Continuing my series on the rhythm of main lesson I’ll move on to the second part of main lesson — the recall.

The recall is designed to bring back the new content from yesterday and experience how it has transformed and come alive in the hearts and minds of the students. Though this is a time when having some bit of newness is essential (after all it can be a bit dry to just rehash yesterday’s material) it is also important to have a strong, reliable rhythm.


The first part of my recall is a short dictation. I give the students one sentence each day that we work through together. First I read the entire thing, then I break it down into parts that they write down in their composition books. Once they’ve written it down we work with it. This can mean that we identify the parts of speech, the commas and other punctuation, difficult spelling words or whatever other theme I’ve chosen to work on that week. One week it will be syllabication, another week it might be comma use, another week it might be capitalization rules. I write the dictation each week so that it will bring our attention to the theme for that week and it always pertains to the subject that we’re studying that week. Ideally, each day’s dictation relates to the new content from the previous day. This is a lofty goal, however. Writing a dictation that is just challenging enough, brings attention to the grammatical topic of the week, makes sense as a whole and relates to each day’s new content is pretty difficult. Sometimes the content of our dictation is just about one part of the week’s new material.

Monday through Thursday the students have a new sentence and then on Friday they have a graded dictation quiz that combines all of the sentences.

Oral Recall

Once the dictation is finished the class and I engage in a verbal recall of yesterday’s new material. This is the part of the recall that I have to really watch out for being dry and unengaging. If a child is going to choose a time to tune out, this is it. So, what are ways to prevent this?

  • Ask for one word from each student going around the room.
  • Have the students act out the story.
  • Skip the class oral recall completely and have each individual student “talk on paper” for the recall.
  • Bring one little nugget of new information. Some small detail that you didn’t mention the day before. When I’ve done this I’ve clearly noticed the class sit up straighter, look up and pay attention, where it may have been wandering before.
  • Have them tell the story going backwards.
  • Instead of having them tell the whole story, focus your discussion around one character. Or tell the story from the perspective of that character.

There are lots of different ways to liven up this part of the lesson. I try to use as many different ways as possible using a simple retelling of the story once per week — at the very most.

“Crystalization” of the Recall

This next part is where the overlap between the recall and the practice/bookwork happens. Once we’ve remembered the new content we need to work with it in some way. During a language arts block we write about it. During a math block we do math practice or play a game. The verbal recall is a good refresher but nothing really hits the message home like working with the material. Like the verbal recall, there are lots of different ways this could be done. The students could write a given number of sentences. They could write their favorite part. They could draw a picture. I remember one year in seventh grade after telling the story of Marco Polo I gave the students excerpts from his journal to read. They then chose sections to put into their main lesson books.

Tomorrow I’ll write about how we then transition into the bookwork/practice part of our main lesson.

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