The Power of Revision
Updated: Jul 30, 2019
Think of our brain as a bottle. Its capacity is limited, but everyone is always trying to pour more water in. At the bottom of the bottle, a hole forms. Water leaks as more fills. It is a never-ending cycle of give-and-take—and it is exactly how our brains work.
Once, I had an exceptionally forgetful student. She was not lazy and studied well. Yet, her Math grades benched in the 30s and 40s. Perplexed, her mom asked me for help. If she was a fast learner and worked hard, why was she still failing?
I soon noticed the problem: forgetfulness. Everyone is forgetful to an extent—but this student seemed to forget faster and easier than her peers. So my solution was revision. Nothing fancy or miraculous—just a plain old method that many young students neglect.
Especially in their primary school years, children will not revise what they have learned. Their lives are easily compartmentalised into 'learn' and 'play'. They hardly see a need to return to what they have done in class earlier that day—if they had done this before, surely they must be able to do it again... right?
But even children do not have a perfect memory. So I advised my student's mom to cultivate a habit of revision in her child. It is okay to start early—because once you build independence, your child would be able to carry these methods into their future. All it took was a simple half-hour sitting down with her daughter and probing her to explain what she had learned that day. This process tested her understanding of her subject knowledge and forced her to evaluate what she had learned in class. When coupled with active questioning from her mom, any gaps in understanding will surface, providing an opportunity for clarification.
This was only the first step.
Wait a few days—then test again. This time, there is no need to sit your child down or go over the concepts. Just have her attempt two or three of the questions she previously explained. She should be able to do it correctly. If not, recap.
Doing is a form of revision. Repeat this process. After these two steps, allow your child to revise independently. Let them recall their lessons, teach themselves what they may have temporarily forgotten, and figure out what they do not understand. Parents have an important and active role in guiding these processes—but the ultimate goal is independent ownership for their learning.
This is revision—and this is powerful. We cannot over-rely on route remembering, so we need to ensure we understand what we know. As the difficulty of questions increases over time, your child will be able to apply his foundational understanding to solve them.
This is the power of revision—and it is time we started recognising it.