10 ways to embed retrieval practice into your lessons!

I first heard at retrieval practice when I heard the Learning Scientists present a keynote at through the

This was the first occasion, when the idea of evidence informed practice hit home. I felt inspired to read more and embed these ideas to make them common practice within my teaching. The three ideas from which I wanted to explore further were retrieval, interleaving and spaced practice.

This will be a short blog on some ideas on how I have and how you could easily plan for some retrieval in your next lesson. Retrieval, is just another way of saying ‘recalling some information’ however it is important students are allowed to think before they look anything up. I believe it is all about making this explicit in the classroom and that is our jobs as teachers. If you inform students what you are doing, it can only benefit them to understand the lesson and in terms of their personal revision at a later date. Like I have alluded to, teachers all for retrieval every lesson, but this not always planned for and at times may lack quality due to it lacking priority and being rushed.

Here are 10 ideas you could use tomorrow. [I stake no claim for these ideas, they are all ones I have used but most have been picked up and modified from other teachers and tweetchers.

1) Low stake assessment/multiple choice starter questions: This is simple to implement and the questions can be saved and used again and again (if answered poorly with the same class even). There are lots of ways of doing this but normally 4 to 9 questions that include questions on the prior lesson, previous topic and past topics. The last question could also be on a future topic, that way you can see progress and even allow it to inform your future planning. Students are trained to enter my lesson and to complete these questions in their BoBs (back of books)


2) Creating flashcards and mindmaps and allowing for students to revisit this information and self test each other.

3) Knowledge organisers and self quizzing. Everyone seems to be on the knowledge organiser trail at the minute. I use them in a couple of different ways. Using a knowledge organiser for self quizzing. A great example can be found here:

I have lots of science knowledge organisers on my TES resources – free to download.

4) Use of plickers. Plickers is a great formative assessment tool. I have blogged about how I have used this in further detail here:

5) Deep questioning. I am a big believer that we must constantly make links and ‘bridges’ between what we are currently learning and previous topics [and subjects]. As a science teacher there are lots of links and bridges between topics and I question students to make them think about these and make them explicit and the forefront of learning. I also have a cross curricular grid on my wall, this a small table like the one below – if a student can make a solid, educational link between what we are learning and another subject that subject is then crossed off. This can be played a little like bingo.

Biology Chemistry Physics
English Maths History
Geography Drama Food Tech

6) Knowledge rally: students are told a previous topic or theme and have to jot down in a group everything they remember about it. Groups can then join together and add to each others lists. A great why to incorporate self and peer assessment and of course the outcomes can inform future planning.

7) Lots of past paper questions either as a starter or embedded in the lesson.

8) Homelearning. I make sure my home learning for KS4 is always mostly past paper questions. These questions are often on topics studied in previous months and years. These can then self marked, I can take in scores and students can store in assessment folders.

9) Read and write: This is reading some text, covering it and then simply using your brain to rewrite it (in your own words). Revisit the text to check for misconceptions and repeat. Try and move away from copying all the time.

10) Student led: Get students to write their own questions on previous topics and to quiz each other.

I hope there is at least one idea you can take away here and use in your lessons. If you have used any more please let me know and I will add to the list (or create another 10).

Thanks for reading,


9 thoughts on “10 ways to embed retrieval practice into your lessons!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s