One of the Seven Laws of Teaching is that of reviewing past lessons. The author suggests that up to 30% of a class period can be used for reviewing past lessons and skills. Many teachers have an opening activity which reviews a skill, such as a warm-up math problem on the board, or a quick quiz over previously learned material. However, reviewing does much more than just reinforce the neurological pathway for retrieving previously learned information.
When a teacher brings up prior knowledge, she is reinforcing the long-term memory for the particular idea, however, she is also creating the platform for anchoring the new lesson by tying it firmly to the previous one. Students remember connected ideas, and can more easily retrieve words, ideas and skills if they are connected logically and systematically to those already acquired. The importance of connecting to prior learning cannot be overstated. Charlotte Mason suggests that education is the science of relations, and understanding the relationships between what students learned from one day to the next increases, not just memory, but increases meaning and sense to the lessons. The students develop a matrix of connections between their concepts as they learn more and more. This makes their studies more relevant and applicable to each other and reflects the complexity of life and ideas more accurately.
Another reason for review is to create the atmosphere of success. One of the worse results of a high-stakes testing learning environment is that the course progresses quickly through material without adequate mastery for many students. There is a sense of rushing and leaving behind what is incomplete. Review done well reinforces the learning of the stronger students by building up the additional nuances of meaning that can be added while allowing the slower students to continue to practice at their more basic level to gain mastery over time. Spiral review systems which bring in lessons from all previous lessons on a rotating basis can be quite effective in solidifying understanding and creating meaning when the teacher has this perspective. As a result of covering familiar material many times, the students gain confidence and feel successful in their ability to answer the questions and learn that the classroom is a place they can thrive in their abilities rather than wilt in insecurity at daunting new tasks every day.