Retrieval: the key to learning success

As outlined in their book, Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, authors Brown, Roediger III and McDaniel outline a very potent learning strategy: Retrieval Practice. Retrieval practice involves actively trying to access (retrieve) information from our brains without any cues or prompts. While retrieval has traditionally seen as a gauge for learning (i.e:…

Why you should try Prediction Guides

An essential (but sometimes overlooked) aspect of unit planning is determining the background knowledge of the students in the class. Equipped with an understanding of students’ background knowledge, teachers can design learning experiences to meet the needs of the students. This is important, because, “What students already know about the content is one of the…

Why Paragraph of the Week packs a powerful punch

[Pack a punch: Verb. (Idiom). to have strong effect or outcome.] If you want to really improve your students’ writing abilities and analytical thinking, you might consider incorporating Paragraph of the Week into your teaching approach. It might sound basic, but this simple, tried and tested strategy has the potential to create powerful learning for…

Helpful praise is descriptive

“There is no value judgement more important…no factor more decisive in [a person’s] psychological development and motivation – than the estimate [they] pass on themselves.” Nathaniel Branden The psychology of self-esteem. While it is essential that children build a positive and realistic self-image, praising children can be a ‘tricky business’ that brings about unintended consequences…

Student surveys can be illuminating

Student Surveys Student surveys can provide very useful data for teachers regarding their own teaching practice. In particular, they can help teachers to reflect on their teaching strategies, planning processes, lesson activities, assessment instruments and their rapport with students. This year I took a two-pronged approach: A short ‘tick and flick’ survey asking questions such…

Scaffolding inquiry – research questions

The focus of historical inquiry is a significant question or issue. Students need sufficient scope and depth of research materials to fully respond to such a question or issue. Students should ask, What else do I need to find out before I can answer this question? The ‘what else’ takes the form of research questions…

Terrific Teaching Tool – Spiderscribe

Spiderscribe is an online brainstorming and mind mapping tool that students can use to record their ideas and engage in a number of higher order thinking activities.  There are a number of advantages to using Spiderscribe in the classroom: It is very straightforward to use Students have their own login so all mind maps are…

Terrific Teaching Tool – Gapminder World

Gapminder is an interactive data-based resource that enables students to explore the world’s most important statistical trends.  Data is available for hundreds of variables, from population to health to wealth to CO2 emissions! Go to the gapminder website for a general sticky beak or simply Gapminder World straight away.  It can take a minute to load but…

Doing History: Exploring evidence with artefacts

“The process of writing history using primary sources involves a three-way interplay among the inquiry questions that propel the study, the close analysis of available sources, and knowledge of the context of the sources.” (Sexias & Morton, 2013, p.42).  Accordingly, historical evidence from primary sources is central to this process. An often neglected category of…

Rubrics– articulating clear learning goals

One strategy to help students understand the learning goals for a task is to provide a simple rubric.  The rubric should break down any jargon found within the success criteria so that students can understand the learning goal (and establish a link between their own work and their likely grade).   I distinguish between what I…

Declarative and Procedural Knowledge checklists – articulate clear learning goals

The first step to a good formative assessment strategy is articulating clear learning goals.  One effective way to do this is to use a Declarative and Procedural Knowledge Checklist.   Cognitive psychologists classify knowledge into two categories: declarative knowledge (which the learner knows or understands) and procedural knowledge (which the learner is able to do).  In…

Teachers as persuaders

Daniel Pink raises some interesting issues during an interview about his new book (conducted by Larry Ferlazzo).  Pink shows how teachers must take the role of the ‘seller’ when implementing strategies to foster intrinsic motivation in students.  If we want our students to be autonomous and self-driven learners, we need to convince students to part…