Are you ready to try something that requires ZERO preparation in your classroom, something that scientific studies have shown will help your students to retain information? It’s called, “Retrieval Practice,” and you can read a fascinating article about it on Cult of Pedagogy, or listen to the podcast also linked on that page. Dr. Pooja Agarwal explains how retrieval practice works and its benefits. You can also go to Dr. Agarwal’s website for more resources here.
Here’s the thing: you’re probably already doing retrieval practice in your classroom. Quizzes, flashcards, study guides, etc… are all ways we ask students to remember something they learned. One problem is that we are usually using these as assessments (retrieval practice should never be graded, but feedback is good) instead of learning strategies. Another issue is that we are often “feeding” students the information instead of asking them to produce it. Also, we don’t do enough of it in spaced out intervals to help solidify the learning.
Here is the key reason effective retrieval practice works, according to the Retrieval Practice Guide which you can download from Dr. Agarwal’s site: “Struggling to learn – through the act of ‘practicing’ what you know and recalling information – is much more effective than re-reading, taking notes, or listening to lectures. Slower, effortful retrieval leads to long-term learning. In contrast, fast, easy strategies only lead to short-term learning.”
So, today I wanted to share one Visible Thinking Routine that will help you to do retrieval practice. It’s called the +1 Routine, and appears in The Power of Making Thinking Visible, by Ron Ritchhart and Mark Church.
Next time you are showing a video, giving a presentation, or just delivering a lesson, refrain from asking the students to take notes during that time. Instead, ask your students to do the following steps afterward. All they need is a blank piece of paper (or notebook page) and a writing utensil. Have them write their name at the top.
This routine has several benefits. First, students are encouraged to be present during the video, lesson, etc… instead of trying to multi-task by listening and writing at the same time. Second, this is a “slower” and “more effortful” way to recall information, so it has a better chance of ending up in their long-term memory. Third, they are collaborating, so they can take advantage of the “hive mind.” And finally, this is an opportunity to clear up misconceptions.
You can use this as an exit ticket (no grade, though) after the lesson, but it’s also important to space it out, repeating the exercise a few times over the next month or so leading to a summative assessment.
I recently tried this routine at a teacher workshop, and several teachers said they plan to use it with their own students. (By the way, sketch notes are encouraged, which really appeals to some of the creative students.) We giggled (in a nice, supportive way — let’s just say that I introduced the SDG’s, not STD’s) at some of the misconceptions, and it was such a great way, that took 15 minutes max, to close out the session.
For more on Visible Thinking Routines, I highly encourage you to purchase The Power of Making Thinking Visible, visit the Toolbox from Harvard’s Project Zero, and/or visit my Wakelet Collection of other blog posts and free templates.