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4 ideas for retrieval practice

Make sure learning sticks with these quick and easy ideas from Paul Wright...

  • 4 ideas for retrieval practice

1 | Recall checks

Look at your scheme of learning for a half term. Decide what the key takeaway concepts or vocabulary are in that time. Design five to eight questions that help students practise retrieving their knowledge on the topic from memory and applying it to answer the question.

Over the course of the six weeks, continue to cover the same five to eight concepts, theories or terms in your questions, but pose the questions in different ways.

2 | Alternate dimensions

Challenge learners’ knowledge security by presenting facts from another dimension and asking them to compare these to ours, stating what the equivalent is in our dimension.

For example: ‘In this universe, the sky is pink. What colour is it in your universe?’

Learners can select the correct answer from memory (higher challenge), or you can scaffold the activity by making it multiple choice.

Try throwing in some questions where the answer is already correct (ie where something is the same in both dimensions) and see if they notice!

3 | Memorise this…

Prepare a three-slide presentation.

  • Slide 1 shows things you want the students to remember
  • Slide 2 is a black screen with a countdown timer in the centre
  • Slide 3 has spaces for items to be written in or revealed

Explain that the students will be given time to look at the first slide and store the information in their minds, without writing anything down.

When the screen goes black, the timer stars and then they must write down as much information as they can remember.

When the timer ends, reveal the third slide and ask the learners to share what they’re able to recall.

4 | What stuck?

Stand your learners behind their desks for a few minutes before the lesson ends and tell them that you’ll dismiss each person in turn when they can tell you something that has stuck with them from the lesson.

This challenges their short-term recall and allows you to challenge their ability to succinctly express knowledge they have retained.

Be fair and allow one repeat, but students can’t repeat the same thing as the person that spoke before them.

Tips taken from 100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers: Stretch and Challenge by Paul Wright (Bloomsbury Education, £14.99).

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