To Refresh or Reteach? 2 Efficient Ways to “Fill the Gaps”

As the 2021/2022 school year gets underway, the academic gaps that we have been so warned about will surely start to surface. Out of the goodness of their hearts and their passion for teaching, many teachers will be tempted to want to reteach the entire last year! While I completely understand where they are coming from on this, that will not provide equity nor be beneficial in the long run (and talk about burn out!). Let me explain:

  • Some students will be operating at grade level. There were so many different experiences during the 2020/2021 school year that students are going to be coming back at all levels. For the students operating at grade level, the last thing we want them to do is get through 2020 with little set backs and then lose learning in 2021 because we are not teaching new content.
  • Some students may not be able to recall content immediately, but simply need help bring the past learning to the forefront of their brains. Some may find that although material was taught last year, because of ongoing interruptions, students didn’t learn the material mastery. This doesn’t mean they don’t know it at all, they just need help recalling it.
  • Unfortunately, we may see that physical location played a role in learning discrepancies. We are only widening the academic gap if we are not giving students access to grade level content.

So, what do we do moving forward?

  1. Make sure that formative assessments, or quick checks, are built into every lesson. These can be quick, easy, and informal, but teachers will need to have an ongoing pulse of each student’s learning.
  2. Start with “refresh” strategies before deciding to completely reteach.

Let’s dive into this a little more.

First of all, what is formative assessment? I’ve attached a chart taken out of our resource, Clarity, as a reminder. (You can click on the link to take a look at the monthly support resource until August 31st.)

Formative assessments do not have to be formal, they just have to measure the students’ learning. The next question that occurs then is “what do I do with this data I get from the formative assessment?” Take a look at this chart, also from Clarity.

Taken from Clarity, Pressing Onward, LLC, 2020

So now let’s take a look at refresh strategies. The goal of refresh strategies is bring old learning to the forefront of the brain, deepen the learning that has already occurred, and help students make connections that solidifies previous learning.

Let’s talk about a few strategies.

Novel Ideas: Students are placed into groups of 5-6 students. They need a pen and paper. The teacher gives a concept. Students are given 1 minutes to individually write down every word that they association or can remember that relates to that concept. After the 1 minute timer goes off, students read off one answer at a time. If the other members of their group have that word written down on their list, they check it off. If not, they add it to the bottom of their paper.

Visual Vocabulary: Show pictures, realia (real things) and examples for vocabulary. Simply giving definitions will probably not trigger any great memories. Anchor charts, word walls, concept maps and visuals will all be more powerful and effective in connecting words to meanings.

Anticipation Guides: Students are giving a list of Agree/Disagree statements. These can be opinion or fact based. This is a great, non-threatening way to see what they remember or how they think in a topic. It’s always fun to have them go back after you’ve had a conversation about the content and see if they still agree and disagree in the same way they did at first.

We know that teachers are going to have to meet the challenge of refreshing students’ learning from the past year. This isn’t easy, but it’s doable. We want to provide you with a guide for some ideas for doing this. Just click here and get the download! Then share with your teachers!

We are here to help! For more information, visit!

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