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HIIT for English Revision!

Did you know that there’s another effective way of English revision apart from simply practising every day?

Today, I’m going to share with you some high-intensity interval training techniques for English – in short, HIIT for English! These points have been summarised from the book “How We Learn” by Benedict Carey and adapted to suit our primary school level and language context to help you tackle your English revision effectively. Let’s now take a look at what these techniques are:

1. Space Out Your Learning

Firstly, you can tackle how often you revise. Is it better to revise for three hours, one day per week, or one hour every two days? You might think that revising three hours over one day is more effective, as it would allow you to focus on and concentrate on the subject more. In fact, maybe three hours over all five weekdays might be the best way to revise?

Absolutely not! This sort of thinking is erroneous for two key reasons:
• Your concentration does not extend to three hours of solid English revision
• Revising every day does not allow you to forget, which results in a lack of active recall

Instead, you should consider revising for one hour every two days.

By spacing out your English revision, you will allow yourself to take breaks from the subject and forget information. Wait a minute. Why do I want you to forget information? Well, forgetting can actually help you to remember better, especially if you put in effort to revise what you constantly forget! When you forget some of what you have learnt, you will need to put in effort to dig it up from the depths of your mind.

Active Recall

This process is also known as active recall, and allows your brain to practise learning a rule or learning a definition. Think of your brain as a muscle! The more you use active recall, the more you strengthen this muscle, and the easier it will be to remember the grammar rule or English definition in future.

Of course, you can also adjust the timing of one hour to match your own comfort level. The important things are to ensure that:

  • You are able to pay attention for the entire session when revising
  • There are gaps between your learning days
  • There is enough time in every session to cover what you want to revise

For instance, if you only revise for half an hour and you are unable to cover what you aim to cover completely, that would break up your English revision into meaningless chunks, and affect your learning process! That is why you should consider the above three points when planning the duration of your revision.

2. Beware of the Fluency Trap

Do you simply read to revise? When your teachers show you a grammar rule that has been gone through before, or a vocabulary word that was used in the previous lesson, don’t many of you slap a palm to your head saying, “I knew that! I just couldn’t remember!” Unfortunately, when the rule or word comes up again, you probably still won’t be able to remember what they are or what they mean!

This is exactly what happens when you simply read to revise. Just because you have seen something many times and it looks familiar to you does not mean that you will be able to recall it and apply it in your exams.

Instead, you must incorporate activities that encourage active recall during your revision sessions. Some study methods to include in your revision are:

  • Flash cards: these are particularly useful for vocabulary revision and for memorising certain grammar rules

  • Teach someone: teaching someone will allow you to explain what you have just learnt in your own words, as well as expose any confusion you might have and allow you to correct them

  • Testing: testing yourself, by doing short online quizzes or short practices in assessment books, will allow you to see if you are able to recall what you have just learn

3. Mix It Up

Finally, many of us still have the misconception that we need to “drill ourselves” by focusing on one particular grammar rule until we become experts at that rule. The same goes for vocabulary; many students think that they must spend one week memorising the definition for one word, or a few words, before they can move on to the next batch of words. Not only is this ineffective, it is boring to endure!

Instead, you can try mixing up your revision content. For grammar, consider doing a good mix of practices, such as revising three different grammar rules over two weeks,

instead of simply focusing on one rule for one week. For vocabulary, consider learning a bunch of related words at once, and using them in various contexts (eg. speech, writing in your journal, filling in comprehension cloze), instead of simply memorising their definition.

Before I end my post, let me reiterate that these techniques are considered high-intensity because it allows you to go through the cycle of forgetting and recalling on a frequent basis. Your first few sessions of revision might be intensely difficult, as you find yourself forgetting most of what you have just learnt due to the gaps in between your revision sessions.

School Holiday

However, fret not! Continue to keep at it and over time, this revision process will allow you to recall the rules and definitions so easily, you will probably be able to recite them in your sleep! Although using these techniques might be demoralising and difficult for you at the start, research has proven that revising in this manner results in being able to remember something for much longer! What you learn now in December will still be recalled in March or April next year, and by then, you will be an expert on the rules and definitions because of all these active recall sessions!

What do you think? Try out these research-backed revision techniques this December and I’m sure you’ll see results over time. Have a great holiday, everyone!

If you have other revision techniques that have worked for you, do share them with us in the comments section below.



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Ms. Elysia

It is Miss Elysia’s passionate belief that every classroom experience holds the potential to both nurture and challenge a child. As such, her classes are fun, dynamic, and never a bore! As an educator, she strives to make every class an enriching one for her students and feels most fulfilled when her students leave class learning how to study hard, and study smart.

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