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I’ve written shared a fair amount about retrieval practice (see The Best Resources For Learning About Retrieval Practice) and how I’ve used it in class (see Here’s How I’m Trying To Incorporate More Retrieval Practice In Class – Let Me Know How I Can Improve).

I’ve begun a new strategy to incorporate it in the Long-Term English Language Learner support class I’m teaching this year.

First, as an introduction to the concept and importance of retrieval practice, I used this Read Aloud with the accompanying prompt and asked students just to write paragraph responses using the “They Say, I Say” model” (You can download the Read Aloud here as a student hand-out):


Learning and Remembering

Scientists have discovered that without any reinforcement, information is quickly forgotten—roughly 56 percent in one hour, 66 percent after a day, and 75 percent after six days.*

They have also found that the best kind of reinforcement is called “retrieval practice.”  This means that you are pushed to remember what you learned in one place and in one situation in a different one.  Retrieval practice could be tests and quizzes, using flash cards, or teachers asking students at the end of class to share the most important thing they learned that day.

When you are pushed to “retrieve” that information, it then gets put into what is called long-term memory.

You may or may not think it’s important to remember a lot of what you learn in your classes. 

However, it is important for three reasons:

One, of course, there will be tests in your classes (called “summative”) where you need to use the information you learned to answer questions or do projects way-past six days after you originally learned it.

Secondly, much of what you learn this year will help you do well in future classes you will take here and in college.  If you forget the writing skills you learn in ninth-grade English, you are going to have a lot of problems in tenth-grade English; not remembering what you learn in Geography is going to make your World History class much harder next year.

Thirdly, when we’re young, even though we tend to think we know all the answers, we don’t necessarily know what knowledge will help us in the future.  That doesn’t mean we need to try to remember everything we learn.  It just means that we need to be aware that some things we don’t think are important may be important in the future.  It may not be wise to just dismiss a great deal of information from classes as not very useful to us.


What does this Read Aloud say about the importance of memory and retrieval practice.  Do you agree with it?  Please support your position with examples from the article, other texts you’ve read, and/or your observations and personal experiences.


Here are a few student responses (reprinted with permission):

The Read Aloud says when you learn something, it’s best to remember is so then in the future you may use it.  I agree with it because maybe you need it for a future lesson.  I say that because teachers may ask you something that we learned before.

The Read Aloud says it’s important to study and learn in your classes.  I agree because it may help you in your future classes.  I said this because if you don’t study and learn in your classes, you won’t know anything.

The Read Aloud says about memory that it makes us think in our mind.  I agree because in the future we might the stuff that we learned from the past.  Memory kind of helps us in the future from the past.


After this activity, I explained that we would begin a new routine to apply the idea of retrieval practice.

I gave each student a composition notebook, and said we would have a new warm-up activity.  Every day when students enter the room and get their binders, they would take the notebook out and write eight things they learned in one of their classes during the previous five days.  We would follow their class schedule: On Mondays – English; Tuesdays – Geography; Wednesdays – Math; and Thursdays – Biology.  They would need to write silently for five minutes.  Once they completed writing their sentences, they could draw illustrations on the page representing things they learned.  Then, after five minutes, each student would share what they wrote with a classmate.

I share two models – one with the eight sentences written as bullet points, the other with them written as a paragraph.  I told them they could use either one.

Students than glued the Read Aloud and the examples in their notebook.

So far, it’s gone fairly well.  As it goes on, I’ll “mix it up” a bit.  For example, sometimes I’ll ask students to pick one of the things they learned and write how they think it could be useful to them in the future, or I might ask them to choose the most important item out of the eight and explain why they think it’s the most important.

So, students like it and their content teachers like it.

Please let me know your ideas on how I can improve the activity…