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Fulwood and Cadley Primary School

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How pupils Learn

Making Learning Stick

'Learning is defined as an alteration in long-term memory.

If nothing has been altered in long-term memory, nothing has been learnt.' 

(Kirschner, Sweller and Clarke, 2006)


Learning happens when pupils make sense of ideas in relation to what they already know. When we talk about knowledge in the long-term memory, we refer to this as sticky learning. In simple terms, sticky learning is the knowledge that stays with us forever.


No matter how brilliant a phonics lesson was in EYFS or how outstanding a maths lesson on long division was in year 6, if our pupils cannot remember it two weeks later, it has not been learnt. 

Sometimes, pupils do not always retain the intended learning outcome for reasons such as:

  • Attention deficits
  • Lack of prior knowledge to build on
  • Cognitive overload

As a school, we strive to ensure our approaches to teaching and learning stick and as a result, we have implemented the following structure to our lessons to support retrieval of knowledge. 


Lesson Structure

At Fulwood and Cadley, we support teachers to plan lessons that enable pupils to make learning stick following a meta-cognitive approach that we have named 'R U ACE',  our teachers plan and structure lessons around these core principles. 



Every lesson starts with a 5 - 10 minute retrieval activity that allows our pupils to remember previous taught learning and encourages core substantive knowledge (subject-specific facts) to stick.  'Sticky learning' challenges are questions or quizzes which have been drawn from knowledge taught in recent lessons or from topics from previous year groups to secure the knowledge and facts that we aim for all our pupils to retain.  



The next part of our lesson focuses on the understand stage. This is were teachers introduce the new content and focus on explicit instruction and effective questioning to deliver new learning. Alongside this, teachers will use meta-cognitive approaches to guide our pupils through the planning stage of how they will approach the learning task. During this stage, teachers model approaches or strategies to learning in order to prepare pupils for their independent application. 



After new content has been delivered, our pupils will have an opportunity to apply their new learning. This stage focuses on a variety of disciplinary knowledge strategies. Pupils use taught skills, strategies and methods to ensure they deepen their understanding and embed vital knowledge. Pupils are encourage to practice their new learning independently with minimal support which enhances their resilience and independence to grow. Teachers will continue to apply meta-cognitive approaches to questioning during this stage by encouraging children to monitor their own learning. Pupils will be supported through flexible groupings, scaffold and challenge opportunities to ensure all pupils achieve the intended learning outcome. 



In certain subjects, this stage facilities an opportunity for our pupils to place the new knowledge they have learnt or skills they have developed into a real-life situation.  At a primary level, teachers believe this is a core stage for our pupils to embed their learning and make links to things that are familiar to them.  This encourages sticky learning to take place.



The final stage of our lesson structure focuses on evaluation. This is an opportunity for teachers to ensure the key learning intention for that lesson has been achieved and to reflect on the learning that has taken place. Teachers will continue to apply meta-cognitive approaches in this final stage by actively questioning pupils about what they have learnt, their approaches to learning and what they have learnt about themselves as a learner.