Well what an amazing year 2014 was! The first blog post is here, and with the wealth of fantastic teaching blogs that are about at the moment, I am not afraid to say that I feel terribly insignificant ha! So I'm just going to talk about a few things that I looking into in 2014 that really interested me and hope that someone else finds them equally so!
This year was very new to me, a new career, a new school and absolutely tonnes of fascinating learning opportunities! But there were three really fascinating teaching strategies that I have explored over the course of this first term that I thought I would share, the first of these being spaced learning!
"Spaced Learning, developed by Monkseaton High School, is a method of embedding information in our long-term memory through repetition. Fundamentally, this is no different from how we learn all the time. When we hear, see or do something once, it can be stored in our short-term memory. If we hear, see, or do it repeatedly, it can enter our long-term memory." (Bradley, 2011)
Spaced learning is something that I used with my bottom set year 9 group, the process basically involves a five part lesson with 3 teaching inputs and 2 'spaced' breaks whereby students partake in an irrelevant activity. I opted for Play-doh! The idea being that the process of rapid structured repetition, separated by short breaks, embeds the information in the long- term memory.
A Spaced Learning lessons consist of three ‘inputs’ separated by two 10-minute gaps, as follows:
• Teacher input of key facts/information
• 10-minute break
• Student recall of key facts/information
• 10-minute break
• Student application of key facts/information.
I used this concept with my year 9 class when looking at perimeter, area and volume. And the general idea behind the first teaching period consisted of an overview of the entire topic, ranging from the perimeter of a compound shape, through to the area of a cylinder, and finally the volume of a cuboid etc. After this 10 minute session we started the break consisting of a competition on who could make the best Kermit the Frog out of play-doh, brilliant! The second input then consisted of the same presentation we had at the start, except I omitted all of the formulae and facts from each of the individual sections, I then just bounced around the class asking different students to input what they could remember. The questions would then switch onto the formulae and facts on the board, and students inputted what it was showing, for example it would then say (length x width) and students would say the area of a square or rectangle etc. I then had the second break where I asked students what they wanted to create, and they had a resounding vote for Shrek so we had a Shrek making competition again out of Play-doh, again brilliant! We finished the lesson by sitting a basic self-assessment, this consisted of filling in all the formulae and facts within the topic, and also finished with a few basic questions on different aspects such as the surface area of a square based pyramid.
I have to be honest I was very skeptical at the start of the lesson, and I was certainly questioning wether the lesson had any greater impact than any other regular lesson. But the students loved it! and they haven't stopped going on about it since, so it's definitely stuck in their minds. (That's good right? They all went away talking about maths... or Shrek I'm not sure). The question I was really wanting to answer was had it worked? Well, almost every student in the class on a quick hands up assessment scored 13 out of 15 facts with some of the class scoring 14 or 15 which was pretty shocking! And in their homework which was set after the lesson, I had 5 students in the class score 100% and all of the class handing it in and scoring to high success, which was previously unheard of!
I am not sure exactly what it was that influenced this, as I was trying lots of different things to motivate this class, but I can't deny the results shown in the homework! Who knows? But I will definitely be pursuing some further investigation into spaced learning and trying to incorporate it into some of my maths resources. It has without a doubt sparked my interest into the neuroscience of teaching and learning.
I would be really interested to hear if anyone else has implemented this strategy or anything similar, I am currently working on few short presentations to remember key formulae, and using images and text in this style of spaced learning. I'll report back on this in the future!
Here's a few interesting quotes from some students that have used spaced learning:
"Compared to the normal teaching method I personally felt that the Spaced Learning lesson allowed me to store/retain more information." - Dylan McGreevy, 17
"For me, Spaced Learning is a bit like my climbing. I don’t try to learn; I don’t write anything down, and I don’t review. It just seems as if I am seeing a movie in my mind that I have already seen before, and my understanding of the information presented becomes more precise – clearer – when I see it again." - Lucy Barratt, 16
1] Angela Bradley and Alec Patton, 2011. Monkseaton High School. Accessed at http://www.innovationunit.org/sites/default/files/Spaced_Learning-downloadable_1.pdf