PDA

View Full Version : Retention issues



Topsy
04-16-2017, 08:24 PM
I'm in pondering mode today. I was chatting with a friend whose son is struggling, like REALLY struggling, to retain facts he's learned in history, science, etc. She says it makes it impossible for him at test time, even though he's well-read and enjoys learning. He's in traditional school, but she was asking me if I had any ideas for helping him at home. My input was to first make sure she knows what kind of learner he is (visual, auditory, etc) and then see if she could match some practice activities to that. For instance, using picture-style flash cards if he's visual, or putting facts to lyrics if he's auditory.

I wondered what you've discovered helps retention of facts with your own kids? Obviously, interest in the subject at hand makes a lot of difference, I know, but what about subjects that are assigned that maybe kids aren't passionate about...any thoughts of retention methods for those?

alexsmom
04-17-2017, 10:27 AM
Could it be he understands the concepts fine, but has moved on in grades so he is expected to be tested on specific dates and vocabulary? Once I learned that I had to use the vocabulary terms in my essays, my grades went up. (eg: "There were lots of slave rebellions" isnt going to score as well as "Plantation owners and militia quickly put down uprisings such as the Pug Rebellion of 1723, the burning of Fiddlers Ferry in 1728, and Gnats Revolt in 1736.")

Is he pre-reading the sections before they are discussed in class by the teacher? Is he paying attention in class, or perhaps doing his homework thats due later that day? Not saying all teachers are the bees knees, but a kid can help by being prepared and paying attention.

My son's learning style is "performer", but other than him 'teaching' his younger brother, we dont do anything 'performy'.
I get the best retention from my DS when we read and discuss the material together, then watch a couple youtube videos about it.

Id be really surprised if there arent dozens of youtube videos for each science topic. (Last week for us was 'erosion and deposition'... watched some fun short videos (maybe 5-10mins) from a geology teacher in New Zealand.... tbh more interesting than Bill Nye with his contrived examples.)
I also remember lots of videos on US History topics... way more than one could ever want to watch to keep abreast of textbook learning.

I guess I would suggest making sure he is doing his schoolwork efficiently (where retention isnt the issue so much as learning it and being able to produce the results the teacher is looking for) and then supplement with free and easy youtube first before inventing flashcards and study games.

farrarwilliams
04-17-2017, 05:12 PM
Well, first thing, I'd recognize that there's no such thing as auditory or visual learners:
Daniel Willingham's Learning Styles FAQ - Daniel Willingham (http://www.danielwillingham.com/learning-styles-faq.html)

And, since I just linked Willingham's FAQ on the subject, his book Why Don't Students Like School? has a ton to say about this. Context, context, context. Kids don't learn unless they have enough context to retain what they're learning - as in, if you don't really understand what the parts of a cell are, then you won't remember their names. It's contextless information. And make sure you're teaching the right thing. So, a project where you make up a skit or make a poster may end up teaching more about skit and poster making skills than the topic you actually meant to teach about.

Mnemonic devices are good, of course, especially for short term memory. Making up your own can be more powerful than learning someone else's. I'd say the number one thing when I've wanted my kids to really retain something has been putting in the time. It comes easy for some kids (not mine) but most kids need to just spend time studying.

Topsy
04-17-2017, 07:57 PM
Could it be he understands the concepts fine, but has moved on in grades so he is expected to be tested on specific dates and vocabulary? Once I learned that I had to use the vocabulary terms in my essays, my grades went up. (eg: "There were lots of slave rebellions" isnt going to score as well as "Plantation owners and militia quickly put down uprisings such as the Pug Rebellion of 1723, the burning of Fiddlers Ferry in 1728, and Gnats Revolt in 1736.")

This is a great question, actually. My friend thinks he can't retain the actual facts, but what if he simply doesn't test well because the FORMAT of the test is not clear to him or because he doesn't understand the directions well. I can well remember doing extremely poorly on some tests because I would rush through and not read the directions at all.

Topsy
04-17-2017, 08:09 PM
Well, first thing, I'd recognize that there's no such thing as auditory or visual learners:
Daniel Willingham's Learning Styles FAQ - Daniel Willingham (http://www.danielwillingham.com/learning-styles-faq.html)

And, since I just linked Willingham's FAQ on the subject, his book Why Don't Students Like School? has a ton to say about this. Context, context, context. Kids don't learn unless they have enough context to retain what they're learning - as in, if you don't really understand what the parts of a cell are, then you won't remember their names. It's contextless information. And make sure you're teaching the right thing. So, a project where you make up a skit or make a poster may end up teaching more about skit and poster making skills than the topic you actually meant to teach about.

