Reflecting on Rosenshine…

Rosenshine Principle 1 and 7: daily, weekly and monthly recap.

Our school Teaching and Learning focus has been on exploring the Rosenshine principles. In essence, Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction are simply the elements that constitute great teaching.  And yet, the daily, weekly and monthly recap actually feel so much more fundamental in supporting our pupils’ learning and ensuring that what is learnt is retained.

Daily review of learning

On the most simplest of levels, a daily recap consists of a series of questions that recap previous learning.  Every single one of my lessons, regardless of the age of the student, begins with 5 questions of recap.

Retention 1

It is my staple and I have to say I am not much more adventurous than that.  However, as a further retention tool in KS4 and KS5, I use Quizlet to support my pupils in learning key quotations for our closed book examinations.  Whilst there is some debate surrounding the need to do this, I believe if we want our pupils to attain highly, it is an essential part of the process. Quizlet is a fantastic tool for this offering a range of different strategies to help pupils retain the key quotations: flashcards, gap filling, match activities, a gravity game and finally a test to measure progress.

Last week I tested my KS5 students on their learning of the key quotations from Chapter 1.  Such is the success of Quizlet in supporting retention, the majority of the class scored 13-15 out of 15.  However, as I collected in the marks, I also asked students for the questions they got wrong.

Retention 2

Knowing this information means that during the week I can embed these quotations amongst my 5 recap questions to help address the learning gaps.  And, of course, in addition, when students move on to the testing for Chapter 2, the more challenging quotations that pupils have struggled to retain from Chapter 1 will also be incorporated until the mastery rate is greater.

As always I was keen to see what other teachers in other departments were doing in terms of retention.  Our Head of MFL also uses the 5 recap questions at the start of a lesson.  But, in addition, he shared a typical recall activity in which he asked pupils to recall a colour, symbol and image from within the narrative as a way into a lesson revising the key themes. One area that I could improve my practice is by varying the recap activities that I do.  I think Kate Jones (@87history) is particularly helpful in offering a range of recap activities and I would highly recommend her book entitled ‘Retrieval Practice’ for this.

Retention 3Retention 4

Why include recap activities?

Most teachers have now heard of the Forgetting Curve by Ebbinghaus and the stark reality that after 20 minutes, pupils will have forgotten nearly 50% of what we have taught them.  What we are doing then, when we ask these recap questions, is hoping to reduce that forgetting curve so that our pupils remember more. And yet, whilst this research is now fairly familiar to me, what I haven’t done up until this year is share the research with my classes which seems foolish in retrospect.  As a result, this year, I have spoken to both my y7 class and my y12 class about the rationale behind the recap questions at the start of each lesson and the use of quizlet. If you were to ask my year 7s why every lesson begins with recap questions, they would tell you confidently that it is to help them remember – they too now understand the importance of what we are doing.

Retention 5Retention 6

Daily, weekly and monthly recap

Thinking about weekly and monthly reviews is something that I haven’t yet embedded fully.  One of my Science colleagues has though using the approach outlined in Memory Platforms by Andy Tharby.  In doing so, her questioning asks pupils to recall learning from last lesson, last week, the last topic and last year.

Retention 7

Whilst reflecting upon this, I got to thinking about my questioning at the start of my lessons and their quality, which I realized was variable.  My realization being that whilst questions 2-5 are useful in terms of linking the lesson before to the lesson about to take place (which is important and has its place), in actual fact, only question one is really valuable for my students.  Valuable in that it is a powerful piece of knowledge that I want my pupils to carry forward.  Whilst questions on the novel have an important role to play and there will be some important aspects of learning that stem from the novel (key concepts potentially), a lot of the knowledge my questions are targeting are only needed in the short term. I then realized also that question 1 had been repeated across a number of lessons – something I had done unconsciously – but because I really want my pupils to clearly understand the answer as I know it will be so useful to them in the future.  This got me thinking about the questions I use in the future and the balance between questions that are valuable for long term retention and the questions used to bridge learning along with their frequency of use as part of the do it now task.

Of course, this also ties in with the work of John Sweller and Cognitive Load Theory knowing full well that our pupils can only hold 3-4 bits of new information at any one time.  It is for this reason that we need to be absolutely clear within our subjects about what information we want to transfer from our working memory into our long term store and the impact on this in terms of our review at the start of the lesson. This is further supported by the work of Engelmann, the creator of the Explicit Direct Instruction programme, who suggests that lessons need to be made up of 80% of material that is being revisited, revised and practised and 20% of new content. The weight of these questions ever increasing in their value.

Consequently, as we re-draft our KS3 curriculum and work to strengthen our KS4 curriculum, I have been reflecting upon the questions we need to ask that have real value for our pupils as they progress through the year groups – looking at each year group in turn is essential I feel.  This is not something new but reflective of where we are at as a department.

In fact, the same science colleague shared how she approaches this.  For each unit of teaching, she has created a bank of valuable questions that she wants pupils to know the answers too. Whilst I haven’t spoken with my colleague at length about this, I would presume that these questions then feature routinely as part of the recap questions at the start of the lesson but also function as a self-quizzing tool to aid retention. 

Retention 8

In our next department meeting and INSET day, we are going to consider this with regard to our KS4 programme. I have recently re-drafted our KS4 Long Term Plan to ensure that poetry and non-fiction are interwoven with our core literary units. Each term we teach 4-5 different poems and 4-5 different non-fiction texts.  To ensure this learning is not lost, we need to, as a department, consider what our pupils really need to know about these texts (the powerful knowledge) and ensure our questioning targets that knowledge.  For example, pupils’ understanding of the perspectives and ideas in the non-fiction texts is absolutely key.

Once this has been established we will create a retention booklet with a bank of questions, like the one above from the science department, which teachers can use as and when they deem appropriate with their classes.


  This is pretty simplistic work but a. reflects where we are in our journey and b. moves Rosenshine from being something that we pay attention to in our lessons to a way of learning that has been considered strategically at the curriculum level.  As we grow curriculum here, this thinking will become ever more important and it is really important that the whole department is involved in this process as a result.


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