In this post, I’ll start by sharing in detail three strategies that I’ve used for preparing my classes for their GCSE Computer Science exams, but they could also be applied to any curriculum subject. The first suggestion is a long term strategy that takes a long time to set up, but the others are all ideas you could use straight away next lesson with the minimum of preparation.
I’ve also included links to some 70+ further ideas shared by other teachers as well as resources specific to GCSE Computer Science.
If you find any particularly useful or helpful, please comment below.
Also, if you’ve not read it – my post: “The MOOC has landed” describes how you might start preparing your Year 10 Computer Science classes from early on in Year 10.
The Long Term Strategy
The Revision Programme
My school introduced a whole school revision programme for Year 11 a few years ago. The annual revision programme started at the beginning of March and led up to the exams. Every pupil in Year 11 was provided with a personalised printed timetable that prescribed tasks for them to complete each evening, with two subjects per night.
I created a revision programme for my Year 11 Computing classes with all the resources online , it required pupils to bring evidence of their activity into class which we then made use of in lessons and this also enabled me to track their progress. You can see the revision programme for Spring/Summer 2015 here: http://exa.im/revisionplan
In the next 7 minutes of this video, I explain an overview of the revision programme for Computing:
Tracking their progress with revision: As well as prescribing and resourcing the topics for revision, I felt it was important for me to track pupils’ progress in terms of completing activities.
In the next 3 minutes of this section of the video, I describe the process I use to check on their revision activities in class:
I used an online sheet to keep a record of their progress and I was able to share this with the whole class and their parents too. I sent regular updates to parents using email and the school text message system: http://tinyurl.com/11btracker
Information for parents: I believe it makes a massive difference having the support of parents, so I prepared some information to explain to parents how this approach worked: http://tinyurl.com/10aco1parents
If you are not aware, I created a MOOC for J276 GCSE Computer Science with a full year’s worth of content to support a very different (better IMHO) way of teaching Computer Science. The first term is free, the remainder is £100+vat per school. More information here: http://courses.exa.foundation
Strategies to use now with minimal preparation
I’d seen other colleagues use a similar approach to this which I then adapted for my own teaching. Simply explained: pupils work together in pairs making visual notes that summarise content provided to them on specific topics. Pupils then answer past paper questions related to the same topics, then peer mark using the mark scheme and then identify the areas they need to deepen their understanding on.
The next 6 minutes of this webinar explains the approach in a little more detail with some examples.
Photo gallery showing examples: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+AlanODonohoe/posts/AUXSPmR2rLR
Lesson 51 notes: http://exa.im/lesson51
Reflection: Of all the different strategies and approaches I used, this was the one the pupils preferred the most and they felt that they learned more from this approach. I also preferred it, as it required relatively little preparation time compared to the other ideas I tried.
Quiz Quiz Trade:
This is a strategy I’d seen demonstrated at another school and I decided to try it in my own lessons. Simply explained: pupils are provided with an exam style question and the correct answer, they move around the room swapping partners and question cards coaching each other to get the best answer.
In the next 5 minutes of this webinar, I explain the approach in a little more detail with some examples.
Photos of question cards: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+AlanODonohoe/posts/ESV4c9KKLyq
Link to question cards: http://exa.im/qqt – I’m happy for you to take these, modify them etc.
Reflection: It seems to be an effective strategy, but it took me a long, long time to prepare the question cards for just a few minutes use in each lesson. After I tried it a few times, the balance of preparation time required and my classes’ enthusiasm for ‘Bitesize Summaries’ meant I didn’t develop any more resources event though it does have some advantages. If you were able to share the creation of the cards with others, you’d effectively have a much better resource.
