Ramblings from the Classroom – Creating Review/Recall points

This term I am going to be thinking hard about learning and how we can make it stick. The first part of this has been a review of my practice throughout a topic. We roughly work in two week blocks and then have a short assessment at the end to see how the student have performed. I am clear that this is performance and not learning as I am finding that some of the concepts I have taught and assessed in that two week window can then be forgotten about in another two weeks.

After reflecting over the christmas break I know at times I can just bash through content and not give students mini milestones to reflect on the methods they have learnt. I have previously tried doing this by creating ‘consolidate’ sections of lessons where they should be delivered at the end of the lesson reviewing that topic. The amount of times I managed to deliver this was though minimal as i’d always want to give the student more time on an exercise or after packing away had not given it the time it required.

Instead I have now created 4 key questions which I want to cover in that two week topic. It’s excel based so I’m building these examples over time and then can re-use with other years.

At the started of the topic the student treasury tag this single sheet into their books and then will complete the steps and notes when we’ve reached a point in the following lesson where I feel they had grasped it the lesson before. I have changed this from my original routine which would be to put a single example on the board which we worked through in the same lesson. Again i’m testing by leaving it a lesson whether they are able to recall the method and more importantly generalise it with written notes. I’ve taken a couple of snapshots of the board work I do when completing an example. The first picture I work through after around a minute so students can check that their method is correct and then the second comes after around another minute where I write my notes. I emphasise that the notes I write need to make sense to me and they are encouraged by my repeated reassurance that the notes they write are for themselves to be able to solve questions and no one else.

I have found myself already putting these note taking episodes in at the right time in lessons instead of planning a slide where I try to predict when I think they should be used.

The other tweak to my practice this week has been to seperate the recall activity we complete at the start of a lesson from my classroom slides. This has actually had more impact than I expected. Initially I made this change because I was repeatedly typing up (4 questions x 4 lessons x 4 classes) 64 questions and answers each weekend to use for these activities and I knew the amount I was repeating across different classes in different weeks was inefficient. So i’ve now placed them in excel on a central question bank and then I write in a little code which then populates the questions. The answers are hidden then revealed in a different colour.

This is a snippet of the question bank i’m slowly building with difficulty levels

This is the interface where I put in the code for each of the 4 questions

This is the output that the students see and they focus on the top 4 questions

Then the answers are revealed in lesson so the students can assess them quickly and I complete a quick show of hands on each questions and review 1 to 2 questions time dependent as I do not want this section of the lesson to dominate.

The biggest impact of this which was unexpected was now its disconnected on an excel sheet I now display this at the start of the lesson and then pick up naturally where the last lesson finished off. Previously I would have planned the 4 lessons for the week and tried to predict each of my four lessons as neat one hour topics which in practice never happens!

Hope the first week back has been a good one.

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