Jumpstart the school year with this simple retrieval practice

Yesterday was my last day of class for the summer. The first day of my fall semester (with nearly 100 college students) will be here before I know it!

Here's how I start the school year with retrieval practice – as soon as students walk in the door. It's how I end the school year, too.

Quick, simple, powerful. How do you jumpstart learning? Let me know!


Back to school? Jumpstart with retrieval!

On the very first day of class, my students start with retrieval practice. Even when they walk in the door, a sheet of paper is waiting for them on each desk. I ask two questions:

  1. What are five words that come to mind when you think about psychology?

  2. What is psychology? Write a description in your own words.

First, for introductions, we go around and everyone quickly shares their name, their "noun" (see Chapter 8 in Powerful Teaching for Noun-Name Tag), and just one of the five words about psychology they wrote down. Bonus: Students aren't worried about what to say because it's written down in front of them!

Second, I have students think-pair-share their five words and descriptions about psychology. Do they notice any similarities or differences?

Third, I collect students' worksheets before class ends. No grading! I simply keep them. Until the last day of school.

During our last class together, I give students a new worksheet with the same two questions (some students even remember this activity from 15 weeks ago!). Finally, I hand back their worksheets from the first day of class. Students love comparing their initial reactions with their final reflections.

Student response on May 28, 2019

Student response on May 28, 2019

Student Response on August 13, 2019

Student Response on August 13, 2019

Here's why this is powerful retrieval practice:

  • On the first day, students retrieve and reflect on what they already know

  • On the last day, students retrieve and space what they know

  • No grading and very little prep

  • Flexible for grade levels and content areas (replace "psychology" with the theme of your course)

  • Adaptable with tech tools, apps, Google Forms, etc.

Want even more retrieval on the first day of class? Use Brain Dumps, Two Things, and Retrieval Warm Ups! Don't wait – jumpstart learning on Day 1.