Let's talk Spiral Review. Have you ever taught a new concept or skill to your students, and a week or two later you're shaking your head wondering if it was just an illusion because just a few of them remember what to do? Yup, we've all been there more times than we care to share. Whether it's the steps to long division or the proper ways to use commas, students' retention of new skills can leave us feeling flustered and frustrated. The good news is that there's a way to conquer this selective amnesia. It's called Spiral Review!
According to the Institute of Educational Sciences (IES), providing students with a Spiraled Curriculum (also commonly referred to Spiraled Practice or Spiral Review) has shown to improve understanding and retention of information.
SO....What Exactly is Spiral Review?
Spiral Review is a way of providing multiple opportunities for students to review and master specific skills. It keeps concepts fresh in the forefront of the student's brain.
When explaining this concept to my students, I always use a filing cabinet analogy. I explain to them that many times people may just place folders at the front of a drawer, and the older ones get pushed back. It's a good idea to go through those folders every once in a while so that we remember what we've filed in there. Our brains are just like that. We need to keep that information fresh in our brains by continuously reviewing concepts and building on them.
What exactly are the key features of the Spiral Curriculum?
- In a Spiral Curriculum, the teacher provides opportunities for the student to revisit a topic several times throughout the school year.
- The complexity of the topic increases each time the student revisits the topic.
- The new topic taught builds on topics previously taught.
What are the researched-based benefits of a Spiral Review?
- Each time a student revisits a topic, their understanding of the topic is solidified.
- It allows students to build up their learning through the logical progression from simpler skills to more complex ones.
What are the best practices for implementing Spiral Review?
- Keep the practice short and focused. No more than 5-10 minutes long.
- Have a routine in place. This allows students to work quickly and efficiently.
- Closely monitor students for mastery and scaffold as needed.
This research-based method of teaching is something I started implementing a few years ago with our grammar curriculum, and I never looked back. The improvement I saw in my students' understanding of grammar concepts and their abilities to implement them in their writing was astonishing. No longer was I putting my hands on my head wondering where all this knowledge I had exposed them to had gone. They were actually retaining the information!
What was the outcome in my classroom?
- My students (which included English Language Learners and Inclusion students) met the standards by the end of the year.
- There was no need for grammar "crunch time" before our state test because standards were kept fresh all year long.
- I was able to continually assess my students and scaffold their learning of concepts they did not understand.
If you want to learn more about applying the principles of Spiral Review to keep content fresh in your students' minds, check out this next post by clicking HERE.