Mnemonic devices are good, of course, especially for short term memory. Making up your own can be more powerful than learning someone else's. I'd say the number one thing when I've wanted my kids to really retain something has been putting in the time. It comes easy for some kids (not mine) but most kids need to just spend time studying.

I'll have to say I heartily disagree with Willingham's conclusion on learning styles. Mostly because it made such an enormous difference for my son when I finally "got" that he was a visual learner. The very same concepts that he struggled so with in 3rd and 4th grade using literature-based curriculum, he finally retained when we switched to Time4learning in 5th grade and he could SEE the concepts visually explained. And yet my oldest, who I consider to be an auditory learner, got very little out of Time4Learning's format, but when we would have conversations about the same concepts, his lightbulb would go off. I've done more research on learning styles than I'd ever care to admit, and I'm convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is definitely something solid there.

But with that said, I'm also a huge believer in context, and I don't think you can underestimate the importance of it. That's one of the true advantages of homeschooling, too. In 50 minutes, a teacher is going to struggle to provide a lot of context for the enormous amount of info that's required to be covered in that span, while at home, we can amble our way through subjects and give context till the cows come home. ;) I'm going to mention that to my friend, though. If she could see herself as her son's "context provider", that could give her a starting point for what to work on!

farrarwilliams
04-17-2017, 10:33 PM
I don't think there's much to disagree with about Prof. Willingham's position on learning styles. He's one of the better evidence based experts on learning and education. His position is that there is absolutely no scientific evidence supporting learning styles. And there isn't.

I wish people wouldn't get so attached to their educational woo woo. It's so anti-science.

Of course different individuals learn differently. That's a whole other issue.

Topsy
04-21-2017, 08:57 AM
I wish people wouldn't get so attached to their educational woo woo. It's so anti-science.

Of course different individuals learn differently. That's a whole other issue.

And therin lies the problem. "Scienctific facts" at odds with each other. Willingham is an intructivist. A whole host of scientific minds with constructivist leanings heartily disagree with him on many points. To say that there are learning differences/preferences but that they don't impact learning outcomes is, to me, woo encapsulated.

Mariam
04-21-2017, 02:02 PM
This will sound snarky, but retention is best when DS is studying what he likes. That was pretty much the same with me when I was a kid too. I remember what I was interesting to me much better than what I wasn't interested in (spelling, multiplication tables).

I eventually got them. I know that the child you are talking about is in a traditional school, but even if DS was in a traditional school, I wouldn't be focusing on it unless he wanted to work on it. Then we would find a way. I think kids need internal motivation to do it. If he is not interested or does not care then it won't really matter what method is chosen.

Topsy
04-23-2017, 09:24 AM
Wholeheartedly agree, Mariam. Definitely the truest perk of homeschooling by far!!

HobbitinaHobbitHole
04-29-2017, 12:32 PM
We have difficulty with retention of non-preferred subjects as well. We tend to do better when we are able to inject special interests and humor into the mix. This is not always possible especially with more somber subjects, but we try.

I also have to say that although I have not read the specific studies cited by Willingham, (some of which are old) that strategies that may not flesh out statistically, may be anecdotally helpful. I cannot imagine that a child who has auditory processing issues is not going to do better with non-auditory learning methods. If a child fidgets and likes to move around, that child will do better if that child can learn while moving around. A child with eidetic memory strengths is going to better with visual presentations.

If he wants to lump this in with individual aptitudes vs calling them learning styles, I don't really care because whether you view it as a learning style or an aptitude, it is still going to matter for certain children.

CrazyGooseLady
05-10-2017, 01:58 PM
If this were my friend....has this been happening all along? That is, it takes him a little longer to learn things than the other kids?

Overall, I would suggest an evaluation to see if there is some kind of learning issue going on. Maybe he does have deficits with long or short term memory. If that is the case, when he is in the real work world, he will find ways around it, like using his phone to look up information that he needs to do his job. It should be the same in school. If there is a documented issue, he can get a 504 plan to help deal with it.

I suggest having the parent read the book "A Mind at a Time." It is not going to diagnose, but it will say how relieved the kids were that they knew that they didn't just need to try harder when they were already trying their hardest.

Some books on executive function may also be good, again, not specific, but helping to be organized so that he can make the most of the time studying and such to be the most effective.

IEF
05-10-2017, 02:12 PM
I'm sort of a mix between auditory and visual and do well with silly little rhymes like "Lefty loosey, righty tighty" and "I is for input, O is for output" so I don't accidentally wipe my whole hard drive instead of creating a bootable USB stick.

