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Reviewing previous learning

Cambridge English | Teaching Your Subject in English | Video | Teacher trainers discuss the advantages of reviewing previous learning
So I may write words on the board or put some images on there. And if I use an image, I’ll put questions around it. For example, which polygon has a right angle or I’ll ask a more open question and say, what do you know about polygons? Again, a quick review of learning but to activate the prior knowledge. Reviewing previous learning well, clearly, it’s vital to do so, because unless you do so, you’re not going to keep abreast of how well your learners are doing, you’re not going to know how well they can recall the previous learning experience.
And pushing them to do so may bring back just topics or concepts which - it depends how you do it, of course - that may bring back topics of concepts which they haven’t clearly understood. And this will show you that you need to review the learning points that you thought were well-covered, that you thought the learners had understood. But obviously, in some cases, they haven’t, and you need to go at it again, maybe from a different angle.
But reviewing previous learning is crucial because generally, the next topic that the subject teacher is going to deal with will very often build on that previous learning, and if the students haven’t managed to grasp enough of the content of what you did in that lesson, you can’t really build upon it. You need to have the confidence that certain concepts are grasped, and then you can extend into others. And I think these are particularly good reasons, as well as the usual recycling all information like this. Repetition is vital.
Repetition can be deadly boring, but a degree of contextualised repetition - all depends how the teacher does the review - but contextualised revision is absolutely vital to keep the concepts fresh in the students’ mind.
We looked at sharing learning objectives in the previous steps; now we’re going to explore ideas and language we can use to help learners review previous learning. This is when teachers guide learners to talk about subject content that they studied before. We can do this at the start of a lesson to check where to start the lesson or so that learners can relate new content to things they already know.
For example, Last lesson you learned about the life cycle of flowering plants.
Watch the video of Kay talking about how she reviews learning and John talking about the advantages of reviewing previous learning. Which of the following advantages does John talk about?
  • checking if learners have understood previous subject concepts or not
  • helping clarify misunderstandings about previous subject concepts
  • developing learners’ skills of recall and understanding (lower-order thinking skills)
  • deciding if we need to revisit all or part of the subject concept again
  • deciding if learners need additional language support so they can talk about what was previously learned
  • giving learners an opportunity to reflect on what they have learned before moving on to a new topic
  • consolidating a subject concept as part of the learning cycle.
Check your answers.


Do you agree with Kay and John that it is a good idea to review learning at the beginning of a lesson or new topic? Use the comments section to tell us your opinions.
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Teaching Your Subject in English

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