10 ways to get students to remember more

Elena Diaz
Elena Díaz is an experienced Head of MFL, Research Lead, Associate Consultant and a Specialist Leader in Education who has held a variety of pastoral and academic positions in schools across the Northeast. She is an author and presenter and has worked with Pixl, Seneca Learning, Quizlet and the Association of Language Learning. She currently works full time at the NELT Bedlington Academy in Northumberland and acts as an Associate Consultant for Durham Education. 
 
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You're all busy people, so this is a quick summary of the techniques I use to get my students to remember more of what they know. The reason why they work so well is, I believe, because I use them all, all the time. 

1. Connect and smart consolidate

Connect

As students come into the room, there are 6 words on the board for them to translate into or from English. 2 of the words are from last term, 2 from last week, 2 from last lesson. No books allowed. 

Why they work:

  • The task is exactly the same every lesson, so I don’t have to spend time explaining what to do.  
  • They take seconds to mark. 
  • They are valuable low-stakes testing.
  • Words can be selected to prepare students for the lesson as well as to remind them of previous words.

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Consolidate

I finish the lesson 5 minutes before bell and on the board there are key words or sentences that test students on what has been learnt in the lesson. No books allowed.

What’s good about them:

  • They show students what they key learning of that lesson was. 
  • They make students revisit the information and therefore they aid recall. 
  • They tell me how well students remember the learning.
  • They show students they have made progress.
  • They give students a sense of achievement. 

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 2. Objectives slide

At the beginning of every lesson, I show students the objectives for the entire module. I talk them through what we have done and what we will be doing in future, with quick examples. There are many benefits to this, but memory is one of the main ones. 

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3. Objective recap

Before introducing new content, I go back through all previous objectives from the module. 

For every objective I have a visual from the lesson where we learnt it. This visual has all the key language. 

Students spend 30 seconds on each objective, testing each other in TL on words from the visual. They are taught to choose words that will challenge their partners.

4. Making connections sentences

Either after each previous objective or after all of them, students translate making connections sentences. There are always two of them. The first one is taken directly from the objective’s visual. The second one uses the objective’s grammar point in a context studied earlier in the year. 

This acts as a useful reminder but crucially, it teaches students that grammar is transferable across topics. 

   

5. Cumulative key tasks every 4-6 lessons

These are key assessed pieces that the whole department complete. As the module progresses, they include elements from all units. This example is from Key Task 4, which assesses knowledge from all units in the module. 

Additionally, students are marked on the same 20 points of grammar every time they complete an assessment or a key task. 

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6. Vocab tests with every key task and assessment

Every key task or assessment comes with a 20-word vocab test, containing words from all modules studied so far. 

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7. Cumulative Quizlet vocab lists

In order to prepare students for their vocab tests, I have created Quizlet vocabulary lists that include all vocab learnt so far, but no future vocab. Students are asked to spend 5 or ten minutes a day studying this vocab, independently of their homework.

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8. Throwback homework

This is simply homework tasks belonging to previous topics. 

9. Repetition activities for the classroom

Self-explanatory, really. These are my favourite 5:

Guessing game

  • Partner A thinks of a sentence from a sentence builder. 
  • Partner B guesses the sentence with 2 rules.
    • They can only guess one column at a time
    • Whether they get the guess right or wrong, they will have to start their next guess from the beginning of the sentence 

X Factor

  • Partner A is the judge.
  • Partner B has to say a sentence from a complex sentence builder without looking at the board/sheet.  
  • Partner A says NO (or makes a buzzer sound) every time partner B makes any mistake. 
  • Partner B can peek before trying again but must always start from the beginning. 

Sentence chaos

  • Partner A says a phrase from the board (chosen randomly).
  • Partner B repeats that phrase and adds one.
  • Partner A repeats all sentences said so far and adds another one, etc.  

Cumulative translation

  • Partner A is a referee and has the answers. 
  • Partner B translates sentence one. If they get it right, they move on. If they get it wrong, they lose their turn and Partner C has a go. 
  • Students always have to go back to sentence 1. 

Use Insert – SmartArt on Word to get this editable template. 

Disappearing sentence

  • A complex sentence is on the board. Students read it out loud. 
  • A word turns into a gap. Students read the whole sentence out loud. 
  • Another word turns into a gap. Students read the sentence, and so on. 

This can be differentiated by showing the English version of the sentence.  

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10. Online self-testing

Quizlet, Memrise and other similar testing apps are great for memory and can be used in a variety of ways. 

Multiple choice 

I love using the Learn option of Quizlet, answers in Spanish and only multiple choice. Students respond to this quiz by writing a number from 1-4 on scrap paper. 

Sentence translation

I also make Quizlet vocab lists with whole sentences and ask students to go on the write option, answers in Spanish. The aim is to keep going until they get all the sentences perfectly right. This works particularly well if the sentences are complex and few. 

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