Spiraled instruction stifles learning, writes Coach G in Ed Week. “We touch on lots of topics each year,” then review the same material the next year and the year after that. In his first teaching job, “Algebra 2 was such a rehash of the district’s Algebra 1 course that some teachers called it ‘Algebra T-o-o’.”
Consider, for example, area and perimeter, which students are first exposed to in third or fourth grade, and see again in middle school. Yet when area and perimeter come up in high school, most teachers–including me at first–teach them from scratch.
The problem, of course, goes back to the disconnect between kids seeing something and actually learning–and retaining–it. But if it didn’t sink in for them the first, second, or third time a teacher presented it, why should we present it again?
Instead of spiraling touch-and-go instruction, teachers should spiral practice, Coach G writes. “Instead of limiting assignments to recent content from the current course, we should also include problems on earlier content from that course AND previous courses.”