Teaching and Learning

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    Jill Sweeney

    I think that meaningful learning experiences are made by using learning opportunities that get students engaged and revolve around interests and levels of importance for the students. For example, if a student is interested in the way that water moves through the water cycle, try to incorporate that interest into your math, your writing and your reading lessons. Without interest of the students in mind, lessons will be a chore for students and it will not get them or keep them interested and engaged.


    Sarah Reich

    Similar to what Jill said above, I think the key to make lessons stick is to get them engaged. If the students is actively engaged with the lesson and interested, they are more likely to think about it later. The only way to keep information is to practice and think about it more. If it is put to the back of your mind, it will easily be forgotten. Another strategy for the teacher is to reference past information in current lesson plans.



    Meaningful learning experiences can look different for different students. Teachers must look for the interests and strengths of each student in order to design a maximally effective and pertinent experience. I also think that more specifically, Willingham’s implications for the classroom contained very helpful tips for making learning stick. He stated that spacing out practice and folding practice into more advanced skills were beneficial. These both lend themselves to the application of practice and skills. In my head, a simple example of this could come from writing. Maybe a child isn’t interested in the solar system, so struggles when it comes to writing a story regarding a planet. This same child might enjoy the ocean, and thus be able to write a more advanced story for this topic. While the student cant avoid writing a story for both, one might click more with the student, allowing them to gain essential practice and knowledge they wouldn’t have gotten if they stopped practicing writing because they struggled with it once.



    I think there are many ways that we as teachers can create meaningful learning experiences that will stick with our students. The first way is to present materials through a variety of activities. An example of this is when my 2nd grade teacher would play “Around the World” with math facts. This was a way to sneak in drills without doing dreaded worksheets and actually kept my class engaged.

    Another way to create meaningful experiences is to include hands-on activities and keep referring back to them throughout the unit and even the school year so you can continue to reinforce the take-home points.

    You could also incorporate cross-over between subjects. An example of this would be making volcanos with baking soda and vinegar in science class and then have the students write out the steps they took during the experiment.


    Jared Tschohl

    I would argue that if we are making meaningful learning experiences “stick,” then are the students “sticking” to the concept of learning OR the actual experience?

    I would gather that everyone in a science class either dissected some and animal or made ice cream in a bag with ice. What were the learning goals for each assignment? Personally, I just remember getting to look at the inside of an animal was cool and the ice cream was yummy. I couldn’t tell you the science concepts we were learning for either of those assignments. Those learning experiences have stuck with me for over a decade now, but were they meaningful?

    I don’t think engaged learning experiences help retention in what we want it to do. It creates fun memories, but does not help retain learning forever. I argue (and Willingham would agree based on his research of forgetting) that spiral review is the most important tool for long-term retention. I distinctly remember my Trig teacher in high school, after every test, had an assignment called “Spirals” which were review problems of the previous concepts we had learned throughout the class.
    When I look back on now it totally make sense now, but at the time in HS, I blew them off thinking it was a waste of time to redo information I already had learned!

    I hear parents all the time complain their child does well on tests throughout the year, but doesn’t retain the information long-term. We have built generations of memorizers & regurgitators, but not long-term learners.

    I have worked with many teachers in the past who never do any spiral review, even though they know it is important, because they are constrained with time to try and cover all of the material. In VA, students have to take SOLs (similar to Common Core). Would it be more advantageous to cover maybe 1/2 to 2/3 of the material, but have students master it all strongly OR cover all of the material, but have superficial memory of it all? With most SOLs, students only have to get a little over half correct to pass, so why not just focused on mastering a majority of the material instead of all of the material to ensure pass rates and job security?



    As mentioned, we should always provide students with experiences in the classroom that they can relate to. This could be from a different topic to study, or an activity in the classroom where you can still correlate with standards. Having topics of interests to the students will allow them to be more engaged and more willing to pay attention to keeping these details to memory.You could even have the students become the teachers, where they are doing their own investigations about a topic. By doing this, the students are getting that practice in, which Willingham mentions as a key to expanding your long-term memory.

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