Knowing how to make learning stick is a common issue for many teachers and parents. How do children retain information? What can we do to help them?
We all have our own experiences memorizing facts, cramming for tests, and drilling information in the hallway just before a test. But, did we really learn all that much. Not everyone remembers the details of the Texas Revolution or the parts of a cell.
So, how do we avoid passing these habits along to children? How much does a child learn when they read a book or head to their classical school?
How to Help Kids Remember What They Learn
While our students aren’t about to take a high school final exam, it’s good to promote a positive perspective on learning. When we promote a love of learning, we move beyond superficial understanding and memorization. Instead, we prompt our students to grasp the topics they face with curiosity that drives them to learn more.
There are different techniques to consider when it comes to how to make learning stick. Oftentimes, there’s less of an emphasis on memorizing data. As an alternative, it’s important to nurture a child’s natural curiosity.
#1 Ask Questions About What They Read
Whether you read with your child or encourage them to read on their own, it has numerous benefits. However, it’s still possible to take things up a notch. One way is to end the reading session with a follow-up question or two.
When we ask questions about their reading, it encourages them to recall what they read and the facts presented. Moreover, it offers them the opportunity to form their own theories about what happened or what’s about to happen.
- Who made X feel better?
- What could X do to help them?
As you dive into the story, it helps your child consider it in a new way. Additionally, it reinforces the storyline and lessons presented in the reading. That’s much better than simply closing the book.
#2 Promote Problem Solving
Occasionally, we feel as though our children need the correct answers right away or that they should avoid a mistake or difficult problem. However, part of how to make learning stick is challenging your young one. Often, children remember more information if they make a mistake or get the answer wrong the first time.
So, how do we help kids remember what they learn? Let them struggle and try on their own. Then, offer them feedback or provide the right answer.
Here’s an example of how that might work.
- Let them tackle the problem. Give your child the problem and allow them to solve it on their own. If they make a mistake, that’s fine.
- Show them one way to solve the problem. Next, show them one method to find a solution, and tell them that there are often multiple ways to figure out an answer.
- Give them a similar problem. Lastly, offer up a similar problem and ask them to find an answer. Alternatively, ask them to show you how to solve it.
Mistakes allow children to see how to do things correctly. Additionally, it helps them remember useful information once they learn another way to think about it.
#3 Walk Your Child Through the Writing Process
When it comes to how to make learning stick, a great method to help kids remember what they learn is to encourage them to write. Writing teaches them how to process the information they learn and turn it into something new.
Let’s say your child learns a book about how watermelons grow. Start with a simple writing process.
Here are four easy steps.
- Outline: Have them write a few quick notes about what they learned with drawings, words, or props.
- Draft: Then, have them write the sentences of the story. Don’t correct anything at this stage. First drafts are their attempt to collect their notes in a single place.
- Edit: Now, help them edit what they wrote. At this stage, it’s okay to rearrange things and correct errors or misspellings.
- Finalize: Lastly, help them type up the story on the computer. You can even print it once their done or have them draw pictures to illustrate it.
#4 Review, Quiz, and Self-Correct
This might feel like drilling, but it is part of how to make learning stick. One of the best ways to help kids remember what they learn is through review and self-correcting. Give your child a mini quiz after you review the material.
Then, have them correct whatever they missed. If spelling is something your child struggles with, here’s a simple way to apply this method.
- Review: Show them the list of words so that they can see how to spell them.
- Quiz: Say a word aloud and have them write it in their notebook.
- Self-correct: Show them what they missed and allow them to correct it on their own. If they aren’t sure, show them the word and explain the difference.
#5 Use Variations on What They Learn
When your kid studies something at school, another method for how to make learning stick is to provide some variation on the material. For instance, it’s easy to remember a pattern, but it’s also easy to forget it in the long term.
However, covering a variety of different problems makes them more likely to remember what they learned. It’s a kind of desirable difficulty because it challenges your child in a way that helps them truly understand what they learn.
So, instead of a pattern like “bat, cat, rat, hat,” you might mix in other words to break it up. This encourages them to not get comfortable with those patterns. Instead, they stay alert and access different parts of their memory to find the correct answers.
Learning How to Make Learning Stick
As we think about how to make learning stick, the important thing to remember is that it’s always possible to help. For example, you might ask questions as you read or review what they learned in school in a short, simple way.
When we allow children to work on problems by themselves before we step in, it gives them the agency and encouragement they need. Writing it into a story can also help kids remember what they learn.
No one wants to cram for a test or force themselves to memorize information that disappears later that day. Instead, simple, fun, and creative activities help children gain and retain what they learn.