During the course of a child’s school career, there will be many instances when different facts and skills need to be known. They need to be understood. They may need to be memorized. How do you get these concepts to “stick”?
Children must spend time reviewing. Learning and comprehension doesn’t just occur during one lesson. It’s an ongoing process. In addition to the tried and true flashcards method, let me offer some suggestions on how to review concepts (multiplication facts, spelling and vocabulary words, states and capitals).
- Switch roles. Have your child teach you how to do something. Many of my upper-grade math lessons involved my students in the role of teacher, at the front of the room, using the whiteboard to explain the steps in completing a long division problem, converting a mixed number to an improper fraction, or multiplying a three-digit number by a two-digit number. Something happens when the child is responsible for the explanation, when the child must articulate the proper sequence to the necessary steps. Sometimes, something finally clicks and a new level of understanding is reached.
- Write it down. Some teachers have their students write spelling words five times each (I did). The repetition did assist children in the learning process. But there is no rule that says children can only use pencils and write on paper. Have children write with sidewalk chalk outside your home, use window markers and decorate the windows of the house, write with bath-friendly crayons while in the tub or shower, or using a cookie sheet as a makeshift table, use your finger and write in whip cream.
- Play games. MadLibs are great for reviewing grammar. Hangman works for spelling or states and capitals. Bingo works for almost anything (I regularly used it in my classroom to review vocabulary words, multiplication facts, and states and capitals.)
- Sing it. Children learn songs quickly and almost effortlessly. Many songs utilize familiar melodies to teach and review key concepts. For instance, my fourth grade students and I often sang a song to help us learn about the rock cycle and the three main types of rocks, to the familiar tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” Thankfully, a quick internet search yields many songs and/or YouTube videos.
- Apply it. Adding and subtracting decimals or estimating numbers are abstract concepts until students need to apply those skills in ways that make sense. I frequently divided my classes into small groups and had them go “shopping.” Each group would be given a budget and would need to shop without going over-budget. Sometimes, students shopped for a hypothetical party using market circulars. Other times, they shopped for classroom supplies using education-related catalogs. Instead of asking your child for his/her birthday wish list, have them calculate it. What is the approximate cost of the item(s)? What is the budget you’re allotting? What is the actual cost (including tax, shipping and handling)?
- Get physical. Play charades to act out vocabulary words. Instead of merely learning the definitions for different triangles (scalene, isosceles, equilateral) or different angles (acute, obtuse, right) have them make them — with their bodies, with chopsticks, with blocks.
- Use food. Group M&Ms to investigate the relationship between adding (6+6+6+6) and multiplication (4 groups x 6 candies in each). Tortillas are perfect for reviewing equivalent fractions. My students and I would start with one whole tortilla, and using a plastic knife, cut the tortilla into half (two-halves equal one whole). We would cut again noticing how many fourths make up a whole, and how many fourths make up a half, and all the time acknowledging that we still only have one tortilla.