Suppose you need to make sure students memorize the order the significant events occurred during the Civil War along with the significant items associated to each event. The old school way of doing this would be through lecture, students taking notes, maybe they would study, and then you would test the next day to make sure they had the information memorized. One modern way, particularly in a flipped classroom setting, would be to do wall or table races to help ensure longer retention, speed up the learning process, make learning fun, and to help the students engage with each other during class rather than just with the instructor.
For this activity, you divide the class into small groups and have each team stand around separate, cleared off tables. You supply each group with a stack of post-it notes and a pen. In the Civil War example, you would speak aloud the main events in a random order and have the students write each event onto a post it note. You would then speak aloud very brief statements of the ramifications of each event – again all randomly mixed together and not associated to the main event in any way – and have the students write these onto post-it notes.
Ready, set, start arranging. Say, “Go!” and off they go – each table competes to get their events in the right order along with the ramifications post-it notes put beneath the correct main heading. Students shout out, “Done!” or, if you have the budget, they ring a service-counter bell to indicate they have finished. When the bell goes off, check the work. If correct, the contest stops. If incorrect, you have everyone keep going until one team accomplishes the task.
Once a group gets it right and the activity stops, you can then review their sequence with the class as a whole to go over and reinforce what you want them to learn in greater detail.
Wall races are the same, except you would invest in some double-sided tape to put on the back of much larger sheets of paper. The race occurs on divided portions of the classroom walls rather than on table tops. I do a wall race near the start of the writing workshop I teach and, if you want to see adults smiling, having quick engaged debates and conversations, and still wanting to work beyond the bell to make sure they complete the task, you should consider doing these in your next applicable workshop.
Can I pre-print the items?
You can pre-print the items if time is going to be an issue. Retention is increased, though, if the students hear the words/phrases and physically write them onto the post-it notes themselves. This is a very tactile exercise and you will find that many students stay better engaged using movement than they do with the normal lecture, notes, and memorize method. You are enlisting all the senses to ensure retention this way and you will find that the information sticks longer and faster than more traditional ways of learning.
A Note about Flipped Classrooms
Flipped classrooms put the lecture portion at home with the actual application of the ideas into the classroom setting. This turns what would normally be done as homework into the work you do in class. The lecture portion is done at home through video or, sometimes, shorter readings. For this activity, you could flip the lecture using YouTube videos and having the classroom portion be just the wall and table race activity as a form of memorization and retention. You would then be able to review each main event as you review the correct sequencing from the winner's table or wall.
Your mind may already be thinking of areas in your classes or workshops you could add in a wall or table race. To help get your brain going, you could do this for topics such as:
- putting organisms into their correct kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species
- the order of the presidents with main events during their terms
- Levinson's model of the seven stages of life with what occurs during each
- the order of the steps in a mathematical proof
- putting the separate sentences in a paragraph back into the correct order
- Freudenberger and North's 12 stages of burnout
and on and on. Anything that needs to have an order and/or a list of items associated to it memorized can be taught this way.
Wall and table races are a great way to engage the tactile learning style, aid in longer retention, help with the speed of learning, and to ensure your class or workshop has a fun element built in.
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