Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Memory is More Complicated than you Think

There are 3 components to memory. The first is short term, where we sort through all the visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic stimuli coming at us and select something to hold briefly in our minds. You can see how attention would affect this ability to sort, choose, and hold onto relevant information.

The next is long term memory. Review puts thing into short term memory repeatedly, which allows it to move to long term memory. Getting to know how much review you need and which modalities (sight, sound, feel, touch) are best for you is helpful in developing efficient study habits. It is important to note that lots of short reviews are more effective because attention wanes during long repetitive study sessions. Research has also indicated that reviewing material before sleeping aids movement to long term memory. Having material well organized and hooked to previously learned material also makes it easier to retrieve later when you need it.

The third component of memory is Active Working Memory. This is heavily affected by attention as well. I have heard the analogy of a work table. Imagine some students having a large table for all their supplies for a craft project. Others are working off a TV tray. In active working memory, you must combine new information and instructions with stored information. Holding all that in a smaller space correlates with craft supplies continuing to fall off the table and when you pick one up, another falls. An example would be the child who knows multiplication facts very well in isolation, but has trouble applying them while learning to do long division. Think of all the skills, steps, and information necessary to learn long division, and you may need to allow a student to use a fact chart (who normally doesn't need it) and provide a list of steps for problem completion.

Some other factors that can affect Active Working Memory are:

Some stored facts are easier to retrieve than others
Lack of energy to focus on multiple tasks may be due to physical, emotional, social, or attention issues

Examples where it may become evident due to the complicated process:

In Written Expression, you must apply Letter formation, Spelling, Grammar, Capitalization, & Punctuation, and Organization of Thoughts
In Fill in the Blanks, you must Retrieving answers from words in the vocabulary and have Knowledge of Spelling
In Matching, you must Discern words and meanings and retrieve from your entire vocabulary (word bank may be helpful to narrow choices)

Suggested accommodations to consider:

1.Help students over learn skills so they are automatic and maintained over time
2.Provide references, such as fact charts, word banks, checklists, & formulas
3. Written Expression: Write topic ideas on visual organizer, Allow use of spelling aid, Allow use of most comfortable writing mode, Use editing checklists
4.Long Division: Allow use of fact chart or calculator, Allow use of steps during homework & tests 5. Fill in the Blank: Provide a word bank, Reading question to student to aid understanding
6.Matching: Break into groups of 4 or 5, Identify matching groups, Reading choices (hearing sometimes helps if reading is not fluent)

Memory is something children may need lots of guidance with to develop to potential. Be aware how much attention and available energy stores affect it as well.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Remodeling a Kitchen

After reading the Understanding by Design/Backward Design article, I think you will see how this correlates. You don't demo a kitchen before making plans for what you want the end product to look like.

Just like you want to select what you want students to know and understand for the long term, you want to decide what elements you need to make your kitchen function for you for the long term. As you make a precise drawing of what you want those elements to look like when they hopefully fit together, you plan for your assessment to make sure all the pieces fit together the way you expect. After those steps are done, you demo and build from there in ways (or plan lessons) that will produce what you want that finished kitchen (or final learning) to be.

Focus on the BIG picture, the overarching learning, how the new information can connect for them with information they already have, and standards. The extraneous information that makes it more interesting or gives it more depth may not be the prioritized information you want them to focus on acquiring (understanding), retaining (remembering), and transferring (being able to apply later). That extra information is like the decorations, which are additional touches that make things interesting, but not necessarily part of the original, most important part of the plan. Decorations and additional information can be changed without affecting the primary functionality of the room or basic knowledge. Especially students who have challenges in learning and memory will benefit when information they need to spend time studying and demonstrate learning for is prioritized.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Understanding by Design (UbD)

This is a principle for curriculum and lesson planning. It is also called Backward Design because you literally plan backwards from what you want the learning outcomes to be.

The first step is to decide what it is you want the student to know, understand, and be able to do for the long term. This generally coordinates with standards.

The next step is to develop at least a draft of your assessment tool. Make a test that has all the information you deemed important to learn from the previous step. You may decide later to give choices in assessment, such as allowing oral, written, or verbal presentations. You might decide to allow group work, projects, or authentic/real world application assessments (with an individual accountability element of a written reflection done independent from the group afterwards). However you decide to assess, the basic content of what you want to cover needs to be established by drafting your assessment criteria.

The final step is to plan how you will teach the information you decided was a priority to meet standards and focus on what students need to know and understand for life. Even though we often think of planning lessons coming first, we must analyze what we want as the learning outcome before we decide what and how to teach. You can see how additional information may be added for those students with deeper interests or abilities with the specific topics, but for those who struggle, prioritizing is important.