Retrieval Practice – 10 ideas in 10 minutes


We all know that retrieval is vital > Ebbinghaus proved it. Research at Kent State Uni in Ohio proved it. Below are a few practical ideas as to how we might build recall and retrieval activities into our daily practise.

1.  Gimme 5

Students draw around their own hand and then add ideas- one per finger on a topic of your choice. Zero resourcing beyond a pencil and a hand.

2.  Mystery object table

This is the ideas of exemplifying aspects of your course in random objects. Students work in pairs – one leaves the room briefly whilst the other half of the pair attempt to memorize the objects (previously hidden beneath a cloth). Once the others return they can have a conversation about what the mystery objects were. Once some teaching has occurred, students can then return to the objects and assign meaning to them.

3.  Three chairs

Best used for lessons where students need to organise aspects of a narrative into chronological order. Distribute cards to students, each card contains an aspect of the story – ask three students to come to the front and sit on one of three chairs in chronological order. Other students can then be questioned about the events being shown.

4.  Find someone who

This is worksheet based. The worksheet uses an idea from DR Spencer Kagan to encourage discussion and collaboration. The worksheet contains questions, the answers to which they must find by having a conversation with their class mates – one conversation per question – with students collecting signatures.

Find someone who

5.  Queue challenge

For this you need two whiteboards. Organise students into two queues; one facing each whiteboard. Set a recall topic and a (short) time limit. The first student in each clue writes a piece of factual knowledge onto their whiteboard, hands the pen to the next person and joins the back of the queue. Can be done to music.

6.  Odd one out

Another worksheet based one. Each row contains three facts or events- two of these must be related. Students circle the odd-one-out and then write an explanation of why.

Odd One Out

7.  Tabard challenge

Cut a tabard out of a piece of sugar paper. Write an event, topic or concept onto the tabard. Encourage students to take one the mantle of the expert – wear the tabard and talk to the class, showing off their knowledge.

8.  Summarise in six

Based on the idea of six word stories. Example – the Death of Suffragette Emily Davison at the 1913 Epsom Derby = Emily wants vote. Horse says no.

9.  Camp fire

A way of using lolly sticks that doesn’t involve writing students names on them for “random” question asking (Yuck! Good questioning is based on us knowing our students). This is best used for small groups. Students sit around a “camp fire” (box/bin) and are given a number of lolly sticks. They dispose of them into the “camp fire” by answering a question!

10.  Your turn

This requires some timer tools (available via the staff drive). Students work in pairs and are asked to take turns discussing a topic. Each person speaks for 15 seconds and then they switch roles with the second person trying to continue where their partner left off. Continue until the topic is covered. The timer tools will give you a visual countdown.

Neil Bates


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