Here is an account of a teaching experience:
After going through a couple of examples, I hand the sheet out to the children, one each. I've got a really nice exercise for today's lesson. I really like the way the exercise is structured, and it will give the children plenty of practice. The first few questions are simple enough that everyone can make a start on it straight away, which is good for confidence.
Things are going smoothly. The children are happy, they are being successful. Great, this is going exactly how I hoped it might. Some of them are working more quickly than others, so some of them won't finish. That's unavoidable, I suppose. I could stop when a reasonable number have finished... or I could write some extension questions on the board. I'll do that, it'll buy me a bit more time to work with the ones who are going a bit more slowly.
Yes, some of the children are flying through the exercise, and some other children are starting to need help. I go to help them. This is what should be happening, I guess - there has to be challenge - but it does mean that I am getting dragged around the room, and there are some people waiting with their hands up. I don't want to tell people how to do them, but it is difficult to spend enough time with each child to work with them in the way I want to.
After a while, I realise I am having to help lots of people on a particular question. I decide it would be more efficient to stop everyone and go through it on the board. It's also a nice way of bringing everyone together. Yes, everyone seems happy with that. They carry on with the work.
As I walk round the room, I notice some more mistakes; I point to them in passing, and suggest that there might be something wrong, but I don't have time to sit down and talk to every child. I'll pick up general mistakes when I bring them all together in a couple of minutes. A couple of the children who are getting stuck are starting to take up most of my time. As I help them, I look over my shoulder and notice some children who don't look to be doing much. The noise level is slightly higher than it was. I'm starting to feel a little anxious. I can see that a couple of them are now finishing the extension anyway, so I stop the whole class, with apologies to those who are still working.
We go through the questions. Every now I stop and ask them "What do you notice?" A few responses, mostly from the same children, so I choose a few children who have not said anything yet. Some of the responses are not what I hoped they might say. I explain some of things they might have noticed. There are some signs of recognition, a few nodding heads. I am happy that they have, as a whole, got the gist of what is going on. I wonder if we should do some more like this, or move on. I write three similar questions on the board for them to try, an easy, middle and hard one. All of the children seem to be able to do the easy one, and most have done the middle one. I'm happy with that. It's all taken a bit longer that I had planned. We move on to the next thing.
A few weeks later, a question comes up that involves these ideas, but in a slightly unusual form. Quite a few of the class have not retained what we did. "But we did loads of these, and we talked about..." I catch the tone of annoyance in my voice. What shall I do? I could go through the theory again at the front... or I could give them a few basic questions now that are related to this one... I decide instead to show them how to do this one, and give them a similar one to do. Yes, this seems to have jogged their memory, I think. I make a mental note: I'll give them a couple of quick questions like this for tomorrow's starter, but I don't want to spend too more much time on this.
A few weeks later, the same thing happens. How irritating. I think what is needed is a test. I'll make a test, including some of the other things they seem to be forgetting. I think I should make regular tests and do some interleaving from now on, to stop this happening. We'll have to review each test. Hmm, it'll be complicated to organise, and it means there will be less time for covering the curriculum, but what they need is a more structured approach to help them stop forgetting. What they really need is more practice, more often.
This is an account from experience. Does it resonate with yours?
I can make conjectures about what might be happening; can I test these conjectures?
What alternatives could I explore?