How to Revise 1: Build a Story

In school recently, my 6 year old was given ten words.  Ten words to learn by Friday.

They were: jacket, giraffe, gem, adjust, jar, join, energy, jog, magic and giant.

At first, this seemed like an impossible task:  G. wanted to know the answers to some understandable questions:

Why is ‘jacket’ spelt with an e, not an i?

Why isn’t energy spelled enerjee?

Thus followed a soliloquy about the quaint awkwardness of the English language: Learning its intricacies felt like a rite of passage for me as an English person, rather like learning to make a pot of tea (I still feel lazy if I use a bag) or learning to hide one’s emotions, maybe behind a pretty pink pashmina –  although I wasn’t so good at this one, being a northerner: We splurge our feelings and wear nice thick scarves (it’s cold up north).

But the affection I have for our quirky tongue didn’t alter the fact that those ten words are bloody hard for a kid to learn.

So how did we do it in ten minutes flat?

Here’s how: First we highlighted all those pesky words that had a ‘g’ that sounded like a ‘j’:

jacket, giraffe, gem, adjust, jar, join, energy, jog, magic and giant.

Next, we made up a story (drew a picture) that connected those five words.  “You see, there was this giant with a pet giraffe, and he had a gem.  It was a magic gem, and that gem gave him energy“.

On the way to school the next day we practiced the story:

Me: So there was a ……

G: Giant

Me: And he had a pet …………

G: Giraffe

Me: In his hand he held a ………

G: Gem

Me: And the gem was …………

G: Magic

Me: And the magic gave him ……………..

G: Energy!


All that was left was for him to learn the ‘j’ words, and then – boom, ten out of ten!  Minimal pain for me too.

Now, does this work with older children and other subjects?

You betcha!

Let’s have a go with French vocabulary:

First slip on your pants (un slip).  Over the pants go your long trousers (un pantalon). Pull on a jumper (un pull). Get set with socks (des chaussettes), but be sure to wear your shoes (des chaussures).  Looking sharp with a scarf (une écharpe).

You can add layers of detail too.  For example,  You have two feet, and there’s a double ‘s’ in the middle of chaussures and chaussettes.

When building a story, some words are easier to utilize than others.  So be bold in being as tenuous as you dare.  For example: The man is covered from top to toe in a coat (un manteau).

“On his hands – des gants” – It rhymes!  Well, nearly.  Perhaps you could think of him putting on gloves to stop ants from biting his hands… whatever works for you!

The point is, you can have fun with this, utilising your kids’ imaginations to build stories that commit words to memory.  And it doesn’t matter how old you are – it works with all ages – whether you’re six, sixteen or sixty!

And you create fun family memories as you go.

We’ve become quite attached to our gem-wielding giant!

He’s called Gerry, by the way.


Laura Mears is a coach at Blue Caterpillar, who among other things, deliver revision seminars to schools (

Brain Box in Parenting magazine

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We didn’t get to be Editor’s pick in this magazine – but to be fair, Malala is more deserving, so fair enough, but it’s still nice to be included.

Remember, even those teenagers in your life on the Naughty List should have a copy of The Brain Box in their stocking this Christmas!

Brain Box – A review “Highly recommended”


This Brain Box is a book that focuses upon guiding students through that sticky period of preparing for and taking exams at all levels. This encompasses presenting good learning habits and how they can become habitual and normal practice as well considering motivational issues. The book is written primarily for students as it is part guide, part notebook, part reference book. However, I would argue that the book would be of great use for teachers, as the book contains easy to implement activities, particularly for revision, which can be used in lessons for any subjects, as well as parents, as there is plenty of practical advice which can enable parents to support their child effectively in that nervous exam season. I would also add, that this book would be an ideal resource for any teachers who oversee their school’s PSHE programme, as the activities in this book can (and might say) should be implemented in a Year 11 PSHE provision.

The book is well structured and starts with considering effective habits of success and motivation issues, which are clearly rooted in theory and modern thinking as mindsets and the theory behind flow are covered extremely effectively here. Indeed, this resource would be very effective in a CPD session on how these ideas can be implemented in the classroom. Then, it takes us through exploring effective ways of working including some great strategies and the best explanation I have seen on how to use the popular idea of foldables. Then the book methodically looks at how to deal with revision, exams and results, which all students and parents should read as they would gain great advice and confidence from the information given here.

As with all Independent Learning Press books, The Brain Box is gorgeously and attractively designed which makes this wealth of great advice and information eye catching and well-structured. Benton and Hodgson have adopted an informal and accessible writing style which adds greatly to the value of this book and helps communicate a range of potentially challenging and demanding theoretical ideas effectively. This is a resource, which can help all those – teachers, parents, and, most importantly, students – who are stakeholders in the examination season maximise performance at whatever level they are at or role that they carry out. Highly recommended.

Reprinted from Jivespin