Curriculum Planning

Spacing Learning Over Time

“Delaying of reviewed produces an actual increase in the efficiency of learning”

“Students typically remember much more when they have been exposed to information on two occasions rather than one”


Designing a cohesive unit plan, in my opinion, is one of the most important aspects of our job as teachers. The development of unit plans and lessons plans should have certain key components. Two strategies discussed in the IES planning guide  that can easily be integrated into our weekly, monthly or larger unit plans are spacing learning over time and use of assessments. Spacing learning over time basically just indicates that students remember more when they have been exposed to information on two occasions, rather than one. 

How to space learning over time

  1. Identify key concepts, terms, and skills to be taught and learned
  2. Arrange for students to be exposed to each element of material on at least 2 occasions separated by at least several weeks or months
  3. Use class time and homework assignments as ways to review material covered previously in class
  4. Arrange quizzes in a way that promotes delayed reviewing of important course content.
  5. Give cumulative Midterms and Finals.

My additional contribution: Spiral approach to learning

The spiral approach to learning is the idea that concepts should be built upon each other. Basic concepts are taught first, reviewed regularly on a repetitive basis while developing higher skills and deeper understanding over time. This approach not only assists with the development of high skills but also with the necessary building of memory and retrieval skills.

3 main ideas for spiral learning:

  1. revisit topics several times
  2. complexity increases as you revisit topic
  3. new learning has relationship with old learning.


Here is how I space learning over time:

  1. Weekly quizzes that not only focus on new material but have a few questions from the previous units that I find important to reinforce (typically aligned with mid-term and district final exam). We study, assess and review the assessments weekly.
  2. Bellwork- I continuously review older concepts, vocab, themes, main ideas during bellwork session.You can do these as packets that incorporate old and new; or just daily questions (I’ve done both and prefer the packets as it gives me more time to take care of the “managerial” work at the beginning of class i.e. attendance, absence check-ins, pass out papers, collect hw, behavior logs, etc…)
  3. Regularly scheduled vocabulary review games, activities or lessons. Vocab is super important in science so I incorporated vocabulary development (game, activity, song, etc…) into our daily routines. Routine: Bellwork → vocab →  lesson → closure
  4. I pick a big theme and focus on this theme throughout the year- starting with basic concepts and working up complexity as the year progresses. In biology I focused on the scientific method and graphing skills.
  5. Breaking up a lesson into smaller components and teaching it across multiple days; while incorporating development activities, labs, posters, videos, or I combine a few main concepts/lessons together.


Print and Use Resource:


Click here to download & print: planning for more review


Videos to watch for better understanding of spacing learning over time:

Key Concepts in Spacing Learning Over Time:   

Key Concepts in Spacing Learning Over Time with review and quizzing:











Work Cited:

Resources and Videos taken from Doing What Works

IES Practice Guide 


2 thoughts on “Spacing Learning Over Time

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