Homework Retrieval Practice

On Self-Quizzing Homework


One of the best things we’ve done this year is introduce self-quizzing – an idea I took from reading Joe Kirby’s chapter in ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Teachers: The Michaela Way’ entitled ‘Homework as Revision’. I thought, after the reaction to a couple of tweets I’ve posted about it, I’d write this post explaining our approach to self-quizzing homework and share a few examples.

Not only does retrieval practice homework complement our approach to homework (activities which have value but require no marking) but we’ve also seen students’ knowledge improve as well as their confidence. Our girls really know their stuff – we know they’re learning and retaining the information on the knowledge organisers we’ve given them because most lessons begin with a 5-a-Day retrieval practice starter and we’re seeing more and more students achieving 5/5. Students’ confidence is improving too because they can see how much more they now know – unlike so many things in English, it’s measurable.

We provide all students in KS3 and KS4 a Knowledge Organiser for the text they are studying. These set out the key information that we want every student to know. It’s important to say here that the KOs are not about setting a limit for what students know about a text but, instead, we use them to set out the knowledge it is most important for students not to forget. The information on the KO is that which we want all students to be able to recall with ease which will free up working memory when they are tackling challenging skills such as writing an essay on a text.

We have given every student an exercise book which is just for their self-quizzing homework and we expect every student from year 7 up to year 11 to spend a minimum of 30 minutes every week self-quizzing on their Knowledge Organiser. We would expect to look in their self-quizzing book and see a minimum of a page of evidence of them self-quizzing every week. This is something as a teacher I can check in a few minutes at the start or end of a lesson by asking students to open up their self-quizzing book and quickly walking around the room to check it has been done. Students’ progress is visible to them as they flick through their book and see what they could recall at the start and what they can now recall.

In the past, we gave students Knowledge Organisers and just asked them to revise from them and then we tested their knowledge with our 5-a-Day starters. However, it soon became clear that students didn’t know the best way to revise this information and would often just read their Knowledge Organiser and do nothing with it. The self-quizzing requires them to recall the information from memory which not only highlights to them what they do or don’t know but also strengthens their ability to recall that information.

When introducing the self-quizzing homework to students I explicitly modelled how to self-quiz. I turned my copy of the knowledge organiser over and then wrote down as much as I could from it as accurately as I could. I then flipped the knowledge organiser back over and checked the accuracy of what I had written down. Using a different coloured pen I corrected any errors and filled in any gaps.

Our students have really taken to self-quizzing; they see the value in it. One of my year 11 students is already on her 7th self-quizzing exercise book! I’ve also had a couple of really positive revision lessons where I’ve given my year 11s an A3 blank knowledge to fill with as much as they can recall – they weirdly really enjoy those lessons! There’s something inherently satisfying in self-quizzing.

Here’s a few examples of students’ self-quizzing homework:

Here’s a couple of my year 11s filling in a blank A3 ‘An Inspector Calls’ Knowledge Organiser with all they could remember and then making corrections/filling in gaps in a different coloured pen:

revision lesson 1.png

revision lesson 2.png

Link to our KOs for KS4 (‘An Inspector Calls’, ‘Macbeth’ and ‘Jekyll and Hyde’) here.

Link to blank KOs for KS4 here.




  1. I’m interested in trying this next year. Can I ask a couple of questions? (1) Would you give out the KOs after the pupils have studied (or begun studying) the text, so as to be able to include ideas/vocab arrived at with the class? Do you think this could work? I don’t like the idea of telling pupils ‘This character is x, y & z’ before they’ve even ‘met’ the character. (2) The examples you show seem to come from able or at least motivated/well-organised pupils (judging by the presentation). How do less able pupils take to this? Thank you.


    1. Hi Shanti.

      1) Students get the KO when we begin studying the text but they wouldn’t self-quiz on bits we haven’t yet studied in class.

      2) We have a mixed intake – we are a Secondary Modern School. If anything, this has worked even better with low prior attaining students because they see the value in the task and the rewards are pretty quick in terms of their knowledge.


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