Tapping Into Memory in Time for Testing|
by Kim Tracy
Echoing through the hallways are whispers from teachers counting down the days until the end of the year. However, many school systems are dealing with state mandated tests that are the hurdle to leap before achieving the final days of school. This is a time when stress and anxiety are taking over the minds and bodies of students, teachers, and administrators. Some teachers are scrambling to complete mandated curriculums, while others are busy reviewing what has already been covered and scratching his or her head every time a student says, "I donít remember learning this." How frustration for a teacher who knows it was in the lesson plans, and who knows that it was taught during the course of the semester or year! The brain often just needs a spark in order to retrieve what was stored in memory. How do we spark those memory juices? How does an educator feel less frustrated when reviewing for tests?
Discussion is one of the most productive ways to help students recall information. Not teacher led discussion, but student led either in groups or with a partner. Modeling discussion is imperative to show students how to discuss with each other and how to help their peers in reviewing information. Students are more apt to recall information when sparking interest from each other than having a teacher stand in front of them doling out basic facts. Have students switch partners or rotate groups and discuss the same information. Let groups lead a class discussion on the various topics. The students have already been taught from you, now let them review with each other. The role of the educator should be to monitor so that the information is not incorrect and that the students are staying on task.
Another recall tactic is for students to put the information to music. Student groups or partners can take the given information and put it in the form of a rap song, or country song, or any genre. Not only are they challenged to have the correct information but actually have to put the information to a beat. After the songs have been written, have the groups write the words out and perform for the other students. Then all the groups have assess to learning the information through music.
Allow students to role play or act out the learning concept. Taking a more active role will help students recall the basic facts that have been learned. Simple role playing with problem solving skills will help students delve into higher order thinking skills by taking the multi-steps that are used to solve the problem and acting them out. For example, assign different student teams a math word problem and have them act out how to solve that problem. They can make their own props that are needed. Give time limits and as students become more accustomed to reviewing problems in this manner, they will be able to review several problems within one class period.
Use movement as a way to spark the memories that are embedded in the brain. For example, when learning place value my students turned to partners and held up one finger and chanted, "Ones!" They moved to other partners and held up both hands, palms out and said, "Tens!" Next, the students moved to another partner rubbing their stomachs and shouted, "Hundreds!" (hungry-hundreds) The students moved through their place values and can still recall exactly how they learned them. Having students move around the room, giving them key devices to help each other recall the information will help them when it comes to test time as to where they were standing when they were reviewing. The brain takes pathways and must have something to connect to first before trying to recall the concept.
As discussed in previous Brain Compatible Learning articles and in a Teachers.Net poll, mnemonic devices are a great means of helping students review information. Older students are capable of coming up with their own devices when trying to review information. Have students develop a device to recall reading strategies, or math formulas. Then when testing time comes, students will remember the mnemonic device first, then will recall what it stood for, again, helping the brain to pull the information that is filed away in his/her memory.
Testing time can cause anxiety with everyone. Testing should be viewed as a time to Celebrate Learning; a time to review the topics that have been covered during the semester or year. Summertime is standing outside the classroom windows beckoning for students and teachers to come out to play. Getting through testing must come first and helping students to recall the information they have been taught will help relieve some of the pressures.
About Kim Tracy...
Kim Tracy is a fifth grade teacher living in North Carolina. After extensive research and training, Kim has become a Brain Compatible Learning specialist and has conducted staff development workshops in the Southeast area. Kim has been involved in other staff development by facilitating Active Learning in the Classroom workshops, Writing workshops, and Test Scoring workshops, as well as teaching computer skills to educators in her county. As a successful grant writer, Kim is currently in the process of developing successful grant writing packets for educators.
Kim received her BA in Elementary Education from St. Andrew's Presbyterian College in North Carolina and her MA in Education from The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Kim thrives on teaching other educators about Brain Compatible Learning because she has seen the successes of the strategies in her classroom. Educators seeking advice with implementing BCL strategies can email Ms. Tracy at firstname.lastname@example.org.