Stop teaching them new things.

I remember, when doing my PGCE year, a friend recounting how she had been asked a question in a job interview and been fairly sure she’d given the ‘right answer’.  The question was, ‘What do you consider to be a good lesson?’ and the answer,  ‘A lesson where every child makes Outstanding/outstanding progress’.  I don’t know how many people think this, but I’m sure it’s most people’s perception of what Ofsted think.  Children go in not knowing how to calculate volume, leave knowing how to calculate volume = Outstanding lesson.  Students go in not knowing how to draw in a cubist style, leave knowing how to draw in a cubist style = Outsanding lesson.
However, this is wrong.  If you never revisit any material, students will forget it.  If you teach one new thing every lesson for a year, every lesson might well have been Outstanding.  But loads and loads of the material will have been lost/forgotten.  If you haven’t heard of Ebbinghaus’s Forgetting Curve, here it is.  If you go to football training, how often do you learn a new way to kick the ball?  Almost never.  What you do is practice all the ways of kicking the balk you already know, so you get better at them and they become unconscious and embedded in your long term memory.
Really, this is good news for teachers, because you don’t have to wrack your brains trying to think of some new thing for every lesson every day.  Teach students one thing.  Practice it for the rest of the week.  Do something new the week after that.  The week after that, go back to the first thing (this is called interleaving and you can read about it here).  Chances are a lot of students will have forgotten it one week later.  Dylan Williams has defined learning as a change in long term memory.  So if you teach a fantastic lesson on anaerobic respiration, and a month or so later none of your kids can tell you what anaerobic respiration is, teach them it again.  Less planning for you and more learning for them.

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