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Retrieval at Rodmersham 

Retrieval describes the process of bringing something to the front of your mind, from your long-term memory into your working memory for active processing. Imagine racking your brain, trying to remember the answer to a question that you are sure you know. It is this process of thinking hard to try and recall information that strengthens memory and learning. In the classroom, retrieval practice most commonly takes the form of low-stakes testing as a way to review previously learned material. If we do this regularly, we can effectively interrupt the process of forgetting.

At Rodmersham we have been working on various strategies to support children's memories and enhancing their ability to remember current and previous knowledge; thus helping them to make links in their learning.  We have been on a journey of discovery for about a year now, exploring the most effective ways for children to retrieve information. Here are some of the ways we have found successful:

1.  We have been working with the research from Kate Jones.  She is well known in the education sector as a guru of everything retrieval!  She has recently produced a video for parents which you can access here:

2.    Plickers - We are using Plickers really effectively to support retrieval, the children love it as it is anonymous and therefore no one needs to be worried or concerned if the answer they share is wrong.  Although the teacher knows and can then support that student, it is a non judgemental way of assessing what the children are remembering.  You can find out more about Plickers here:


3.  Colour Semantics - Colourful semantics is an approach to support spoken and written language learning across the curriculum, and it is also a common approach used in speech therapy. It aims to help children develop skills when it comes to sentence development, understanding questions, developing narrative, understanding written text and developing vocabulary. Colourful semantics are often used to support children with speech and language difficulties, however we have discovered that as a such a visual tool, it has enabled us to work with the whole class to support retrieval and assessment.

The teachers have been working with the colour semantic tools in various ways, for example in Year 4 they have been using them as a display tool with the children's work.  Under the headings, appropriately coloured, the children's work is then used as an example to stress a retrieval aspect.  In Year 1, they are using colour semantics as an interactive knowledge organiser, in Years 4 and 5 it is being used as a tool to truly focus on what the children are expected to learn at the end of a block or topic and Year 6 are using it as a tool for independent learning.

Year 3 and Year R are also trialling colour semantics in their questioning techniques.  

Using Colour Semantics in this way across the school has been highly inclusive and accessible for all and the idea for this has evolved, working in collaboration, from an idea from Barham Primary School in Kent.


Here are some examples from our Year 1 Class. Their 'bagel' work shows what they have remembered whilst the teacher scribed and for their homework they were asked to use the colourful semantics colours to retrieve what they had learnt about the Gunpowder Plot.


4.  Learning Journeys and Anchor charts - We decided at the beginning of the year that our display boards should be more purposeful and we decided to create learning journeys to support retrieval practice.  On the board, you have the opportunity to record prior learning as-well as new learning, thus creating meaningful discussions and igniting and embedding knowledge in our memories.  Some teachers are now trialling anchor charts as a tool to support learning.  We are currently in the early stages of seeing how effective they are being but teachers using them currently feedback that they are been highly effective as a focused tool to support learning and retrieval.  An anchor chart is an artefact of classroom learning.  Like an anchor, it holds students' and teachers' thoughts, ideas and processes in place. Anchor charts can be displayed as reminders of prior learning and built upon over multiple lessons.  Children are able to focus on the information they are responsible for learning, and prepare themselves to increase comprehension. Previewing the lesson levels the playing field by providing all students, regardless of prior knowledge or background, with fore knowledge of the read-aloud vocabulary.

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