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Imagine most content being taught like watching a float go by at a parade. You are standing on the crowded street as the brightly decorated float approaches. You watch in amazement as the float gets closer and closer. You observe many details, experience the sights and sounds of the people aboard: they are talking and laughing; music is playing; one of the people waves to you, and then suddenly the float gets farther away as it proceeds down the street until it is gone. You turn your head back to the left and watch for the next float, the last one beginning to fade already from your memory.
But what if learning were more like a baggage claim at the airport? I mean, if you don't grab your bag the first time, shouldn't you have a few more opportunities? This is spiral teaching, and there is an awful lot of research that backs up this method.
"The pupil must make an enormous effort to assimilate each new point the first time it appears because when he turns the page he will go to something else." Anthony Howett
What is spiral teaching?
It is the teaching of key concepts repeatedly throughout the curriculum but adding deepening layers and complexity each time you review. (The image to the left illustrates this: the loop down is the review, and the loop up is the adding of complexity.)
Why spiral teach?
This method provides multiple opportunities for students to master concepts and skills. This allows for differentiation, and the mere act of repetition is rooted in what we already know about brain-based learning. Spiral teaching also increases the likelihood that we will present the same material in different ways, thus engaging students and further differentiating.
How do you spiral teach?
In my research, I noticed that spiral teaching is being used often in teaching math and grammatical concepts, as well as ESL. I would love to hear from you about other ways to implement this.