Holly Billinghurst has created a bank of questions and answers that your students could use for a Quiz-Quiz-Trade activity: http://www.teachallaboutit.uk/gcse-computing-revision-skills-check
Resources and other strategies:
Here are some other resources and suggestions that I’ve discovered, many of these specifically for GCSE Computing:
- Helen has created some keyword quizlets using the Susan Robson text book for Year 11s revision, the links are:
Fundamentals of computing – https://quizlet.com/_3624pp
Hardware – https://quizlet.com/_3625c4
Software – https://quizlet.com/_3626gh
Data Representation in Computers – https://quizlet.com/_362cef
Databases – https://quizlet.com/_362div
Communications and Networking – https://quizlet.com/_362epv
Programming – https://quizlet.com/_362h26
- David Batty has created a Computer Science Quiz application, or skill, for the Amazon Echo. This allows a child (or teacher) that has an Amazon Echo at home, to have their computer science knowledge tested on a regular basis. He explains more in this video: https://youtu.be/ng1gPL8Mnng
- CAS Quantum – During the Summer of 2014, I created 150 exam style questions for GCSE Computing which I hosted on our Moodle. They now form part of a question bank for the Computing At School Quantum project, more information here: http://community.computingatschool.org.uk/resources/4382
- If you’d like the 150 questions I created, you can either view them as xhtml here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/y3o3t1y4xqucg4h/GCSE_Computing_questions.html?dl=0 or import them into your own Moodle: https://moodle.net/mod/data/view.php?d=1&rid=186
- Over the 5 years I taught GCSE Computing, I recorded 260+ podcast episodes. The majority of these are like audio diaries charting my journey with GCSE Computing. During the pre-exam period, I share insights into the strategies I tried and their impact. You can download from iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/alan-odonohoe/id482494084?mt=2 or Audioboom: https://audioboom.com/playlists/4232-teach-computing-podcast
- When preparing classes for 6 mark questions, Mark Clarkson has suggested using “VCOP – Vocabulary, Connectives*, Openers and Punctuation.
* because, therefore, otherwise, hence, alternatively… we have displays up in most classrooms with different connectives categorised after a literacy push a couple of years ago”. Mark continues… “I make a sheet for each past 6-marker with a box for vocab just under the question and then the lines of the answer.
I get the kids to focus first on the vocab (what do you want to talk about?) – initially in pairs/small groups.
The openers are good as an outline structure (some input devices for people with disabilities are… / some output devices are…)
The connectives and punctuation I don’t stress so much, but it fits in with the whole school push and we do have connectives posters up in most classrooms.”
- One teacher on Facebook suggested “Give them a past paper, 15 minutes to work individually, then 15 minutes tell them to work through questions in a group, 15 minutes to use text books to answer the remaining questions and then spend 15 minutes going through the 4 and 6 mark questions”
- Another teacher via Facebook: “I used a speed dating concept for a revision lesson. Students wrote down 5 questions and then went around the classroom challenging each other to answer their questions. Students then scored points for getting the most right. Here’s how it works:
Just basically gave out plain paper. Asked them to write down 5 questions they think may be on the exam. Told them they must know the answers. Students went round and challenged each other. The students said I challenge you 1 question the next said 2 and so on until you got the highest challenger. When they agreed who was going to answer if the student got all the answers correct they got the point. If they got 1 wrong then the other got the point. Got students to total up at the end their points. Students enjoyed it and it got them thinking about answering the questions. A fun lesson.”
- James Webber, has created a Quizizz GCSE Computing Revision Session here:
- The “six-a-day” resources are freely downloadable exam questions and answers: https://computerscienceuk.com/gcse-2/6-a-day-revision/
- Leyla McGhee said “I gave out green and red pens, then got them in pairs to peer assess and improve one another’s work once they had attempted the six-a-day questions (above). Also mixed the six a day up, so that they had three different ones. Can be photocopied then as a resource for the whole class.”
