Monday, July 9, 2012

"So I Took Out My Adjectives"

If you are "of an age" (and by that I mean mine), you remember when Saturday morning had cartoons and not news all the time.  You also remember ABC on Saturday mornings interrupting those cartoons at some point along the way to show a 3 minute video about something of educational value.  Of course, we didn't necessarily realize at the time what was happening, but many of us can still probably sing along to our favorites.  Mine was not available at the ABC School House Rock YouTube channel, so I will offer this one to you instead.

In Chapter 3 of Why Don't Students Like School?, author Daniel Willingham discusses the role of memory in learning.  As he states, "memory is the residue of thought."  In essence, we remember what we think about because our brain realizes that if something is important enough for us to think about, then we must want to remember it.  But, there are a number of roadblocks to making this happen and a number of reasons why we don't remember things.  He seems to advocate quite strongly for the use of mnemonics to help students memorize things that there just seems to be no reason or way to remember it otherwise.  One of the more powerful mnemonics is music, which is probably one of the reasons why I can still remember many (not all, as @suedensmore would remind me) so many of the School House Rock videos left such an impression on my brain.

In building on the idea that "factual knowledge must precede skill" from Chapter 2, our challenge then is to come up with ways for students to remember what it is they need to know in order to use that information in the deeper-thinking activities that we want them to later on.  One of the ways he suggests to do that is to tell a story.  I came across this quote from Jerome Bruner in Larry Ferlazzo's wonderful and insightful blog earlier this summer and thought it fortuitous as I read this chapter: Stories are about 22 times more memorable than facts alone.  Teaching history certainly gives me a wonderful advantage in an effort to create stories, but based on the quote and the information in Chapter 3, it would seem that I need to make more of an effort to create stories along the way.  I may not always be able to do this, but if I can do it more often than not, perhaps my students won't mind coming to my class.

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