This is a blog about a resource students and teachers can use for the examination and revision period; particularly English and humanities teachers.
“Super-charge your teaching with video lectures from the best academics in the world.”
This blog is written for students, with teachers in mind.
With students in the mix of the revision and examinations, you may be interested in trying out this resource we have been trialling at my school; @TheMassolit (www.massolit.io) works with top university academics to create short video-lectures in the arts, English and humanities, which students use to help them with revision. It’s perfect for building knowledge and recapping on text and prose.
It’s also perfect for students to use outside of the classroom …
I thought it would be useful to put together 3 simple tips for revision, as well as a bit on how this digital resource might help you revise and prepare for any examinations.
Read the Text
When the pressure is on with exams, it sometimes feel like sitting down and reading a book is the last thing you want to be doing – even if it’s the book you’re supposed to be studying for the class. But it really is one of the most useful things you can do.
Sitting down to read something a can be difficult, especially if it’s long and difficult. Breaking things down into constituent parts can be helpful – and this is where digital resources can be helpful.
If you’re reading Paradise Lost, for example, why not try John Rogers’ fantastic set of lectures on the poem, which breaks the text down into smaller parts and goes through it bit by bit? If you’re reading Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Name Desire, Massotlit’s course on the play goes through the whole play scene-by-scene.
It sounds obvious to say, but reading the text is the most important thing you can do before a text-based exam – although getting motivated to get the reading done can be difficult. Why not make it easier for yourself by using this alternative approach, the digital resource?
Ask Simple Questions
What is interesting about @TheMassolit, is that they work with some of the most successful academics in the country, and what’s remarkable about these people is how much of their insight comes from asking really simple questions about the text.
“Massolit say: When we spoke to John Lennard about Hamlet, for example, he wasn’t interested in the high-level questions about life and death, but rather the simpler question that provided insight into the play. “These gravediggers”, he asked, “whose grave are they actually digging?” “Where are all these skulls coming from?”
If you’re interested, why not check out this wonderful interview with Harold Bloom, in which he discusses Moby Dick: “Why is the captain called Ahab?” “Why is the whale white?” Courses on Frankenstein are highly recommended (“How would things be different if the Creature hadn’t been so ugly?”) and Virgil’s Aeneid (“Did Aeneas kiss Dido or what it the other way round?”)
It’s refreshing to know that some of the best academics in the world think in simple terms about texts. The videos are really worth a look!
Keep It Simple
A quick final tip, which I have always found useful. Just before my first set of exams at university, my tutor sat me down and told me his ‘golden rules’ of exam essays – rules which have stuck with me to this day, and which I always pass on to anyone I can:
- Answer the question being set, not the one you would have liked to be set.
- Keep the structure really simple, and tell the examiner what you’re doing.
“The students that do both of these things”, my tutor said “always write the best essays. Whenever I mark exams, I find that about half the students won’t do the first thing, and of those that do, half won’t do the second thing”.
If you’re worried about how to write the best possible essay in the exam, don’t be! As long as you answer the question that’s being set and you have a really obvious structure to your answer, you can’t fail to be in the top % of marks. I live and breathe the following format: What? Why? How? What if? as a standard layout for everything I approach …
Good luck with your examinations this summer!
Could digital lectures be the future?