- Stephen O’Callaghan wrote this post titled “Increasing bandwidth – Planning a revision session.” : https://mrocallaghanedu.wordpress.com/2014/05/07/increasing-bandwidth-planning-a-revision-session/
- Stephen O’Callaghan has shared some A451 revision booklets and questions: https://mrocallaghanedu.wordpress.com/2014/05/10/gcse-computing-revision-materials/ as well as this revision booklet here: https://mrocallaghanedu.wordpress.com/2014/12/31/updated-gcse-computing-revision-pack/
- Adam Gibson has made life easier by splitting past paper questions into categories: https://sites.google.com/a/nsix.org.uk/dnhs-computing-gcse/a451
- An earlier version (2013) of the Revision Programme I shared for OCR GCSE Computing: http://community.computingatschool.org.uk/resources/634
- Stephen-Lee Farmer has shared these A451 questions & answers: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/cfz7o3rddld8l5v/AABgh007rV6v9r2noo_PaTiUa
- Helen Catterall has shared these mind maps with her classes. They’re great examples. https://goo.gl/photos/4BhJEQeSoqPjabQv5
- Jamie Portman has started a list here, you could add some of your own: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1b1-py9uLIYJgKcZVXaQ9In2RJHTryyulFbjgMkItiRg/edit
- Mark Clarkson has recommended this Memrise for A451: https://www.memrise.com/login/?next=/course/460627/ocr-gcse-computing-a451/1/garden/learn/
- Simon Johnson has shared his journey with GCSE Computing here and some links to revision resources: http://teachwithict.weebly.com/gcse-computer-science.html and some quizzes at: http://teachwithict.weebly.com/theory-tests.html
- Paul Powell shared this strategy: “One I use for any subject is a past paper competition. 1) put into teams of 3. 2) dish out a past paper. 3) they have to answer questions – which you mark when they come to you – they can then either bank their mark for the team or try to improve their answer. 4) 2 bonus points for the first team to answer a question, 1 bonus point for the runner up. 5) I use a spreadsheet on the board to track their scores. 3 small prizes (plus bragging rights) for the winning group. I have also extended the idea by having a research station where they can use the internet. They have to pay a few marks to go on the research station, and they are not allowed to take the paper with them.“
- Ruth Hill: “You give them a topic like: Database terminology – and then each team has 15 seconds to bet how many terms they can list/ define (I did 2 rounds, listing them first then defining as another point). Then give them a suitable amount of time where each team has to write as many points/ words/ terms as they can (2-5 mins or so). The team who bet the highest number gets to try to get their stated number of points first, then if they can’t, any remaining teams are allowed to re-bet a new amount of points they can add – or you could just do an additional one (But they have to have them written down and be able to prove them). (I change the rules through the game to suit the revision and add bonus points etc!)”
- Computer Science Guru contains lots of notes on theory and some quizzes, though it told me I was wrong when I selected 1000 Bytes as being a kilobyte! https://www.computerscience.gcse.guru/
- Nichola Wilkin has a fun final lesson to use with your year 11 pupils before their computing theory exam. It uses a version of an “Escape Room” game in which the pupils need to work in teams to complete a number of mental and physical challenges, all of which help them with last minute revision of key topics. https://www.nicholawilkin.com/free-stuff
- Stuart Maher says “I just did an interesting exercise I saw… Give them a past paper, then for 20 mins they answer the questions they can in exam conditions. After 20 minutes they can groups discuss the answers they were unable to do and then for the final 20 minutes they can look in books, helpsheet or the internet (or ask you)”
- Perhaps you might review the style of questioning you’re using with your classes. In this article, Peter Worley argues that the art of interrogation – so crucial in the classroom – is more complex than many teachers assume. https://www.tes.com/news/tes-magazine/tes-magazine/question-your-questioning?amp
- Archbishop Beck’s GCSE Computing revision book: http://www.archbishopbeck.com/docs/ComputerScience/GeneralResources1GCSEComputerScienceTheoryWorkbook.pdf
- Tamsin Laber writes: “I did a revision lesson with my last OFSTED visit – I split it into three parts:
Start off getting them to answer some exam questions that they are going to find tricky. Don’t mark it but ask them if they found it hard and why
Then, pick an Exam Technique such as read a block of text and summarise in 5 words or jumble up sentences or convert a block of text into a diagram or come up with a rhyme.
Give them time to put one of the techniques into action.
