Practice is Practice, Right?

retentionPart 3: Help Students Understand the Benefits of Distributed Practice and Retrieval Practice

In the last two blogs, we looked at distributed practice and retrieval practice—and why combining them is an effective way to increase long-term retention. Use this lesson to explain the strategies and help your students use them more.

Just to review, retrieval practice involves calling to mind (retrieving) what we know. It takes some mental exertion to retrieve a concept or skill, and putting forth the effort reinforces learning. Using retrieval practice reinforces learning and makes remembering easier as time goes on. Find out more at

Distributed practice involves continually revisiting and interacting with previously learned skills and concepts. The strategy is to break down information into small bits and distribute the learning and practice over time. Distributed practice is the opposite of “cramming,” or trying to learn a lot in a short amount of time (like right before a test!). Distributed practice also reinforces learning and makes remembering easier as time goes on.

To summarize, do both! Use retrieval practice and space out the learning.

Giving students the opportunity to interact with key skills and concepts repeatedly, over the course of an entire school year ensures two very important goals: Students master the material, and they retain it for a lifetime.

Now you know a better way to learn…why not let your students in on the secret?

This short passage uses kid-friendly language to explain distributed practice and retrieval practice.

Get more free downloads and information about distributed practice and retrieval practice at, Simple Solutions Study Skills, and


Post Author: Nancy Tondy

Nancy is a former elementary teacher and gifted intervention specialist. She joined Simple Solutions in 2005 as co-author of the original English Grammar & Writing Mechanics series, and today, she manages our Writing Team. Outside of work, Nancy enjoys cooking, movies, biking, and travel.

Leave a Reply