Category Archives: Learning

Teaching Retention

Teaching retention has become a thing in the UK educational sector, especially since we are dependent on exams to assess students.

I have read about interleaving, spaced learning and retrieval practice. All are good techniques for delivering the facts of your subject to students in a format that will assist retention. But few have talked about teaching actual memory skills like those used by modern memory athletes.

And this is exactly what used to happen. The Ancients used to teach memory skills along with other skills.

“Memory training was considered a centrepiece of classical education in the language arts, on par with grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Students were taught not just what to remember, but how to remember it.” — FOER, J. (2011) “Moonwalking with Einstein” p.95.

The Ancients had to do this because writing things down was very expensive. Their writing technology was limited to papyrus scrolls, carved stone or wax tablets. These days in affluent countries we have easy access to paper, pens, pencils, computers and mobile phones. So the need for memory skills has declined, excepting in one regard the need to memorise facts for exams.

We know how to deliver content in a format that helps us retain information, but we are not directly teaching students how to memorise data.

Teaching memory skills is a thing. Memory Sport has “memory championships”, in which “memory athletes” compete for prizes. They learn ancient techniques to memorise random words, poems, card order of shuffled card packs etc.

Teaching memory skills would count as a transferable skill, another goal of modern education.

The goal of education

I came across this quotation from John W Gardener

“The ultimate goal of the educational system is to shift to the individual the burden of pursuing his own education. This will not be a widely shared pursuit until we get over our odd conviction that education is what goes on in school buildings and nowhere else.”

It made immediate sense to me. I even wrote it down in my little book of quotations.

I would modify it slightly.

“The ultimate goal of the educational system is to engender the habit of learning and seeking to understand throughout the rest of the life of the student.”

For my perspective that is a central factor to my career and life. I have learnt many new things since leaving College. Some of them entirely new to me, some of them building on previous knowledge.

I know that I do not understand somethings when first encountered; but I also know that if I apply myself and seek to learn I will understand and be able to master new things. This could be a new central heating system, a new way of laying out and formatting text and images on a web page, or how to complete a form to apply for a job.

Learning how to study, research, and analyse to gain knowledge and new skills is very important in life. School and college are one of the main inputs that push students from spoon fed children to self-aware, learning adults.

Word Battleship

Learning aim

A game for pre-Intermediate and advanced-Intermediate English learners.

  • Listening to and understanding the rules of the game
  • Practising saying letters and numbers 
  • Understanding and spelling words in English

Game synopsis

Using the traditional format of Battleships, the players attempt to locate words and predict them and their location on the grid.

Resources

  • paper with 10 by 10 gridded squares
  • whiteboard and markers / blackboard and chalk
  • pens, pencils etc.


Preparation

The teacher prepares a crossword like grid with 10 words that are written vertically top to bottom or horizontally left to right and that intersect. All words have to be written like a crossword so that they only form proper words. Do not run words parallel to each other or butt words endtoend!

Each player is given a blank grid so that they can mark off the missed shots and letters hit.

The teacher writes on the whiteboard 20 words, 10 of which are already on the grid prepared earlier.

Order of play

  1. In turn each player calls out one of the gird references. (e.g. “A8”)
  2. The teacher tells the player if they have:
    • missed
    • hit and what letter was at that grid reference
  3. The player can try to guess either a word or the entire grid. See “scoring” below.
  4. Next player…

Scoring

After each player calls gets a hit, the player can attempt to guess the word hit. Each word correctly guessed earns a point.

Alternative scoring: A correctly guessed word scores as many points as there are still un-hit letters in the word correctly guessed!

Monster’s Inc

This is a simple educational game that engages the children in a game, gets them using their imagination and naming body parts, and also gives them some drawing fun.

I have used it to assist children in listening and speaking English.

Resources

  • pens, pencils, erasers, crayons etc.
  • paper
  • alternatively you could use a whiteboard or blackboard

Rules

  1. Each person takes it in turn to suggest a body part, a type of animal or some feature. For example: a big nose, speakers for a hands, pirate arms, angel wings or a giraffe’s body. The teacher writes this on the board.
  2. Each child draws the new “body part” on their paper, adapting it to the other parts drawn before.
  3. When all have finished, each student passes their paper to another student. This is simplest if they pass to the same person each time. It could be randomised, but this will create more fuss and potential confusion.
  4. Go back to 1 and repeat.
I would suggest that no more than 6 or 8 parts are included in each drawing as the sketch gets a little busy after a while. Keep an eye on progress.

End
When all have completed their drawing, gather them in and ask for the children to judge which is the best.

Ask them what they like about each one. Praise good ideas etc.

Ask them to name the bit which is the head, or the body etc.

Example

This example was created from the following list.

  1. Speaker Head
  2. Thin Body
  3. Pirate Arms
  4. Octopus’ Tentacles
  5. Silly Hat
  6. Small Legs.
The class voted this one the best one.
I liked it because one child told me that he had included two “pirate arms” – the one with tattoos and the “internet pirate” with the mouse! Not bad for a Spanish kid of about 12.




Acknowledgement

Thanks to Ian Temple for suggesting this idea.