Hyperbole helps too, especially if it's silly. "Every time you pluralize with an apostrophe, God kills a kitten" works better for me and ds9 than "don't pluralize with an apostrophe" or even "Every time you pluralize with an apostrophe, someone thinks I'm a bad teacher, homeschooling should be illegal, and you aren't very smart".

If it's just for a test, then it's fine to leave it at "In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue" level imnsho, but of course you want a deeper understanding to retain anything that has real life value.

Also, just a heads up, but a friend who has been tutoring low income kids for many years says that some of these tests have "dog whistles" and "secret handshakes" in them that have nothing to do with real education, for example, in this year's test "friendship" is not an acceptable theme for fourth grade. It was in last year's test. That's how they sort out the poor kids who couldn't afford this year's test prep booklet and used last year's instead so that they can ridicule and shame them and make them believe that it is their own faults that they didn't tug harder on their bootstraps.

You don't really want your cleaning lady or the guy who delivers your pizza to know you're underpaying them, yanno?

/unrepentant anticapitalista

CrazyGooseLady
05-10-2017, 04:42 PM
Overall, things that she can do to help....get the books, relate things back to what they know. Family history for history, maybe a movie they watched, ("remember that scene with the rebels?") if it is literature, look up the authors on Wikipedia and see when and where they lived. See if she can find Cliff Notes for novels. Discuss the books, what they mean individually, what they might have done instead if they were the character...

Free Thinker
05-14-2017, 02:20 PM
I'm just going to say that I definitely believe there is something to the types of learners. My ODD can read and retain pretty much everything- dates, people, specifics. DD2 is not capable of that. If she wants to remember something, she needs a gimmick- she learns most from visuals and hands-on. She is much more likely to remember if she draws a picture, labels parts of something (as opposed to answering questions), poems or rhymes, watching a video, or doing a physical activity that lets her see it. This applies in all subjects and was a source of frustration. In math, we make up colorful notes and flow charts, I have every upper-level manipulative you can think of- and she uses them- and eventually it will click. In history and science, we make interactive notebooks. For some reason English is easy for her- except for spelling. I did make flow charts for adding endings to words, but after 3 years I have concluded that there are too many rules, exceptions to those rules, and she will not pay enough careful attention to care. In part, I think ADD tendencies cause part of this. She also has a slight auditory processing issue that makes listening to instructions very hard to follow- particularly when people talk in several steps at a time. SHe can follow words, flow charts, visual ques much better.

I would recommend your friend try some different things to see how her son does remember. Ask him what helps him to remember. Try some different visuals- for history or something with dates, make a colorful timeline with pictures of the people- name, date- just the very few facts he may need to remember. For science, have her try making some labeling activities or something visual. Even color-coding notes helps! Repetition may help- a list of people, dates, events- and he reviews them so many times per day until he knows them.

Other thoughts- the classroom may be distracting, other kids may be making noises that distract him, the teaher may not do a good job holding his attention, they may just be using a smart-board instead of a book- I think this is bad b/c it's hard for all kids to follow along, some do better with their own book to follow with, the content may just be ultra-boring, he may be lost on a previously learned skill that is making it harder to build on, he may not be understanding exactly what the teacher is asking him to do, comprehending the questions correctly, he may just be speeding along and not reading it entirely. It may be the timing of the day- some kids focus better at certain times of the day, or he may be needing a physical break from a previous lesson- say he's done math for an hour, and is now being asked to pay attention to spelling- maybe that's too long for him to focus without a physical break.

My first thought would be to talk to the teacher, ask if she thinks he needs any testing done. Figure out the schedule and what classes are the hardest, look at the material used and how ti's being taught. THat would tell you a lot right there.

Topsy
05-15-2017, 08:12 PM
I suggest having the parent read the book "A Mind at a Time." It is not going to diagnose, but it will say how relieved the kids were that they knew that they didn't just need to try harder when they were already trying their hardest.

Funny! I let her borrow that one!! (great minds and all) :D

Topsy
05-15-2017, 08:15 PM
he may be lost on a previously learned skill that is making it harder to build on, he may not be understanding exactly what the teacher is asking him to do, comprehending the questions correctly, he may just be speeding along and not reading it entirely.

this got me thinking about my own experience. I remember so well feeling completely lost if there was any kind of "gap" in my instruction. Like, for instance, if I missed a single day's instruction in Algebra, it might take me 3 weeks to really catch up because in Algebra it seemed like every thing you learned built on the thing you learned just before it, and so on. So frustrating!!