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How to get Students to REMEMBER EVERYTHING You Taught!

Who has not had a conversation in the teacher’s lounge about how QUICKLY your students forgot the information that you taught? Or the frustration that you felt when you asked a class to review what they learned yesterday, you have a Ben Stein moment from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Lucky for you, I am going to review brain techniques over the next few weeks. This week, I am going to talk about how to get students to RETAIN what has been taught.

First, a quick thing about memory: the brain best remembers what is taught first, second best what is taught last, and the middle gets a bit hazy (Sousa, 2011).

As an educator, you must maximize this time! What does this mean? When you structure your class time, you must teach new information in the beginning of class, allow for practice in the middle of class, then revisit the skill at the end of class. For maximum impact, keep those lessons short and sweet-which means if you teach long periods, you should break them down into shorter sections.

Let’s look at this 40 minute class:

5 minutes:  Warm-Up/Do Now/Bell Ringer, while you take attendance.

5 minutes: Review objectives and handle other housekeeping issues

15 minutes: Introduce lesson for the day and new material

10 minutes: Practice time

5 minutes: Exit Ticket, More Housekeeping, Homework Time

During this class, the primary time that students are ready to learn has been eaten up with warm-ups and housekeeping. Then, during the time that students should be practicing and are more likely to forget content, they are being introduced to new material. During this class, it is more likely that students will forget what is taught.

If you are really focusing on retention, you must be cognizant of when and how students are retaining information. It is actually best to present two mini-lessons during your class period.

Then that same 40 minute class becomes this:

10 minutes: Introduce New Information

5 minutes: Practice

5 minutes: Closing Activity

10 minutes: Introduce New Information

5 minutes: Practice

5 minutes: Closing Activity

If you notice, the second class focuses on providing shorter more impactful learning sessions that focus on introducing new material and revisiting that material.

One of the keys to getting students to remember content is ensuring that you are presenting new information immediately, allowing practice time in the middle of the learning cycle, then immediately revisiting what is taught.

If you would like to learn more information about this week’s topic, you can check out David A. Sousa’s book How the Brain Learns.  

If you liked this week’s blog, please check out the accompanying video on my YouTube Channel.


Sousa, D. A. (2011). How the brain learns. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, a Sage Publishing Company.

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