Spaced Practice and Interleaving in the Reading Classroom

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It’s likely that you’ve heard of spaced practice and interleaving. These terrific teaching techniques can make a great deal of difference to our students’ learning.   Spaced practice refers to the practice of practising a skill or retrieval of knowledge a little bit at a time, over a period of time. This is far more effective than massed practice or practising all at once. Interleaving involves mixing up the questions you ask from within a subject area rather than grouping the questions together. 

What might spaced practice and interleaving look like in the reading classroom? 

The easiest way to introduce spaced practice is through daily review to practice phoneme grapheme correspondences and word level reading and spelling.  

Learn             Practise every day         Practise twice per week        Practise once per week

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

Learn ay, ee, igh

Practise ay, ee, igh

Practise ay, ee, igh

Practise ay, ee, igh

Practise ay, ee, igh

Practise ay, ee, igh


Learn  oa, oo, ar

Practise oa, oo, ar

Practise oa, oo, ar

Practise oa, oo, ar

Practise oa, oo, ar



Learn or, air, er

Practise or, air, er

Practise or, air, er

Practise or, air, er




Learn ou,  oi,  a_e

Practise ou, oi, a_e

Practise ou, oi, a_e





Learn i_e, o_e, u_e

Practise i_e, o_e, u_e


When running your daily review, it is important to include practise in content that has just been learned, content that was learned the weeks prior and less frequent practise in content learned a month or more prior.  

The interleaving aspect comes in when you consider how the practise is arranged each day. 

Non-interleaved              Interleaved

Rain                                         rain
drain                                       sleep 
wait                                         fright
sleep                                       meet
meet                                       sigh
green                                      drain
light                                        fright
sigh                                         green
fright                                       wait

In their 2019 book, Powerful Teaching, Pooja Agarwal and Patrice Bain outline several classroom activities to increase the power of retrieval. One of these is ‘The big bowl of questions.’ As you teach a topic or section of curriculum, place questions into a bowl and each day, draw out several questions before placing them back into the bowl, ready for the next day. This adds a sense of drama and anticipation to your day. The big bowl of questions can contain words from your phonics lessons, words from your vocabulary list or questions from your science or HASS teaching. 

With simple measures such as these, your daily review can be even more powerful, and you can provide your students with the evidence informed practices to help them commit important learning to long term memory.


Have you heard about the Resource Room?  This online platform will be your go-to place for teaching resources for all things structured literacy across the primary school.   You can read more and add your name to the waitlist here


2 comments

Alison Fahey

If only I had read this earlier today. A not so positive writing session today, trying to hurry through a task. Upon reflection and after reading this blog, I will slow things down and ensure spaced practise is alive and well in my future lessons.

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Jocelyn Seamer Staff

We've all been there!  There are so many wonderful things happening in your classroom.  Tomorrow is a new day. :) 

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