If you have a Year 11 tutor group, you’ll feel the pressure mounting as the days go by, like the turning of a screw.
Your tutees are reminded weekly, if not daily, how long they’ve got until their first exam, and you’re watching their different reactions.
Some suck up the pressure and plough on, others bury their heads in the sand and claim that it’s all still too far away for them to care, and others seem to melt into a puddle of anxiety.
I’m here to give you some constructive help with moving them forwards with their revision during the time that you have with them: tutor time.
1 | Make sure they know what they need to know
Book a computer room for one or more tutor sessions so that your tutees can find and print out the subject content section of their exam specifications. This is so that they can actually see, laid out on paper, exactly what they need to know for their exams.
You may think that this is up to their subject teachers to take care of – but it doesn’t always happen, and doing this simple task turns the amorphous elephant of revision into something that is still large, but is also very concrete and therefore more manageable.
2 | Get them to do a strengths and weaknesses audit
Once you’ve got the exam specifications printed out, get your tutees to go through them line by line to identify what they know really well, what they need to brush up on and what is a true gap in their knowledge and understanding.
I encourage students to use the red, amber, green traffic-light technique to do this. I explain more in this free extract of my book, The Ten Step Guide to Acing Every Exam You Ever Take.
3 | Focus on metacognition
During the busyness of the school day few students get the opportunity to actually sit and reflect on what works for them in terms of their learning. However, tutor time is a little oasis of time that can be used for this deeper thinking.
Get your students to start thinking about learning activities that they do both in class and at home, on their own, which they find very helpful for their learning, and also things that don’t work for them.
This will give them the courage and self-belief necessary to focus on what works for them, and stop wasting their time on revision techniques that might be ideal for their best friend, but aren’t right for them.
4 | Teach each other
As a teacher you’ll already know how powerful the need to convey information to someone else is in improving your understanding and ability to explain it.
You probably get your students in your subject classes to teach each other sometimes, but it can feel inefficient and slow as a way of getting through the curriculum so you might not do it very often.
However, tutor time would be a great time to pair students up with someone else doing one of the same subjects as them to teach and test each other.
5 | Teach tips on how to manage anxiety
There are some students in your tutor group who will get closer and closer to breaking point every time you mention, for the benefit of some of the others, exactly how few days there are left until their exams.
For the benefit of these students, use tutor time to teach them techniques to manage their anxiety. My two top suggestions are:
5-2-7 breathing – breathe in for the count of five, hold the breath for the count of two and then breathe out for the count of seven. Repeat at least three times, or until you feel calm and in control.
Visualise a place of comfort and safety – get your students to close their eyes and use their imagination to place themselves somewhere they feel comfortable and safe. This might be a room at home, a special place in their local area or a place they have visited. Get them to focus on the sensory experience of being in that place – the sights, the sounds, the smells and the sensations. Encourage them to conjure this scene in their minds when they are feeling their anxiety levels getting out of control.
Give these ideas a try. Tutor time could be a crucial moment in the school day for your students to take charge of their revision, start to believe in the process and build some crucial confidence. I’d love to know how you get on, I’m @LucyCParsons on Twitter.