Welcome to our guidance page on Retrieval Practice and Knowledge Organisers
Knowledge Organisers (KO) are information sheets with core knowledge about the topics for that half term from each subject. The KO are provided at the start of the half term meaning is it always available during the half term - enabling students to learn it and go back to it to help with their understanding.
The school places importance on students acquiring and remembering lots of knowledge. In part this is because reformed GCSE and A Levels expect students to have lots of knowledge and understanding but also because knowledge is sticky and to understand complex ideas you need to know and retain other knowledge.
- Encourage independence in learning.
- Build confidence on new topics as students are aware of the vocabulary and key information.
- Enable teachers to spend more time deepening understanding rather than going over basic factual information.
- Help avoid wasting time with students taking, checking and correcting notes. Knowledge Organisers are those notes.
- Enable students who may be absent or lose their book to always have access to the core knowledge.
- Ensure parents know precisely what their children are learning and enable them to get involved in quizzing, homework and deeper exploration.
- Support revisiting information, making it far more likely that the brain will recognise its importance and know how to retrieve it.
- Enable students who routinely check backwards on prior learning with confidence that it is the accurate core knowledge.
- Support a recognised area of exam weakness where students do not always use enough evidence, examples or facts to get the higher marks. In school tests we knew that students were not always strong at basic retrieval, this has improved since the introduction of KO.
- Help students to spread out retrieval which lessens the burden in the run up to exams and builds confidence. This helps students to develop good revision habits for when the final exam preparation comes around.
Students in Years 7-11 will receive a number of KO in a pack to bring home, a second copy will be sent home electronically and a third will be kept in class or put in books. Year 11s only have knowledge organisers up the point where the syllabus is completed. From that point on the course focuses on revision of the whole course. Furthermore, at some points during the year knowledge organiser work can be suspended if other deadlines e.g. NEA become more pressing. In the 6th form students have a lot of information to learn and remember. One-page knowledge organisers can sometimes not have enough depth and as such are used when appropriate in subjects if it suits the learning at that stage.
To allow the students to become familiar and then confident with the information, students are asked to practice learning the information as homework. This practice will only happen on a Week 1, allowing teachers to continue to set creative and challenging tasks on a Week 2. The Knowledge Organiser homework is set centrally, for all pupils.
Students spend about 30 minutes a night per subject on three different subjects learning the KO and practicing retrieval – the techniques students are encouraged to use are in the KO information and on this webpage.
Students must show evidence of that practice in either: their green book, GNB, the back of their exercise book or a self-bought notebook. They must bring that evidence into class.
Subject staff will check that there is appropriate evidence of retrieval learning and set short low-stakes ‘Knowledge Quizzes’ to check its impact.
If the student fails to provide evidence of retrieval practice the teacher will normally give an extension, if that is not met normal sanctions for missed homework is put in place.
If the student gets a low mark in a quiz there is no need for immediate action. Students will continue to revisit the information. Staff will monitor the situation over time and if it does not improve they will consider further support in class.
Through practice in specific techniques. Retrieval practice is like revision but embedded much closer to the learning. Where revision is often done at the end of a unit or even at the end of the year retrieval practice happens close to the learning. The more times students do it the stronger their memory of it becomes hence at BGS we also used spaced retrieval practice which means that students revisit key learning regularly, helping build memory over time. In order to make sure staff are consistent over the important learning retrieval practice is planned and the essential knowledge is extracted into half termly knowledge organisers. Retrieval practice is also as an Assessment for Learning tool helping identify student's misconceptions of the learning enabling the teacher to correct understanding.
In tutor time, as part of the whole school curriculum, we also teach retrieval techniques and give students time to practice and work together on what works for them. There are lots and lots of different ways you can practice retrieval and so, as not to overwhelm students, we tend to focus on a core set of techniques.
They are not revision sheets because they will not cover everything a student needs to know on a topic. However, they may aid revision, and essentially cover ‘the information it would be useful for students to know before or as the topic starts’.
Most subjects are included in the pack sent home but there are occasional exceptions e.g. Modern Foreign Languages who send home Vocab booklets
From time to time some teachers may need to set alternative homework to KO to ensure the flow of learning is not disrupted. Where that is the case students are not expected to do KO as well.
Religious Studies will not be using KO in homework for the moment.
Some subjects such as Art provide the KO but find that homework is still best spent doing practice. These exceptions are made clear by the subjects.
Year 11 will be undertaking revision in the lead up to the mock exams and main exams but KO will still be provided.
Year 11 in DT, may be asked to undertake prep work for Controlled Assessment instead but KO will still be provided.
Staff may, on occasion, set a different homework that aids the flow of learning and in these instances retrieval practice does not need to be completed.
Parents can help in this situation but supporting their child with their retrieval practice. The knowledge organisers give parents a ready made focus and talking about the learning, checking their vocabulary and doing mini quizzing with them can really help. The key is to ensure it stays low stakes and fun so no need for lofty rewards or sanctions. Retrieval practice isn't like normal high stakes testing either. At the side of this page you'll find a link to our BGS mindset revision techniques. Which are taught in tutor time as a technique and then used across a variety of subjects throughout their time at BGS. However, when it comes to the practice staff use a variety of methods. Subjects will often have one or two techniques that they use routinely e.g. PE 'Go for five' but in order to keep students engaged they will mix up the methods and you can do this too. Here are some simple suggestions:
Mastermind: Two minutes on their specialist subject (the knowledge organiser) how many can they get right.
Just a minute: Get your child to try and talk about the knowledge organiser for a minute without repeating themselves. As they get better narrow down the information they can use.
Connect four: Pick 4 facts from the knowledge organiser and get them to connect them. This is really useful as a stretch activity.
If you want to engage with them further try using the BGS mindset techniques and help them develop their skills e.g. creating flashcards or mnemonics with them.