Headteachers Blog

Headteacher’s Blog – 13th January 2023

Retrieval practice has been a focus at Boroughbridge High School over the last year with our understanding that it will really help our students to learn and remember. But what is retrieval practice and why is it important?

Retrieval practice is when you try to recall information without having it in front of you to look at. To give an example, you may be trying to learn the processes that make up the water cycle. You could do retrieval practice by trying to name the processes and draw a diagram to show how they are sequenced without looking at a diagram. Once you’ve constructed all that you can remember, you would then look at your diagram to see what you had remembered and what you had missed to plug the gaps in your knowledge.

It’s important because, as we discussed at the Parent Expectation Evenings, research shows that without revisiting knowledge learnt, after 31 days, only around one fifth of knowledge will be retained. By retrieving, it can be retained. This is, of course, not new. You may remember revising yourself using this technique. What is different now is the growing body of research proving that this is the most effective way of building long term knowledge!

So, in order to ensure that our students have the opportunity to revisit topics and information to build their knowledge, we’ve been using retrieval grids along with a range of other strategies. This encourages students to retrieve knowledge from their short, medium and long term memory.

So in classrooms across the school this week, some of the retrieval grids used include the following, Year 9 Geographers have been using a retrieval grid to recall information from topics throughout the year including Resources and Sustainability and Places in the World. This was to help students to start to think about the knowledge they will need for their Year 9 exams later this term. Questions from topics covered a long time ago secured more marks. At GCSE, student used their grid questions to recap case study knowledge about an earthquake in Italy that was studied last week to see what they could remember.

GCSE Historians were engaged in exploring educational research themselves, at the beginning of the week, looked at the research underpinning what helps us learn and remember things and why retrieval practice and revisiting our knowledge is so important before looking at 3 key secrets of successful revision.

In Business GCSE, students completed a review sheet on strengths and areas to improve as they reviewed their progress to date whilst in Computing GCSE, students completed a list of exam questions covering knowledge from last week’s lessons as a start activity.

In Year 10 English, students completed questions from a retrieval grid on the opening of their Shakespeare set text (Macbeth). Questions ranged in complexity and covered things such as the significance of the setting of the play (Geographical and Historical). Students identified and commented on the themes introduced in the opening scenes and on the significance of the play’s imagery. They identified devices and analysed key quotations. The context (AO3) questions required the students to recall knowledge acquired from lessons and independent research last term. Bonus marks were given for unique interpretation and detailed responses.

In Year 9 Music, the retrieval grid prompted students to remember key vocabulary about the current topic: Musicals; the previous topic: score writing and minimalism; and some topics from as long ago as Year 7. Year 8 Musicians had facts to remember from this term’s topic: theme and variations; the previous topic: reggae; our first topic of the year: the Blues; and even some elements of music from Year 7. Top marks of 24 were available for both year groups with students aiming for the high teens.


Travel and Tourism BTEC students had a retrieval grid focusing on factors affecting global tourism including political, economic, natural disasters, extreme weather and health risks.


So, if you’d like a go yourself, here’s a Year 9 Maths retrieval grid. Good Luck!



Have a lovely weekend.