As educators, we are often faced with the fact that our students are not able to recall information. We are certain that the students have been taught certain skills. We’ve witnessed how while the lesson is taking place, the student seems engaged and is able to accurately respond to what we are sharing. Then, the next day or even moments later, it seems like everything that they had learned, has been erased from their memory. Sound familiar?
Here are four strategies to help build students’ ability to recall information:
- Have the student teach a concept to a classmate or another adult. If a student is able to teach it to someone else, that is a sure sign that not only the student has remembered the information, but that he has actually learned it.
- Have the student play games such as the old-time favorite, “Memory”. This game can be varied to fit your instructional goals. For example, when a student is faced with difficult terms, have him write the words on an index card and then the definition on another card. Turn the cards over so that the blank side of the card is showing. For visual learners, have the student write the term in one card and draw a picture or download a picture and glue it onto the other card. Allowing the student to see the term and verbalize the meaning of the term before the actual match is found is an even better way to assist them in recalling information.
- Don’t be too quick to provide answers or to repeat yourself! If a student says, “I can’t remember what we need to do next.” Your response should be, “What is the last thing you remember? “What did you hear?” From there, try to probe the student until he discovers what was said. If the child is very frustrated, then of course, provide help. But remember, once you’ve told the student what needs to be done, have him repeat it back to you or have him repeat it to another classmate in order to make sure he has understood. This strategy also aids in strengthening auditory processing skills and it helps students think about what was said. Furthermore, it’s beneficial because it aids in teaching students how to sustain attention for longer periods of times.
- Practice, practice, practice! It is common to hear that practice makes perfect, but truly, practice makes permanent! Ever wonder why a child knows his name? How many thousands of times has he been called that name since infancy? Unless there are any serious medical, neurological, or psychological conditions, the more a child practices a concept, the more permanent that concept will become. Very few people grasp or recall a concept the very first time it’s taught. Others, need to be exposed to a concept at least fifty times or even one hundred times before it becomes permanent, but that is just part of what makes each person unique.
Ultimately, it’s important to be patient and to engage students in interactive dialogue while the activities are taking place. Remember Bloom’s Taxonomy? Ask higher-order level thinking questions, but also allow the students to ask questions so that they can become part of the learning experience.