A revision strategy shared: thinking quilts

I first had the idea of a thinking quilt about 8 years ago, when I was teaching GCSE Philosophy and Ethics. I wanted pupils to reflect upon what we had learned in a lesson on the Nature of Deity, and apply it to a range of different exam questions.

I wrote all the keywords and philosophers we were going to discuss in a table, and colour coded four exam questions. Knowing that my class would come up with suggestions I couldn’t predict, and to encourage them to think back to previous learning they could apply to this lesson, I left 2 empty rows for pupils to add in their own ideas.

I also threw in a few red herrings to ensure they really thought about the activity. Pupils then used colouring pencils to colour in a corner of each keyword/philosopher to allocate it to a specific exam question. I decided which colour would go with each exam question to avoid any confusion. It is important to make sure pupils only colour in a corner rather than the whole box because the same word can often be used in more than one exam question.

I was pleased with how well this worked as a plenary. Pupils showed they could identify which information we had learned that lesson applied to relevant exam questions. It also meant that in the time it took to fully answer one exam question, they had considered what knowledge they needed for four exam questions.

The next step was to use a thinking quilt to revise what we had learned during a series of lessons for an assessment, in this case on Weimar Germany.

Because this involved recalling knowledge from the past month, and because the class was not particularly independent, this was more challenging. I decided to use a visualiser and complete it as a whole class activity. Pupils were encouraged to annotate their sheet as we went through it, which also supported pupils if they had missed a lesson. They then answered the questions as assessment preparation. 

Pupil feedback was positive, and so I decided to try a thinking quilt to revise a whole topic (Germany 1918 – 1939). I identified key areas, such as the end of the Great War and challenges to the Weimar Government, again leaving spaces for pupils to add their own categories. Because the topic covers a short time period, I put the years at the bottom, and pupils then went on to produce a timeline of the key events. 

To help pupils prepare for an assessment, you can add a range of tasks to be completed in lessons or at home.

Then in December last year, I saw a tweet from @kate_atherton in which she had an activity for a biology lesson called ‘talk like an expert’. Instead of being a colouring in thinking quilt, it was a verbal version, which I loved, and adapted immediately!

This encourages pupils to discuss in pairs or small groups their answers to exam questions, and allocates marks depending on difficulty. It’s a great way to either start or end a lesson. Pupil feedback has again been very positive towards this activity, especially from those pupils who are competitive. 

If you haven’t used a thinking quilt before then give it a go, and let me know how you get on with it. Good luck!

About the author

Karen KnightA classroom teacher for 25 years, Karen Knight teaches history at a secondary school in Hull. She has previously held a wide range of roles in school, including Head of Year, Head of Department, Head of Faculty and Teaching and Learning Champion. Karen particularly enjoys creating and sharing resources to support learning in the classroom.

Connect with Karen on teaglo

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