This is the third post in the series of Teacher Toolkit for Engagement. Today we look at using content recall activities as a task for use in-class or online.

Our previous posts, we looked at Passive Lectures and Engagement and Summarizing. As previously mentioned, passive lectures have their place and when used, should be complemented with active-learning activities. This helps promote student learning. This includes summarizing and other engagement activities.

Let’s take a look at content recall activities.

What is a content recall activity?

Content recall activities have been around for years. They can be similar to a pop quiz where questions asked recall information. Or, content recall activities can be likened to The Generation Game endgame. The Conveyor Belt. This is just two quick examples of content recall activities.

Why is content recall beneficial?

By completing a content recall activity, the activity is an effective method that helps reinforce learning. As a teacher, you could do a two to five-minute pop quiz at the start of every lesson. This activity forces students to recall content from previous sessions.

It could act as an interactive recap rather than a passive transmission of information. By recalling content, students are pulling it from mid to long-term memory. This helps reinforce learning and information retrieval.

How can it be used?

As a teacher, you don’t need a conveyor belt of items. You can simply use questions from previously taught content from the module. Or, you can show a slide show of relevant images.

Consider using content recall techniques in your teaching. Not only will it help students prepare for the unknown. It helps improve their study techniques.

Research has demonstrated students learn content more effectively when forced to recall content. This learning method is more effective when compared to rereading / revising content.

Using technology

At Queen’s University, we have electronic PRS (Personal Response Systems) clickers that can be used in-class. In addition, students have mobile phones which can be used. Students can join a quiz service, i.e., Mentimeter or Kahoot.

Teachers can pre-load questions and/or images to these services (Mentimeter/Kahoot) and quiz learners on their knowledge. This is a quick and easy way to assess learner progress, recall information and engage with your audience whilst adding a bit of fun.

Credit: Jon Tyson
Credit: Jon Tyson

Kahoot displays a leader-board with the top five scores. This is between questions and can boost morale. Many of these online services allows results to be displayed anonymously. All participants can see the questions and answers. These provide discussion points before moving on to the next question.

Think about how you can use technology to enhance the student experience. With face-to-face audiences, students may not want their scores displayed, especially if scoring poorly. This can disengage learners.

By using an online service where students can use pseudonyms, this may encourage learners whilst feeling less ‘high-stakes’. As a teacher, you can gauge how hard questions are and what content you need to spend more time teaching.

Where can content recall activities be used?

Content recall activities can be used in different teaching contexts:

  • In-class
  • Online
  • Mixed in-class/online audience

If your audience are all in-class, as a teacher, you can announce an adhoc ‘pop quiz’. This quiz is nothing to do with popular music or culture, it’s just a quiz that pops into the lesson.

It might be every student for themselves where scoring is concerned. Or, students can be paired or grouped together to discuss answers.

Credit: The Climate Reality Project
Credit: The Climate Reality Project

A content recall activity can be used with online audiences. Questions can be submitted as a poll/quiz for students to answer. Online services like Mentimeter or Kahoot are great. They provide opportunity for questions to be time limited and points decrease as time reduces.

Students can answer individually in the virtual space. Alternatively, groups can be in breakout rooms or channels. The content recall activity completed as a group allows for discussion. The quiz link would be used in each breakout space in the latter example.

Credit: Charles Deluvio
Credit: Charles Deluvio

When it comes to discussing answers with the whole group, online students need to temporarily exit the breakout spaces and meet back in the live-teaching space to partake in the group discussion.

Mixed in-class AND online

For mixed audiences (in-class and online) and if the quiz is for individuals, ask all students to log into and use the online facilities for the content recall activity. All responses are recorded and can be discussed later as a group. 

If using groups, it might be you group in-class students with other in-class students and online students with other online students via breakout rooms or channels. Evidently, one person from each group will log into the quiz with the group name. Student groups have the opportunity to discuss answers before submitting their response.

