Step 5: Repetition

Quick recap

We presented our Six Steps for Outstanding Learning, which draws on a substantial body of evidence.

We looked at Step 1: Prior Knowledge, where we need to activate our students’ prior knowledge on a topic so that they can make links with new learning.

In Step 2: Present, we talked about presenting new material in a way that engages our students’ brains in the most effective way.

Next we looked at Step 3: Challenge. After presenting the material, we need to give our students a challenging task to reinforce the new learning.

Then came Step 4: Feedback. It’s vital to give effective feedback for the challenging task and to make sure our students respond to the feedback in some way.

Now we’re on Step 5: Repetition.

Some students will have forgotten the new learning by the following week, even after following the above steps, and even when they seem to have grasped it at the time.

This is because new learning has to be repeated and reinforced for it to be truly remembered and understood. Memories form as links between nerve cells in the brain, which form when the pathway is used several times.

An image of a group of students chatting

Repetition is essential to secure the new learning as long-term memories.

The repetitions are tasks which use the new learning, rather than repetitions of the teaching.

The idea is that effective repetitions secure the learning so that no repetition of the teaching is needed. It’s worth investing the time into this process, rather than having to teaching the content again when the students revise the topic.

Step 5: Repetition is essential for all students, regardless of their ability or age. It can sometimes seem like some students have a better memory than others. This is most likely because some students naturally do their own reflection process, maybe on the bus home or when they chat with their friends. Other students don’t do this automatically and so they need more prompting and support to do the repetitions.

An image of people on a bus

There are lots of ways to do Step 5: Repetition.

These include:

  • Spaced practice.
  • Quizzes, questioning, and plenary.
  • Homework.
  • Social media.
  • Guided practice.

In this section we will have a look at these methods and how to use them in the classroom.

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Long-term memories