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Make It Stick: Even Stickier with #eduread

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For the past few weeks, I’ve been joining the lovely gals of #eduread to discuss Make It Stick by Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel.

As for the book, the first 100 pages were really good, then it dragged quite a bit for the next 100. There were quite a few stories that were supposed to help elaborate their points, but really just seemed tangential. However, stick with it (ha!), because things get really good in the last 50 pages which has tips for students, teachers, and trainers as well as stories/examples that really let you see the tips in action.  I wish I could get a copy of this chapter into the hands of every student!

Here are some of the big ideas and how I want to implement them this year:

Calibrating-(we decided we liked this term better than “a-whole-lotta-quizzing”) Implement a lot of small, low-stakes quizzes so students can “calibrate” their learning-where they are and what they need to work on. Rereading does not actually help master material, but quizzing and flashcards (with correction) does. Although I don’t think I can handle daily quizzes, I’d like to try for maybe 3 times a week.

Spaced and Interleaved Practice- Although it doesn’t feel like it, trying to remember something a few hours/days/weeks strengthens your learning. Also, massed practice of one topic can lead to “illusion of mastery.” I’m guessing I’m not the first teacher who has had this issue–each day the kids are doing great on the topic, then you get to study guide day and all heck breaks loose because the kids are not used to the problems being all together. I’m going to try to do lagging homework (the homework for the night has topics from a couple of days previous) that also has a lot of spiral review in it.

Generation and Reflection- Generation is trying to find a solution before being shown and I’m assuming you know what reflection is. 🙂  I’d like to use these at the beginning/end of units: start each unit with some sample problems from the chapter and some leading questions: “what do you think the main idea of this unit is?” “what might we need to work these problems?” “how do you think these are different/same from previous chapters?” Then at the end of the unit (or maybe midway and again at the end), have them reflect on their original ideas and what they now know about the unit.

Mnemonics I also liked that they are a fan of mnemonics as a way to organize your learning, not in place of learning. There is one topic that I teach that some teachers use a mnemonic for that I wasn’t really fond of. Now I see that we can discuss the how and why of each part, then have the students use the mnemonic to remember all the parts–in essence, a to-do list of tasks, not the tasks themselves.

The really big takeaway from the book is that you must embrace the fact that “learning is deeper and more durable when it is effortful.” Many of these practices will seem hard to students (and me) and they will feel like they are not gaining anything, but the authors are pretty persuasive (with research to back it up, not just anecdotal accounts) that these setbacks are a sign of effort, not failure, and will make learning more meaningful and long-lasting.

Special thanks to @numerzgal, @algebrasfriend, @pamjwilson, @lmhenry, @fourkatie, @rachelrosales, @mary_dooms, and especially @druinok for such lovely conversation, debate, and motivation. What are we #edureading next?!?!?