Add challenge

For an added bit of fun, students can name their team and maybe have a league throughout the semester. This adds a bit of gamification or competition to the activity and students may be encouraged to swot up for it.

No matter which audience mix you cater for, think about adding other incentives. It could be coffee or pizza vouchers either at the end of each quiz or a larger prize for the overall module.

Credit: Jessica Lewis
Credit: Jessica Lewis
Alternative activities using recall

Recall activities can take other forms. Here, we look at:

  • Question of the Day
  • Mnemonics / memory aides
  • The Conveyor Belt
Question of the day

For a lower stake feeling activity, why not create a Question of the Day feature? This helps with knowledge retention. And, it won’t overwhelm students as much as pop quizzes.

Think of the available teaching tools you can use. How can you create a one question quiz? This encourages students to recall a piece of information to answer your questions.

In Queen’s University, questions could be posed in Canvas via Discussions forums. And, if it’s simplicity you want, a simple email to your students with a daily question would suffice.

Credit: Markus Winkler
Credit: Markus Winkler

It depends on where and how you want students to respond. Do you want or need to see responses? Are responses for discussion? Is it a task for students to create revision notes? What purpose do you want Question of the Day to have?

Mnemonics / memory aides

Some learners may benefit from using Mnemonics to remember and recall information. In resuscitation medicine, a popular mnemonic is ABCDE: Airway, Breathing, Circulation, Disability, Exposure. This is the sequence and principles of treating all deteriorating or critically ill patients in Resuscitation departments.

Through using mnemonics, the encoding, storing and retrieval of information becomes easier. This should be encouraged as it makes memories stronger and information is easier to recall.

In fact, encourage students to create and share mnemonics with fellow students. By creating and sharing mnemonics, this reinforces learning and makes recall easier.

Mnemonics can take the form of acronyms, images, rhymes or chunking. Anything that helps recall of information.

Search for mnemonic generators online as services to help you create mnemonics. All you need to do is type in a few words to create a mnemonic sentence.

Conveyor Belt

Using the Generation Game example, why not consider the equivalent of the Conveyor Belt game? In the original conveyor belt game, this consisted of items passing by a game-show participant. The participant had 60 seconds to name as many items as possible. And on naming the items, those items became prizes.

Knowledge wasn’t a necessity for the conveyor belt game. It was simply recalling what was seen in the previous 60 seconds. It recalled information from the short-term memory.

An example can be seen below. Test yourself by watching the video. Then time yourself for 30 seconds listing the items. How many did you remember?

For our purposes, this could be images appearing and disappearing from screen for 60 seconds. It could be a second per image or faster. Nominated students would then be given 30 to 60 seconds to recall the content.

This activity could be part of a pop quiz. It might work better as an in-class exercise. As an example, one member from each team would be nominated for the task. The nominated student would be allocated to another team to answer. The other team would note answers and tote up the correct number of responses.

An alternative method for online audiences might involve all students. This is where students would be asked to source relevant images under a theme. For example, images from their course of study or a google search of images. These images would be sent to the lecturer 24 hours prior to an online live-teaching session.

The lecturer could collate the images in a folder and show them as a slideshow using screen share. This would be for a one-minute. A nominated student lists the images they saw. This would be a one-minute task.


During this blog post, we have looked at what recall activities are. This is any memory aide to assist in the remembering and recall of information. It might be a pop quiz. You might encourage students to create and use mnemonics. And some alternative activities were suggested. You may have a few ideas of your own.

Importantly, we looked at how these activities could be used in-class, online and with both audiences simultaneously. Do encourage all students to take part online as this increases engagement. It focuses attention and improves learner experience. It’s inclusive. It’s active learning.

Next time

On Monday, we will look at Using Index Cards as a tool to add in to the Teachers Toolkit for Engagement. We are looking forward to you joining us to learn more. And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter: @MDBSelearn.


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