History Resource Cupboard – lessons and resources for schools

History Resource Cupboard - lessons and resources for schools

Teaching Issues

Five minute tricks to make learning stick for the 9-1 GCSE


With the 9-1 GCSE there is more content to remember than there was with the older GCSE. Fact! We all need to develop short sharp ideas, or ‘tricks’ to make learning stick.


With the 9-1 GCSE course history teachers have to consider how much time to spend on each unit across two (or three) years. There is more content than before so this will take longer.

A previous blog goes into detail on how to plan your  GCSE course for maximum impact. You would be wise to attend our day course on this to help with planning and sticky ideas.

Having spent lots of time thinking about this, I believe that there simply isn’t the time to finish the course with lots of time left to re-visit / revise in the spring term of Year 11.

This is because you have more content to cover and you should be teaching the course using an enquiry based approach.

By basing your original lessons on clear planning principles you are more likely to make the first phase of teaching  memorable. If not your GCSE course could become a content led slog of ‘one damn thing after another.’

Revise as you go

An alternative approach is to revise as you go.

Previously we have looked at Ebinghaus’s forgetting curve. Not only should the original learning experience be memorable, but  ‘over-learning’ should take place.  Re-visiting of older content should happen regularly through-out your GCSE course too.

We suggested that you should find time at the beginning (first five to ten minutes) of a lesson to remind and revise older material learnt weeks / months / years ago.  Doing this regularly could build stronger memories.

We have all used ‘settler’ activities and we before we get to that high impact enquiry start or ‘ISM’ (thanks Rob Phillips). What is being said here, is use these settler tasks much more purposefully to link to prior learning.

By regularly re-calling older knowledge in this way, it should stick more.

It must be stressed that the original content should have taught through enquiry using an engaging and memorable approach.  If not you will just be delivering a content led course.

Five minute tricks to make learning stick

So what might these short recall activities actually look like?

Here are 5 approaches or tricks to help make the learning stick.

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About the author
Richard McFahn
Founder of History Resource Cupboard, Richard has worked for 20 years as a history teacher, subject and senior leader, Advanced Skills Teacher, local authority adviser and history ITE tutor.

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