Knowledge Checks

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McDermott et al.’s (2014) study showed that frequent low-stakes quizzes or practice tests help boost memory. Rather than using the words ‘practice test’, perhaps use the term knowledge checks because using the word ‘test’ or even ‘quiz’ can immediately cause anxiety in some students.

McDermont has several key suggestions:

  1. Make them ‘low stake’: Don’t call it a test. You don’t even have to give the activity a name. Just launch straight into it.
  2. Do a ‘knowledge check’ immediately after the lesson and continue throughout the school year.
  3. Provide feedback so students know what they got right and are provided the correct answer for those answers that were wrong.
  4. Use interleaving: Mix up different examples.

Apply to Learning Graphemes

  • Begin each lesson by:
  • Having your students write down all the graphemes they have been taught to-date
  • Asking the students to write the key link words containing the graphemes they have been taught, and then circling the graphemes
  • Showing the students graphemes they have been taught, one at a time, and having them read the grapheme and telling you the accompanying picture cue
  • Saying a word containing one or more of the graphemes that have been taught, having the students identify the sounds in the word, and then writing the word.
  • End the lesson by:
  • Having students write down the grapheme(s) you have just taught
  • Asking students to match the graphemes with the picture cue and then write the picture word cue (e.g., match ‘ee’ with the picture of a ‘tree’ and then write ‘tree’).
  • Ask students to read real and nonsense words containing the graphemes they have been taught.
  • Ask students to spell words that contain graphemes they have been taught.
  • Don’t give students a list of spelling words which all contain the same grapheme pattern, but rather provide them with a list which contains a mix of graphemes that they are currently learning and have previously learned.


McDermott, K. B., Agarwal, P. K., D’Antonio, L., Roediger, H. L. III, & McDaniel, M. A. (2014). Both multiple-choice and short-answer quizzes enhance later exam performance in middle and high school classes. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 20(1), 3–21.