Structured revision lessons using retrieval, spacing & interleaving


The problem with many revision classes is that many teachers think that students can suddenly self organise and self motivate. This is rarely the case. Last year I trialled a revision lesson structure and blogged on it here- Using research to design a revision session. The feedback from students was positive and I believe these had impact on their final weeks of learning before the exams. We use it for every lesson now and they can also use the structure for their own revision sessions. It’s based on cognitive science principles of retrieval, spacing and interleaving.

However, I wanted to improve the structure further this year. Here is the new structure:


Over the series of lessons, each topic is covered a minimum of 3 times. First it is in a review, then next lesson that topic is the exam question and the lesson after it it the marking task. This is the spacing as determined by when I see them. So it might be 1 day, 3 days or 3 days, 1 week.

The students have already completed a survey telling me which topics they are confident in or not. An analysis of these highlights to me which topics most students need to cover in the remaining lessons.

I then went through the structure with them to explain how it works and why I’ve interleaved the topics. Each colour represents a different ‘topic’ within the spec. So in one lesson they can be covering up to 5 topics, depending on which they give me for ‘Challenge Miss Cox’. This is the interleaving; one lesson isn’t one topic but up to 5 topics.

Each section has a purpose:

  • Exam question – retrieve from memory, exam timing, exam question structure
  • Marking last question – retrieve from memory, application of mark scheme, empathy for markers (reading other people’s handwriting, unclear wording, unclear format etc)
  • Review of content – subject knowledge, deliberate repetition and conscious effort to remember
  • Transform – retrieve from content review, change format of info e.g. dual coding
  • Quotes quiz – retrieve, repetition
  • Challenge Miss Cox – ‘perfect’ exam question structure, exam timing, meta cognition as I explain

For the transform section, I go through this PowerPoint with them. It’s up to them how they transform, but it absolutely isn’t a folding or colouring session.

This year I have added two more features. I initially added the ‘Challenge Miss Cox’ section as there are still some students that aren’t structuring their answers in a manner that makes their work clear to the examiner. I’ve done this a couple of times now but need suggestions of what they can do whilst I’m doing it. They could write it out but they will have done lots of writing in the lesson and I’d rather they watch me but some can’t concentrate for 6 minutes without nattering. Suggestions welcomed.

After this, I realised that they need more support with some Islamic quotes so I put in the quiz. It will be the same quizzes repeated over and over. They will be fill in the gaps exercises maybe mixed between paper and quizlet. This puts less pressure on them remembering the whole thing when I’ve asked them to retrieve a lot already in the session.

Before they leave in the summer, I will ask them to review the process so I can tweak for next year.

Homework continues to be online multiple choice quizzes – example.


10 thoughts on “Structured revision lessons using retrieval, spacing & interleaving

  1. This is brilliant! Quick question: what type of thing do you do in the review section? Is this going through a powerpoint or doing a worksheet or something more active?


  2. Thank you for this. I really liked the idea of the timed question under the visualiser, as you say maintaining focus at the end of the lesson would be the main issue. Great modelling. My subject is Science and I can see this being very powerful

  3. This is a brilliant structure for revision – thank you so much for sharing!

    Could you get them to mark your answer as you write it? Or perhaps to write notes on your thought process, which they could then turn into 3-2-1 top tip/thing they’ll do next time they write a response? Or if you want them more focussed on watching/listening to you maybe you could create a game whereby they have to count how many times you say a particular word?

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