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Four ideas for retrieval practice – checks, questions, games and recall

Make sure your students can actually use the information you've spent all that time putting into their heads with Paul Wright's helpful tips...

  • Four ideas for retrieval practice – checks, questions, games and recall

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. Alternative 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. E.g., ‘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 (i.e. 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 two 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 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 in your 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.

Paul Wright is a teacher of primary and secondary computer science, NQT coordinator, lead coach and trainer; these tips are taken from his book, 100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers: Stretch and Challenge (Bloomsbury Education, £14.99); for more information, visit tips4teaching.co.uk or follow @tips4teachingUK

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