Bring on Progress 8 – Literary Magic for All

The new Progress 8 measure surely means that students of all ability will be entered for Literature rather than English only at precisely the same time that the Foundation tier is removed and content is ‘strengthened’. I think this has major implications for inclusive pedagogy. Among other things, we need to consider how learners, who may have memory deficits, will retain the bulging volume of content that is contained within the new Literature specs.

We’ve thought long and hard about this at TCHS because we are determined that our SEND learners will not be set up to fail. Memory-friendly teaching has therefore been a key area of focus – but what does it look like?

Janie Booth’s Memory Magic‘ (1999) intervention provides some of the answers. It’s a programme we use mainly with our SLCN learners, to bolster verbal memory. We know from our pre and post intervention assessments that it does work, at pupil level. The challenge, then, was to take Booth’s strategies – the 6 evidence-based magic ‘tricks’  – and adapt them for whole class use within English.

That project has kept me busy for the past few months but it’s now finished. It quickly became apparent that translating the decontextualised drills form ‘Memory Magic’ into a series of whole class teaching activities, wasn’t difficult. Indeed, a rich synergy suggested itself with every trick explored, with no ‘grafting on’ required.

I’ll be delivering the full Memory Magic Inset next term, but colleagues have already trialled some of the strategies – as have a few readers of this blog. Feedback has been really positive.  A colleague sent me this email last week:

I just wanted to tell you how successful your strategies have been with the year 10’s. I used the picture cards one last week for ‘The Class Game’…. Afterwards,  I went round to everyone individually and ‘tested’ them to see which quotes they could remember. All students were able to recall at least 8-10 quotes where most actually knew all 15! Sian has nearly memorised the whole poem without realising it!

Most of the activities are highly participatory, active, engaging – there’s all manner of clapping and chanting that goes on. So it’s not surprising that students are enjoying them. What’s really exciting, though, is the sense conveyed here that they are working – that our students are remembering more.

If you click on the links below, you’ll be taken to the teaching and learning posts associated with each memory trick. The focus in these is practical, so – borrowing gratefully from Ben Taylor’s PhD thesis – I’ve simply summarised the evidence-base for each strategy next to the links.

  1. Focus (improving attention) is supported by Redick & Engle, 2006; Shipstead, Harrison & Eagle, 2012; Unsworth & Spillers, 2010
  2. Rehearse (verbally rehearsing) Broadley, MacDonald & Buckley, 1994; Gardiner, Galwick & Richardson Klavehn, 1994
  3. Group Part OnePart Two (an elaborative rehearsal technique, or ‘chunking’) Miller, 1956; Carr & Schneider, 1991; Bor, Cumming, Scott, Owen, 2004
  4. Picture it Part One, Part Two, Part Three (visual, imagery based strategies) Atkinson, 1975; De La Iglesia, Buceta & Campos, 2005
  5. Map (categorising information and developing schemas) Brewer & Treyens, 1991; Shelble, Therriault & Miller, 2012
  6. Link (concerned with mnemonics) Baleghizadeh & Ashoori, 2010; Levin, Levin, Glasman & Nordwall, 1992

There will be many, many more memory-friendly strategies than I’ve mustered here so if you have any suggestions, ideas, adaptations – do post your comments. For those interested in this, I’m also happy to share next term’s inset materials.


Published by Mary Meredith

Working in schools for over 20 years, I've been a Head of English, a SENCO and a deputy headteacher. I'm currently Head of Inclusion at Lincolnshire County Council. I am a sucker for the underdog. Always have been, always will be.

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