By Lani Aquino
All teachers work to create meaningful experiences for students in hopes that the educational takeaways within those experiences become ingrained. The big question is whether the processes and understandings contain any longevity. Were the big ideas captured and conceptualized for a moment or for a lifetime? Education Week spotlighted 10 Game-Changing Ideas in Education, and at the top of the list was the work of brothers Chip and Dean Heath highlighting the important role that memory plays in student engagement.
The brothers discuss the impact of what they term “peak moments” experienced throughout life (e.g., wedding day, championship game, award), and they make a strong case for integrating learning peaks within the classroom. When the graduation speeches are written highlighting the big moments in an educational journey, will they only include proms, concerts, sporting accolades, etc., or will they include standout memories from learning? These 5 ideas offer some peak moments and some everyday constructs that can got a long way toward helping students find more connectedness to learning which can lead to more longevity in the impacts experienced.
Transform the Learning Space- When students enter a reinvented space it leaves an impression. By taking a shared interest or theme and setting the stage within the classroom for students to work through a variety of lessons and activities, students become engaged with the content, and the learning that occurs becomes memorable. Veteran educators Wade and Hope King are no strangers to such transformations. With a limited budget and some ingenuity, students can learn about human rights, drones, climate change, and more via the realms of Power Rangers, NASCAR, Jurassic Park, or any other high-interest lens. Once the stage is set and interest is captured, learning can be memorably impactful.
Create a Big Event- A concerted effort leading toward a showcased outcome is something that will stick with students much longer than some fill-in-the-blank or short-answer questions. The Heath brothers also point out that these types of learning scenarios are much more in keeping with the real-world experiences that students will encounter in the workplace. Adhering to deadlines and working through all the behind-the-scenes challenges required to master and showcase big ideas will definitely leave a lasting impression. Whether students complete a mock trial, living museum, self-published text, or some other curriculum-aligned student exhibition, the long-term efforts will lead to long-term takeaways.
Gestures- By adding movement to language, more of an impact is created. In Mindshift’s How Seeing and Using Gestures Make Ideas More Memorable, they discuss the possibility that the incorporation of more body and mind connectivity leads to more lasting understandings. For teachers, it would likely be impossible to sit hands clasped and deliver any type of information to students. Being active and passionate about content simply gets teachers firing on all cylinders. To get students just as impassioned, teachers need to find ways to get more whole-body input during the learning process. There are ready-made components like the EMBRACE system which aids students in comprehension by engaging them in movement while reading. There is also just the mindful incorporation of purposeful movement, finger plays, dramatic recreations, and more movement-based activities which can lead to an increased likelihood of mentally playing out physical interpretations.
Mnemonics- Who doesn’t mentally recite ROY G BIV when bringing the color spectrum to mind, rattle off planetary order with My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas, or recount the planetary update with My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nachos? The power of mnemonics for allowing learners of all ages to recall information has lasting effects. This shouldn’t translate to mnemonic overload with witty phrases and acronyms for anything and everything, but the occasional peppering to remember key concepts or chronological orderings is a well-used and memorable key to long-term retention.
Music- Put those concepts to music. Whether existing musical prose is used or students are tasked with composing their own lyrical renderings, adding a beat can aid in adding content to memory. For decades, students have been learning The Inventor Song and adding their own stylings to its performance. Musically recalling the state capitals and singing along to the wide variety of School House Rock ballads make for enjoyable and impressionable content delivery platforms. When students work to make educational parodies to their favorite tunes, they also get a great lesson in conceptualizing content and delivering it via a memorable outlet.
As teachers work to make lasting impacts for students, the creation of memorable moments holds the key. Whether the memory-making involves a long-term process or an everyday construct, capturing students’ interest in engaging ways aids in retention. By utilizing a variety of strategies, teachers can facilitate the types of memories that find their way into students’ educational highlight reels!
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