English and Mathematics daily reviews (henceforth titled Daily Review) are quick, snappy sessions of previously taught content that take place within the English and Maths blocks. They can last 15 to 30 minutes and are designed to give students practice on previously taught content. It is best if reviews take place daily, most often at the beginning of the block, before the content of the main lesson is introduced.
Daily Review isn’t typical of how primary teachers conceptualise review. It is not a short ‘what did we learn yesterday’; it is a structured session packed full of content taught yesterday, a week ago, a month ago, or even a year ago. The idea is to cover taught content, often core content for the subject, in 2-3 minute time intervals back-to-back at a rapid pace. Because this style of review is so pacey, it is important new content is not included. Students will need more time to grapple with new ideas.
Anything that has been previously taught can be included in Daily Review, but core content – that which constantly pops up and supports the execution of more complex tasks – is best to include regularly. For example, I always include work on simple, compound and complex sentences with taught conjunctions, for I know practising writing sentences will help students write paragraphs and full compositions. In Mathematics Daily Review, I always include a slide on basic number facts within 20 or 100 as these will support students when they engage in problem-solving tasks. These are examples of core content that supports learning within the subject.
It is best to do Daily Review using mini-whiteboards with strict engagement norms. You should teach your class exactly what they need to do so that the session is smooth. Daily Review loses its magic if the pace is sluggish – students get bored and not enough content gets covered. Students should know things like when and how to put whiteboards down, when to ‘jump in’, and when to show their whiteboard to a teacher. These are called engagement norms.
As for organising the content, it is best to do this in Powerpoint (not completely necessary though). I’ve found that organising the content in Powerpoint slides helps to move through content at a rapid pace while also gaining the benefit of having a central location for the content. Once you have created a slide on a piece of content, you can file it away and simply paste it into the new week’s Daily Review slides when you wish to review it again. That saves time.
Below is a video I STRONGLY recommend viewing alongside this blog. You will gain a much better idea of what Daily Review is all about. Dave skillfully explains and models the pace and engagement norms desired in Daily Review, and provides example slides and how to use them.
The Research Rationale
The rationale for Daily Review requires an understanding of the forgetting curve. Hermann Ebbinghaus was a German psychologist who studied the rate of forgetting by memorising a series of nonwords and testing his recall over time. He found that after committing new learning to memory, we experience a rapid initial loss followed by a further gradual decline in item recall.
The forgetting curve tells us that if the taught content is not revisited, retrieval of the content will diminish rapidly. We, therefore, cannot be certain that what we teach in a single lesson will be retained over time. We can make a safe bet that much of it won’t be.
Although the forgetting curve is a natural process, it can be disrupted. Studies have shown that even reviewing material just once is enough to prolong forgetting. Unfortunately, without further review, this initial boost in recall will quickly be overcome too. The trick is to keep reviewing the content at spaced intervals. An initial review will help in the short-term, but reviewing material multiple times at different intervals will help students retain information for much longer.
Ebbinghaus’s research has serious implications for classroom teachers. Spaced repetition of content is required if the content is going to be retained over an extended period. This is the rationale for Daily Review: it disrupts the forgetting curve and helps to ensure students remember what has previously been taught.
Cognitive Load Theory also rationalises Daily Review. CLT emerged from the work of the cognitive scientist John Sweller in the 80s and 90s. The theory builds on two assumptions. The first is that there is a limit to the amount of new information the brain can process at one time. The second is that there is no known limit to the amount of stored information that can be processed at one time. We can slowly build up knowledge in long term memory in the form of complex schemas that, when developed to automaticity, can be called upon to solve complex problems.
The formation of schemas in long-term memory is important because they work to reduce the load on the highly constrained working memory. If working memory is overloaded, there is a risk that the content being taught will be misinterpreted or completely misunderstood by the learner. The intrinsic load of the content could overwhelm working memory.
Daily Review can help students gain a high level of automaticity which will allow them to call on their knowledge rapidly, freeing up space in working memory. This will help students to solve more complex problems. Suppose a student is asked to compare the personalities of Mr Wormwood and Miss Trunchbull in Roald Dahl’s Matilda. The task requires the student to use the language of comparison and contrast to explain the similarities and nuanced differences between their obnoxious and abusive personalities. If the student has not practised using conjunctions for comparison and contrast such as whereas, although, but, even though and however, then the task may be too difficult. If the student has practised writing compound and complex sentences with these conjunctions during English Daily Review, the task will be easier to complete. The constant practice builds schema in long term memory to the point of automaticity. The knowledge can be called upon to complete a more difficult task; in this case, comparing the personalities of two characters.
Implementing Daily Review will have a positive affective impact on students. This is because Daily Review helps students secure their knowledge to the point of mastery. I believe that disengagement in a subject is born of not knowing enough or not being able to do enough within the subject. Reading a book becomes much more enjoyable once you’ve secured the skills needed to access the phonological pathway, and solving mathematical problems becomes much more exciting when you are familiar with the problem’s deep structure.
Sarah Barker has a fantastic chapter in this book on the affective impact of direct instruction. She comments that review is, “a crucial part of improving confidence and competence” and that “the process of retrieving previous learning is achievable and accessible, and immensely satisfying.” I have seen this in my own classroom. Students are engaged when they can readily respond. On the other hand, not knowing often has the opposite effect.
Daily Review will have a positive impact on the teacher too. It’s great watching your students succeed, but Daily Review will mainly impact the teacher because it allows them to do their job well. Because the kids review so much content, you will be getting a lot of feedback on how they’re going. Noticed 3 strong students have split 21 into 3 parts when asked to find 1/4? Time for further investigation. Noticed students added 3 digit numbers accurately and at lightning speed? Things are going well. The strengths and weaknesses become very obvious when you are receiving info this rapidly every day. This helps you do your job better, and that’s satisfying.