What are learning cycles in our new resources?

Learn about the four phases of each learning cycle in our new resources

We’re here to support you to teach, and your pupils to access, a high-quality curriculum. We provide free access to thousands of adaptable and optional lesson planning and teaching resources and share inspiration, expertise and best-practice advice on curriculum design. 

We've been working hard on new and improved teaching resources which we started to release this autumn 2023. Our new resources are for English, maths, history, and science key stages 1, 2, 3 & 4, and primary geography and secondary music. More subjects will follow next year.

Each of our lessons are made up of similar items:

  • slide decks: the majority of our slide decks can be downloaded and edited. Use them as a foundation for your own lesson plans, and adapt them to make them your own.
  • quizzes: help your pupils retrieve or activate prior knowledge before a lesson, or test recall knowledge afterwards. Print our downloadable PDFs to use in class or as homework.
  • worksheets: our worksheets and accompanying worksheet answer sheets help your pupils practice key lesson content, and help you plan for questions and tasks.
  • videos: build your confidence tackling unfamiliar topics by observing experienced teachers delivering the lesson.
  • additional material: For some lessons there is also additional material you can download to help you teach that lesson. Content can include information about the purpose of the lesson, materials needed, methods to use and risk assessment considerations.

To help you get the best out of our new resources we have put together some useful information about what the new icons mean on our slide decks. These make up our Oak learning cycles.

The following information is only relevant to our new resources on our new website. We have new content available for English, maths, history, and science key stages 1, 2, 3 & 4, and primary geography and secondary music. 

Our new units and lessons all have a ‘New’ label beside them.

NEW label

What is a learning cycle?

Oak’s slide decks are structured around learning cycles. 

Learning cycles are parts of a lesson, with each cycle representing a section of learning focused on a theme or idea. There are usually between two and four learning cycles per lesson. 

Learning cycles can be identified from their colours in the lesson outline and the slide headers, with the banner colour remaining consistent throughout each learning cycle. The focus of each learning cycle is written in the banner of the slides.

The four phases of an Oak learning cycle

Each learning cycle is designed to guide pupils through several phases. The phases we use are explanation, checks for understanding, practice and feedback.

Throughout the slide deck, these phases are indicated by icons in the top right corner. There is a reminder of these icons towards the beginning of every slide deck but if you are presenting, this slide will be skipped past automatically.

Explanation_icon Explanation

Our high-quality explanation is used for the delivery of a lesson’s key learning points, and is underpinned by three principles: 

  • Connected: new learning happens when explanation is linked to prior knowledge.¹
  • Chunked: information should be provided in small steps to minimise cognitive load and maximise understanding and retention.²
  • Clear: clarity of language is essential in ensuring pupils understand and remember  concepts.³

Check_for_understandingChecks for understanding

Checks for understanding are directly linked to the explanation.

This indicates the constant process by which teachers can assess pupils' understanding by targeting common misconceptions and mistakes.


Practice provides pupils with opportunities to check, apply and consolidate their learning, helping to commit new knowledge and skills to memory.

By embedding key learning through practice, cognitive load is reduced, paving the way for complex thinking. As Doug Lemov states: 

‘it’s not practise makes perfect, it’s practise makes permanent.’⁴


Feedback involves providing pupils with information about their performance, with the goal of helping them to improve their learning.

‘Teaching is feedback. It is simply the age-old process of finding out what a child can and cannot do, does and does not know so you can adapt your teaching and their learning accordingly’.

Oak's teaching resources include regular and consistent feedback, providing teachers with the tools to motivate pupils with an understanding of their successes, as well as identify areas for improvement.  

Oak resources allow teachers to customise these cycles. They can be used as a foundation for your own lesson planning, and adapted to make them your own.

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¹Furst, E. https://sites.google.com/view/efratfurst/learning-in-the-brain

²Rosenshine, B. (2012) Principles of Instruction, Research-Based Strategies That All Teachers Should Know

³EEF, Special Educational Needs In Mainstream Schools, p.26

⁴Lemov, D. (2014) Teach like a champion

⁵Allison, S., and Tharby, A.,  2015. Making every lesson count