Retrieval Practice and Sentence Practice All In One!

Retrieval practice is in the air. The latest blog by Alex Laney on the Teach Like a Champion blog (here) is very useful.

We’ve been developing retrieval practice DoNows with the trainee teachers at Paradigm Trust, but we’re also keen on practising sentence types. Hochman and Wexler’s The Writing Revolution is full of great sentence practice activities. We’re using: ButBecauseSo and Expand-a-Sentence, both of which work well with factual knowledge recall.


This activity not only uses retrieval practice, but elaboration as well. Your students are taking a single idea and strengthening its links to other ideas, developing the relationships between them.

  • Squealer called a meeting, but…
  • Squealer called a meeting, because…
  • Squealer called a meeting, so…


  • Magnetic north poles repel, but…
  • Magnetic north poles repel, because…
  • Magnetic north poles repel, so…


  • 2 is the only even prime number, but…
  • 2 is the only even prime, because…
  • 2 is the only even prime number, so…

TopTip: always try these out before you give them to students in case they aren’t possible (I struggled with “2 is the only even prime number, but… ) – if you can’t do it, your students probably can’t either.


Give your students a very simple sentence. E.g. “Magnesium is an element,” or “The Weimar Republic was unsuccessful.”

The retrieval practice comes in the next stage. Students have to give short answers to as many of the following as possible:

  • Who __________
  • What _________
  • Where _________
  • When _________
  • Why _________
  • How _________

The final step is to expand the original sentence. E.g.

Magnesium Expand-a-Sentence DoNow

In practice, the DoNow looks like this:

Weimar expand-a-sentence DoNow

So, use your DoNows for retrieval practice, but think about the sentences too.



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