I recently attended some training about helping children to remember more which got me thinking about how to embed everyday routines in my classroom in a more efficient way.
The slogan during the pandemic - Hands-Face-Space was a clever way of prompting people to remember key information that could help to keep them safe. Behind those three words was quite a lot of information:
Hands : Wash your hands for at least twenty seconds, Use soap. Wash both sides of your hands including in between your fingers. Wash your hands regularly during the day etc
Face : Cover your face with a face mask when you are in a shop, on public transport. Make sure the mask is washed/replaced regularly. Make sure the mask covers your mouth and nose.
Space - Stay 2m apart from others in public, at work, in school. Then all the scientific reasoning behind this which I can't remember.
As we had already been told all of this information, the quick prompt of those three words helped to trigger the recall of it in an efficient way. I feel it is important to emphasise (particularly if we are thinking about the use of this strategy in a classroom context) that the information must be carefully taught for the use of the three word prompt to become effective.
Having thought about this for a while, I considered how I could use this strategy to embed routines in my classroom. I had already spent considerable time at the start of the year training the children in the key routines I wanted to deploy in my classroom so the teaching of the information part was shorter than it would otherwise have been.
I decided to focus on the lining up routine. I chose this because in primary schools, children line up for all sorts of reasons : going out to play, assembly, going into the dinner hall, going swimming, going out to PE etc etc. Firstly, we reviewed the expectations for lining up (the key information behind the prompt words). Next, we practised the routine. Then I explained each of the three prompt words I was going to use to remind them of my expectations if it became necessary. Finally, periodically, I will ask the children to explain the information behind one or more of the prompt words to check they have retrieved it effectively. This approach has been very successful so I am going to widen it to other routines. I have an excellent trainee working with me at the moment and one of the targets she has identified for herself is to improve her classroom management. Therefore, we are going to build our prompt words for other routines together.
Remembering Key Knowledge
This year, I have been fortunate to lead some staff development around retrieval practice. I was inspired last summer having read the excellent books written by Kate Jones (@KateJones_teach). Her books demonstrate the power of retrieval practice and the research evidence behind it. I won't try to go into that here as Kate does it a million times better than I ever could.
Anyway, at school, we have implemented some retrieval practice strategies successfully. I wondered whether the idea of using three prompt words could be a useful way to help children retrieve key knowledge. Obviously, the knowledge would have to be effectively taught in the first place. Maybe then it would be possible to distill that key knowledge into three 'trigger or prompt' words that would enable the children to retrieve the knowledge at a later date. This idea is very much at the thinking stage for me but I intend to give it a try next term. A question I have about it is whether it would be better for me, the teacher, to decide what the prompt words should be or whether it would be better to build them with the children. We could even display them on the display for that topic. I will update this post once I've tried it. Thanks for reading my ramblings.
All the best