Revisiting old posts: The importance of Do it Now tasks in aiding short-term and long-term recall and retention.


Last year, our then deputy, Michael Goves, introduced a lesson framework to the academy for teaching that consisted of a Do it now, the imparting of new knowledge, pen to paper practice and then a reflection.

Having read Andy Tharby’s brilliant blog ‘Memory Platforms’, the English Department had already begun to use quick-fire comprehension questions at the start of lessons to test pupils’ recall.

Yesterday, the incredible Jo Facer blogged about her use of Do it nows as a retention tool but also as an opportunity to continue to address key concepts pupils have struggled with.

Having used Do it nows in this way, there is definitely some benefit to this in terms of aiding pupils’ retention and recall and enhancing their understanding of texts. However, I have come to realise that there are other aspects that we need pupils to recall as well.

Therefore, from September as we re-draft our booklets, we will use comprehension quick-fire questions to test our pupils’ short term recall of texts they are currently studying and focus on quotation retention (pupils will have studied these as part of their homework programme) and planning grids (original idea by Laura Lolder) to aid pupils’ long term recall of the texts they have previously studied and prepare them for the skills required in the examination.

Quotation recall is needed in order to access the top band and a member of #teamenglish did a statistical analysis of her results last year that revealed the more quotations embedded within the response, the higher the eventual outcome.  I’ve found that pupils who learn their quotations through Quizlet also develop their ability to retrieve key details of the narrative.  Therefore, whilst this year we have used these alongside recap questions, for me, the recap questions have become somewhat redundant.

Instead, I’ve begun to use more planning grids.  These are exceptional resources in helping pupils to gain more confidence in their approach to part (b) questions, the Modern Drama text and the poetry response.  Using these to ensure pupils can recall examples (and then quotations) has meant pupils are continually thinking about texts previously studied and developing their ideas.

Here is an example of what this might look like:Macbeth retention

Retention of ACC and BB

At the moment I have recap questions, quotation retention and planning grids pencilled in at the start of every lesson. This might be slightly too ambitious so may look to flip between quotation and planning grids every other lesson.

In addition, I loved the idea presented during Claire Hill and Rebecca Foster’s session at yesterday’s Research Ed in ensuring the comprehension questions tagged into the different AOs being tested so am going to redraft ours. I think this is a brilliant idea and a brilliant method in not only ensuring retention of texts but also maintaining a focus on the different AOs and enabling pupils to have the practice they need with this.


As ever, a work in progress.


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