I didn’t use to start lessons with quizzes. During my PGCE I had been taught to make lessons varied and engaging; I’m sure most of us are taught the same. I had a set of one hundred powerpoint slides detailing various different, interesting and ‘active’ (whatever that means) starters. One of them was ‘If last lesson was a material (wood/cotton/lead), what material would it be?’
When, as a result of reading a blog, I trialled using quizzes regularly in lessons, some advantages were clear. I’ve seen them noted in various blogs and tweets: it saves time, students don’t actually find the quizzes boring, etc. I’ve also noticed compiling the quizzes makes me realise how much/little content I have taught in the preceding week/month/term. Sometimes I found I could easily ask twenty questions, other times I barely had fifteen.
However, one of the things that I haven’t seen mentioned, that was really the case for me, was that I noticed how little students retained things over days and weeks. For literally years I have taught lessons on, say, the context of Macbeth, marked students’ books, and thought, ‘yes, they have now learnt that’. Now that I quiz regularly, it’s abundantly clear just how many repetitions of material it takes for some things to sink in and stay in*. I explicitly teach vocabulary, and a couple of times I’ve thought to myself in amazement, ‘I explained that at the beginning of the week, and you’ve been tested on it four times. How can you not remember what ‘ecstatic’ means?!’
A good example, perhaps, of how important feedback is from students to teachers, rather than the other way round.