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The Zone of Relevance…explained.

On a Friday afternoon I often share teaching resources on Twitter, like many other teachers do, using the hashtag #PedagooFriday. The Zone of Relevance resource generated a lot of interest. I was contacted by teachers asking for further explanation and asking questions, which is understandable as 140 characters can be very limited!

The Zone of Relevance works best with GCSE and A-Level students because it is very useful to complete when preparing and planning an exam answer. However, it can be used with other year groups and across the curriculum. The idea behind this is that students recognise what information is relevant for a specific exam answer and essential to achieve exam marks. It also helps students prioritise information. This task supports students to understand what they should and should not include in their answer. This will highlight what information is irrelevant to that specific question to prevent common mistakes being made.

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The example I have included is from a Year 10 GCSE History class. The question asks how abolishing the death penalty was a turning point in punishment in the 20th Century. We discussed this question as a class and then looked at the mark scheme success criteria. Students then filled in the outer circle, it also works with concentric squares too. The largest zone must be for the relevant information, as that is most important because it is the content of the answer. Students include the relevant information with supporting detail and justification. Then in the middle zone or section students included extra information they could add to their answer such as examples and stats etc. The final and smallest zone was basically what not to do! I was able to help students with this, based on many common mistakes I had come across over recent years marking exam answers! Students can also refer back to previous exam answers and learn from mistakes they had made. For example, students would often express their views on the death penalty despite the fact the question didn’t ask that or offer any marks for that either. The question also specifically asked about England and Wales, yet students would write about the USA where again there were no marks available. The question was asking about the 20th Century so discussion of any other periods were not required or rewarded.

This activity can be done individually or in groups. In groups with a larger template works well as it promotes discussion, decision making and working with others. It can be a great plan for students to refer to when completing exam questions, either in the classroom or at home. It helps students understand and identify what the exam question is asking and what information is required. Many teachers may have used this idea before or in a different style but I recommend it as a revision activity! This activity also works well accompanied with highlighted notes, to include in the relevant sections. You can download the template for free on my TES page here. It might be too late for some of your exam classes or perhaps just in time!


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