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Can you remember this? (And four practical ideas to help your students remember)

I would have liked to know about Hermann Ebbinghaus' forgetting curve as a student!


In 1885, Ebbinghaus conducted research into remembering (and

especially forgetting). His research method would not be accepted today (he only used himself as a test subject), but fortunately, many studies these days support his findings.


What did he discover?

Hermann discovered that you forget information quite quickly. This forgetting starts almost immediately (after exposure to new information) and continues rapidly during the next hour. In the time that follows, we continue to forget, although the speed of forgetting slows down. What we can learn from this? We have to plan (active!) moments of repetition to reinforce the memories. Use it or lose it!


The forgetting curve isn't rocket science and yet only a few teachers incorporate this knowledge into their teaching. How could we adapt our lessons (and even the curriculum!) and take the forgetting curve into consideration?



How does it work in your lesson?

At CLIL&more we like things simple, and fortunately, there are many easy ways to take the forgetting curve into account in your lessons:

  • You can make a Leitner box or you can choose one of the digital variations of a Leitner box.

  • A very easy way to ensure active repetition is to use a digital quiz (Kahoot, Mentimeter, LessonUp etc.) and reuse it later on. When you resuse the quiz you might not do all the questions, but choose a few. You will benefit twice: your students will repeat and you can reuse existing lesson materials and save preparation time.

  • Using mini whiteboards for retrieval questions is always a good idea!

  • Another simple way to ensure active repetition is to use three retrieval* questions at the start of every lesson. While you give students silent thinking and writing time, you can take the register or check homework.


The CLIL benefit

Teaching CLIL already helps students remember the content better. Because they learn materials in a second language, they have to work harder. The harder you work, the better you remember. Secondly, because students store content in multiple languages, they make more connections, helping a stronger memory.

In CLIL it is important to focus both on content and language when you work with repetition and retrieval questions.


PS How much will you remember of this information in an hour? 😜


* for an explanation of retrieval practice, we’ve added this very clear description by Kate Jones


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