had colour pages (if you include pale blue, black and white as “colour”), pictures (even though they were black and white, they still counted), activities and questions.

    A lot of questions.

    None of which had answers.

    You had to buy a separate resource if you wanted answers (something I casually mention in an apparently throwaway fashion that at some point in the future you will look back on and think “Ah! Foreshadowing).

    Anyway.

    Around 2004 Sociology in Focus was reinvented as a fully-fledged “Modern Text” with colour-coded sections, colour pictures and less text.  A lot less text.

    Although it was basically the same format laid-down by the original (activities, questions…) with a more student-friendly “down with the kids” vibe, it was now split into two books, one for AS-level and one for A2.

    Which brings me to 2009 and the emergence of a “2nd edition” (that was really a 3rd edition, but who’s counting?), suitably reorganised to take account of yet another Specification change that no-one asked for but which everyone got anyway.

    I’m guessing you’ll not be that surprised to know the format was pretty much the same (and by “pretty much” I mean “exactly”) because it clearly worked, although by this stage I got the distinct impression that most of the production effort was being put into what the text looked like and rather less effort was being placed on the task of updating it.

    While the new edition did reflect further changes to the AQA Sociology Specification – Mass Media, for example, was moved to A2 – there is actually little or no difference between the “AS Media” text of the 2nd edition and the “A2 Media” text of the 3rd edition…

    If you decide to use this textbook with your students – and it does actually have a lot going for it in terms of design and presentation – you need to be aware that the level of information in some sections (looking at you, Mass Media) may be slightly lacking in terms of depth of coverage. In addition, given yet more changes to the A-level Specification, some of the areas covered in the text are no-longer present in the latest Specification and one or two newer inclusions are obviously not covered.

    Having said that, I do think this is a worthwhile text to have available for your students and, given that it’s out-of-print, one of the few ways they’re ever going to be able to read it.

    (more…)

    A-Level Sociology Revision: 7. Families and Households

    Thursday, April 19th, 2018

    As with some of the other topics, revision materials for family life are both a bit scarce and a little bit dated, in the sense that where the UK Specs. have recently changed, older revision guides obviously don’t cover the newer additions.

    On the other hand, there’s still a strong continuity between the older and newer Specs. (some ideas never grow old – looking at you “1950’s Functionalism and the Family”) so as long as you keep this in mind the various Notes on offer here may prove useful. You also need to note that most of the materials here refer to the AQA Specification, so if you’re following a different Spec. you need to check which areas are – and are not – applicable. There are probably few things worse than getting into an exam room to find that you’ve revised the wrong Specification (this, of course, is a lie. There are a lot worse things).

    Also.

    If you find yourself in the position of not knowing which Specification you’ve been studying for the past two years then either your teacher has seriously given-up on you or you’ve been mistakenly following the wrong course (Psychology was in Room 101…).

    Either way, these Notes aren’t going to help you.

    For those of you not in this unhappy situation you should find stuff to aid your revision (particularly if, for whatever reason, you’ve got gaps in your revision notes). I’ve also added a couple of PowerPoints and some Mindmaps to the list, both because I think the latter, in particular, can be a good revision resource and also because I can.

    1. Family and Households Revision Booklet (John Williams)
    2. Families and Households Revision Guide 2011
    3. Families and Households Revision Pack 2016 (S Hickman)
    4. Families and Households Revision Booklet 
    5. Revision Notes

    6. Family Revision PowerPoint
    7. The Sociology of the Family PowerPoint (L Ricker)

    8. Mindmaps: Feminism | Functionalism | Marxism | Family and Personal Life
    9. Spider Diagrams

    Sociology Revision Booklets: 3. Mass Media

    Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

    The third in our occasional series covering free revision resources on the web looks at the Mass Media (as you’ve probably guessed from the title).

    The number of resources is substantially less than previous offerings on Theory and Methods and Beliefs in Society but what they lack in number is more than made-up for by the depth of their content.

    Possibly.

    I may just have been making that up.

    Anyway, you can see for yourself by downloading any, or indeed all, of the following:

    1. Media Revision Pack [Word version | Pdf version]: Although I’ve called this a Revision Pack (because that’s what it is…) it wasn’t originally created in that form. Rather, it’s an amalgam I’ve put together of a range of media revision documents, authored by Mark Gill, that cover:

    • Ownership and Control
    • New Media
    • Representations
    • Audiences
    • Social Construction of News

    Part of the reason for making the Pack available in different formats is that if you’d prefer to break the document down into its constituent parts it’s a fairly simple job to do this in Word. It’s possible to do this with a pdf document but that would mean faffing around with software that splits pdf files and you’re probably much too busy to bother with stuff like that.

    The Notes themselves are coherent and competent, with good coverage of the major Specification areas (although it’s aimed at AQA there are parts that apply to other Specifications). (more…)

    Learning Mats: A Generic Version

    Tuesday, February 27th, 2018

    The Learning Maps we’ve previously posted have rightly proven popular, both because of their quality and because they meet a need for tools that help students to structure their work in a simple and effective way – one that has the added bonus of providing a tightly-organised and highly visual method of revision.

    Good as they are – and I’d certainly recommend downloading them to see how they meet your teaching needs – they’re generally designed for a specific (AQA) Specification and while they can be edited to meet the requirements of different Specifications, students and teachers, this involves time and effort that might not always be readily available.

    This led me to wonder about creating a generic “one-size-fits-all” version of the Mats – one that involved teachers doing absolutely no work whatsoever in terms of creating Mats that could be used in a variety of situations and ways across a range of different Specifications.

    What I’ve tried to do in this Mat Template, therefore, is focus on what I think are the key elements students would need to cover for a good knowledge and understanding of a concept, theory or method (although, to be honest, I’m not sure about how well the version I’ve designed would work with the latter). In basic terms, this might involve:

    • Describing a concept / theory / method.
    • Identifying its key proponents, critics and studies.
    • Identifying its strengths and weaknesses.

    (more…)