Summer is a great time for reflection (at least for teachers). I think it is also a great time for discovery…or even enlightenment (in some sense).
I was watching my daughter at swimming lessons the other day and a thought hit me. In the past, we have signed her up for weekly lessons at a local indoor pool. We were pleased with the lessons. She seemed to be progressing to the point where she would have to take the class two or three times before proceeding to the next level.
This summer we decided to sign her up for daily swim lessons at a local outdoor pool. Each session runs for two weeks and then students are given a progress report for whether or not they move on to the next session. My daughter has made strides this summer. Of course, there are many possibilities to the improvement she has been making. It could be the teacher(s), the setting, her age, her motivation, etc. I can’t help but think it is also due to daily repetition versus weekly repetition (as in once a week).
I’m not sure what to make of this observation. Swimming involves physical skill, which can be easily observable when progress is being made. It is harder to observe measurable progress in reading and writing (although it is still there) as quickly as I have seen in my daughter’s swimming lessons. Rule #5 of John Medina’s Brain Rules, emphasizes the need to “repeat to remember”: http://www.brainrules.net/short-term-memory .
I am wondering if it makes a difference in whether or not the repetition needs to be daily or weekly. During a unit, I practice repetition (I think most teachers do). As I have reflected over the years, I have changed my teaching practice to involve more skill-based learning. My thought is that the skills themselves need to be repeated over and over. Perhaps this needs to be done daily and weekly throughout the year until mastery by most students has occurred. Or, perhaps it needs to be done in with differentiation in mind. Regardless, the repetition of skills needed in a English class help make the learning automatic, which is why, over time, improvement in reading and writing skills can be measured.
As I plan for the upcoming school year, I hope to integrate purposeful repetition in my lessons as I consider what it will take for my students to meet the ELA Common Core State Standards.
As far as using physical movement in lessons, I believe in the repetition of physical movement as a way to teach specific skills or as a way to introduce (or review) content through a different lens. For example, when I teach vocabulary, I often have student transform their bodies into a shape that represents the definition of a word. Each time we review the word(s), I have them recall the position. In a sense, this type of repetition has students associate a physical trait with a verbal definition; therefore, they have a better chance of recalling the definition later. I will describe this activity in more detail in a later post.