Make Content Stick

I wanted students to remember, so I tried to make class content good enough to stick. But even great material doesn’t guarantee learning. Students, after all, remember only 5 % of what they hear and 30 % of what they see.

It’s when students interact, that content sticks. Students remember 50% of what they discuss, 75% of what they do, and 90% of what they teach others.

In a telling study, McDaniel and her team found that when teachers include frequent, short retrieval exercises, student learning increases (McDaniel, Agarwal, Huelser, McDermott, & Roediger, 2011).

So what are ways to retrieve content from students?

Think and Talk

Say to students, “Take one minute to think. When the time is up, you’ll explain to your partner what you’ve learned so far about the elements of art.”

This space for thinking gives introverts a chance to prepare for talking before extroverts jump in. When students first think and then talk with a partner, they master content.

Highlight and Write

Give students time to choose an important idea they’ve learned about the Great Depression. Then ask students to write a note to a partner explaining this idea.

Recall and Draw

Say to students, “Recall what you have learned so far about cell division. What images could you draw that would help your partner understand cell division?” Ask students to construct images, and then explain them to a partner.

When students pull concepts from their minds and interact with them, those concepts are likely to stick.

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