Saturday, March 24, 2007

Make it Stick: Tips for Active Learning

As a continuation to my posts on learning styles, I got some wonderful tips and ideas from a teacher. Although her subject is music, you could apply these ideas to German study or any other area you choose. She asked that I leave her name off for confidentiality reasons. There are some fantastic ideas here! Enjoy :) -- Sarah

I was interested in your comment about your little fellow learning math
while running around the house. A couple of years ago, I had auditioned
kids for some spoken lines in a music program in one of my grade schools.
One little girl had the most expressive way of saying the lines. It became
apparent, however, that she had a real problem when it came to learning her
lines. Simple repetition was not working, for example. It turned out
that she was considered Special Ed, and no one who knew her well thought that
she could learn the lines. So I took her down the hall, saying the lines
back and forth with me. I took her down the stairs and up the
stairs. Finally, I had her saying lines while walking backwards. Not
only did she memorize the lines for the concert, but every time I saw her in the
halls, or outside, for the next couple of years, she came to me and burst into
all the lines, delivered perfectly and with great satisfaction and pride.
She's not at our school any more, but I can't help wondering if she maybe still
knows those lines!

I think the thing that helped was that she was so surprised. Walking and
doing it was unexpected, going down stairs and up again was novel, and she for
sure didn't expect to go backwards!! I hadn't thought it through, either,
and was just trying something different to get the information through to her -
something fun unpredictable that would allow her to have fun and keep her from
noticing that she was actually drilling the information (in between
giggles). A year or so ago, I took a Suzuki course that specified learning
techniques for learning string instruments and one of the teaching tools was to
have kids play a passage in a different room each time, or find some other
distraction or novelty to pair each repetition with. The technique was
called "disguised repetition." So I found a name for my seat-of-the pants
adventure with this nice girl. I think she'll always remember that
she can learn, from that experience. That's what I take with me most
of all.

Your situation is different from the musical
application: Since you don't have to worry about bumping an instrument you
could have more freedom - have a young child say something from
under a table, or behind a couch, or hanging over a bed...or have the child
suggest a place, and if you respond by go, the child hurries there and says the
word or phrase. (And then the next time it might be a different word or
phrase.) It could even work with several children taking turns, as a game,
I think. (Another variation: whoever is "it" gets to say where the
next child says a phrase or word...or how to move while saying

At school, I sometimes alternate drill (rote learning) with opportunities
to be creative in a way that relates directly to the drilled

I also set up learning situations in which I make
mistakes and the students have to correct me, which the kids love.
Sometimes I am putting up information on the board which is almost all right and
while they're learning it, I suddenly ask them what's wrong with what I have up
there, and they study it intently and hands shoot up (or they burst out with
it!!)! Other times they know right away that I'm making mistakes for them to
find, and they love that.