Knowledge Organisers: Memory for pupils and helpful ‘checklists’ for parents
What are knowledge organisers?
A knowledge organiser is a set of key facts or information that pupils need to know and be able to recall in order to master a unit or topic. Typically an organiser fits onto one page of A4 or A3 – this helps pupils to visualize the layout of the page which in turn helps them to memorise the information better.
Why are we moving to knowledge organisers?
GCSEs and BTECs are becoming increasingly challenging. Most subjects have lost their controlled assessments (previously known as coursework) and these have been replaced with additional exam papers. The focus of these exams is the retrieval and application of knowledge This puts increasing pressure on our youngsters to know and retain even more information for longer.
Typically, most youngsters leave their revision until a few weeks (best case scenario) or days/hours (worst case scenario) before the examinations and tests. This presents a problem. Our short term memory is designed to be just that and has limited capacity. Pupils find themselves unable to retain the information, they become stressed and often give up, convincing themselves they are no good at revising or that they “can’t do subject ‘x’ ”.
The secret to success is to regularly revisit the knowledge to be learned (known as ‘spaced retrieval’). This helps transfer the knowledge from the short-term memory to the long term memory. This not only helps to make ‘learning stick’ but it also frees up our short-term memory for day to day learning and experiences.
How will a knowledge organiser help my child?
Knowledge organisers will be made available at the start of each unit to help them remember what they’re learning and to help them to see the bigger learning journey in their subjects. Instead of forgetting previous learning, pupils continually revisit and retrieve prior learning from their memories.
How will a knowledge organiser help me to help my child?
Many of you ask us how you can help to support your children at home. Some of you are worried that you don’t have all of the subject specific knowledge to be able to help your children. Some of you worry how to check that your children have done their homework and revision. The knowledge organisers will help you to do this easily.
Suggested activities for parents
Most homework set will be linked to all/some aspects of the organiser. This might be to learn keyword spellings or to write an extended response that uses some/all of the knowledge from the organiser.
Above and beyond any homework set by the teachers, we would recommend that pupils spend thirty minutes per week per subject learning the knowledge detailed in the organiser.
Here are some strategies that might help you to do this.
Read through the organiser with your son/daughter – if you don’t understand the content then ask them to explain it to you – ‘teaching’ you helps them to reinforce their learning.
Try converting the information into a mind map or make your own version using clip art imagery if the organiser contains a lot of text. Display on the wall or the fridge door until the memory ‘sticks’.
Test them regularly on the spellings of key words until they are perfect. Make a note of the ones they get wrong – is there a pattern to the spelling of those words?
Get them to make a glossary (list) of key words with definitions or a list of formulae.
Try recording the knowledge from the organiser as an mp3 sound file that your child can listen to. Some pupils retain more information this way.
Read sections out to them, missing out key words or phrases that they have to fill in. Miss out more and more until they are word perfect.
Once they are word perfect and can remember all of the knowledge on the organiser, use the internet or a book to find out more or ask the teacher for some (more) exam questions.