Then try them with the same questions at the start and hopefully they would have improved their answers!“
- Rick Barnes has shared a guide to long answers: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1H3aTTuXuxhTEdTSnl3bFlOM28/view
- Jo Cox: “I use A3 paper. You put a topic in the centre of the page and then diagonal lines out for the centre to make twelve sections like a clock. Each section is then labelled with a title or sub section of that topic. In class, I have then given them five minutes to write all they know about the first sub section before swapping with a partner for them to add to their ideas in a different colour pen. Then we go on to the next section and so on. It basically creates a revision sheet on an entire topic. I have also given them blank ones to do for homework. In class I offer mini rewards for those with the best initial section and best improvement points to keep the momentum going”
- Amy Knibbs: “Past Paper Relay (in pairs or small groups set a number of past paper questions – choose students to mark them using the mark scheme (I choose more able for differentiation) ) markers keep a score on the whiteboard”
- Amy Knibbs: “Past Paper The Apprentice – each past paper question is given a monitory value and when they do the question and get it right they get pretend money. Pair or group with most money wins (more able mark with mark scheme).”
- Amy Knibbs: “Past Paper Round Robin – students in pairs with one past paper question each and a piece of flip chart. Pairs write the question and answer to it. Then one person from the pair goes around to each question and has the answer explained to them ( so one person explains the answer 10 times say) then the other person in the pair goes around. If a person notices a problem with an answer they correct it together.”
- Amy Knibbs: “Past Paper Sticky Wall ( past paper questions with sticky labels on back. ) bluetac to stick them up on the wall. Label questions with the grade / level you think it is worth. Students put answers on the back with name and when next person thinks of answer they check what the previous person put and if they disagree they go speak to the person and agree a new answer and put it on“
- Holly Billinghurst has created a bank of questions and answers: http://www.teachallaboutit.uk/gcse-computing-revision-skills-check
- Matt has put all the 700+ questions provided by OCR on to Quizizz.com as separate topics. Feel free to use by searching user fearnma
- Mr Liver has created these revision packs based on past papers for A451: https://mrliver.com/2017/08/07/resource-gcse-computer-science-revision/
The following resources are available from the Computing At School community, free registration required:
- Gareth Lister’s GCSE Computing Revision Carousel: http://community.computingatschool.org.uk/resources/2160
- James Stephen’s OCR A451 A3 Revision Sheets: http://community.computingatschool.org.uk/resources/3490
- Stephen O’Callaghan’s GCSE Computing knowledge organisers: http://community.computingatschool.org.uk/resources/3887
- Jo Morse has shared a collection of presentations for GCSE Computing : http://community.computingatschool.org.uk/resources/3234
- Helen Gardener’s OCR GCSE A451 theory revision activity: http://community.computingatschool.org.uk/resources/1997
- Mark Clarkson’s OCR GCSE Revision Datablast: http://community.computingatschool.org.uk/resources/2258
- Lee Rymill has analysed the frequency of question type on past exams for OCR GCSE Computing: http://community.computingatschool.org.uk/resources/1361
- Phil Waud has created this massive A451 booklet for pupils to use, available in .docx and .pdf. It contains lots of simple explanations of the concepts for the exam. http://community.computingatschool.org.uk/resources/4439
- Lisa Wood has shared some Quiz-Quiz-Trade revision cards: http://community.computingatschool.org.uk/resources/4469
- Neil Kendall has organised past exam paper questions by topic: http://community.computingatschool.org.uk/resources/431
- Shaun Whorton has put together a book of of exam style questions for the J275: http://community.computingatschool.org.uk/resources/5057
- Phil Waud says “Search CAS for ‘datablast’ , I’ve a full set on there that seem to work really well with classes”: http://community.computingatschool.org.uk/search/resources?action=search&controller=search&query=datablast&utf8=%E2%9C%93
- James Webber has created a Quizziz for GCSE Computing J276, https://quizizz.com/join/ use the Join Code: 386344
And finally, a tale from Alan Walters: I was going through a question with my class regarding Mary and a computer she has with 1GB of RAM, which she wants to improve so she can play games. One boy suggested “She should install more RAM”. I asked him to explain why and he replied “…because Mary had a little RAM” 🙂