Cumulative Review

Once every week or two, academy teachers should engage students in cumulative review of important content. Of course, within an academy, the important content is articulated as measurement topics. At a very general level cumulative review means that teachers continually review content in the proficiency scales for each measurement topic. This is not to say that every topic would be addressed during each review session. Rather, during a particular time set aside for review (let’s say a 45 minute period every Monday), the teacher would review the content of the measurement topic that is currently being addressed. In addition, the teacher
would identify a previously addressed topic or topics to include in the review process.

One critical aspect of the cumulative review process is an accessible archive of student notes about the content. This means that students should be taking notes during each review episode. Student notes can be archived online or in a traditional notebook. In either case, students should code their recorded thoughts by topic. A very straightforward way to do this is to have a section of the notebook for each measurement topic. If a physical notebook is archived in a three-­‐ring binder then a tab could be devoted to each measurement topic. Of course this would take a great deal of room and make the notebooks quite thick. In contrast, students can record their notes serially—each set of notes is recorded  immediately after the previous set of notes. In this case, each new set of notes should be labeled as to the measurement topic to which it refers. This is depicted in figure 10.1.


Notice that each entry in this figure has the topic of rocks written in parenthesis. If each entry is labeled by a topic, then it is relatively easy for students to go back and review their previous thoughts about specific topics. During each review session three different types of activities might be used: 1) recording, 2) reviewing, and 3) revising. That is, a review session might include one or all three of these activities.  More detailed information on each activity and additional guidance are included in the Marzano Academy Implementation Manual (a resource for current school partners).


During this phase of the cumulative review process students record what they have learned about the topic being considered. There are a number of ways this can be done. Below are a few selected excerpts from the Marzano Academy Implementation Manual. 

Informal Outline
In an informal outline, students us indentation to indicate the relative importance of ideas. The write big ideas at the left side of the paper, and indent and list details under the big idea to which they pertain. Students can also use numbering, bullets, or Roman numerals to organize information and display its relative importance.

The teacher asks students to summarize content. Summarizing requires that students record the critical content from a text or lesson. Summarizing techniques often require multiple complex cognitive processes and should be directly taught and modeled for students. Below are two activities that help students create summaries:

  • Use summary frames to structure students’ early attempts at summarization. A summary frame is a series of questions that focus on important elements of the content. Students answer the questions and then use their responses to generate a summary. For example, in a summary frame for a short story, the teacher might create a series of questions that ask students to list the setting, characters, main conflict, and resolution of the story.
  • Show students how supplementary information, such as headings, images, and graphs, in visual presentations of content and texts can help them decipher what the main idea and key details are.

Pictorial Notes and Pictographs

The teacher asks students to use pictorial notes and pictographs to illustrate new content. Pictorial notes may serve as an accompaniment to written notes or, in some cases, as the primary note-­taking form. Pictographs, like pictorial notes, may be accompanied by text for clarification. Pictographs are often used to represent data in mathematical charts. In place of numbers, images are drawn to indicate how much of a certain item each category has. Additionally, pictographs can be simple drawings that express words or phrases.

Combination Notes, Pictures, and Summary
Students record written notes about the content in the left-­hand column of a chart, pictographs or pictorial representations of the content in the right­hand column, and a summary of the content in the lower section of the chart. Figure 10.4 depicts an example.

Summary: Most paintings or pictures have a foreground, midground, and background. The foreground contains the objects which appear the closest because of their large scale, the midground is the space between the background and foreground, and the background is the space farthest from the viewer which contains shapes that appear to be in the distance because of their small scale.


During the reviewing phase of the cumulative review process, student examine and/or test their understanding of the content within a specific topic. There are a number of ways this can be accomplished.  Two examples are listed below.

The teacher asks questions that require students to recall, recognize, or apply previously learned information. These questions might also ask students to make inferences or decisions based on the previously learned information. Specifically, questions should be asked that require students to:
• Recall and explain details about a specific topic.
• Describe and exemplify generalizations and principles about a specific topic.
• Generate and defend inferences about a specific topic.

Presented Problems
The teacher presents students with a problem that requires them to use previously learned information in order to solve it. For example, the teacher might ask students to solve a math problem involving exponents that requires them to review previously learned multiplication and division skills.


During the revising phase of cumulative review students make corrections in their notes. Again, there are a number of ways this might be accomplished, a couple examples from the Implemenation Manual are listed below. 

Sentence Stems
Sentence stems are sentence starter templates the teacher provides to students (for example, “I learned that ______” or “I used to think ______, but now I think _______”). Sentence stems can help students who have trouble starting or organizing their thoughts about a topic. They can be used in conjunction with other writing tools, and may also reveal gaps in students’ knowledge or understanding of the content.

Quick Writes
Quick writes involve students writing in response to a short, open-­ended prompt given by the teacher within a limited amount of time. For example, the following prompt might be presented to students to begin a quick-­write: How is this information different from something we’ve learned previously? Quick writes can not only promote writing fluency, but also give students practice in quickly organizing and expressing their understanding of a topic.

Revising Knowledge Using Visual Symbols
Teachers direct students in the use of visual symbols to revise their knowledge of the content. Visual symbols are shorthand ways of highlighting information and changes in understanding when revising academic notes. Figure 10.8 is an example of visual symbols that can be used for revising notes.