Nine Activities to Focus Student Learning

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Research in cognitive theory suggests that small, timely interventions in any type of classroom environment can maximize learning for our students. One approach to using such interventions would be to use them in the opening minutes of class, at the midway mark, and in the closing five minutes. The strategies, taken singly or together, can help students remember information, enhance their understanding of complex material, and understand how to transfer learning to new contexts. The strategies below can be implemented orally with individual students or in groups, through brief writing exercises, or through clickers or other classroom technology.

Opening Minutes of Class

  1. Retrieving: Before we start, what was the most important concept you learned in Wednesday’s class? How about Monday’s? How about last week?
  2. Predicting: Ask students to make a prediction about a problem or answer a question they are not yet prepared to handle.
  3. Connecting: Ask students to tell you what they already know about the topic that will be introduced in class that day; doing so helps them activate connections between course content and their previous knowledge.

For the Midway Mark

  1. Self-Explaining: Ask students to speak aloud their reasoning or problem-solving strategy to the instructor, small group, or peers.
  2. Generating: After you have explained or introduced a concept or problem, require students to generate examples from their own experience or from other contexts.
  3. Connecting: Use a “minute-thesis” style exercise to help students create connections between disparate course elements and develop ideas for papers or projects.

Closing Minutes of Class

  1. Retrieving: What was the most important thing you learned in class today? What question do you still have about the material we discussed today?
  2. Connecting: Ask students to make connections between content you covered in that day’s class and one other class they have taken.
  3. Predicting: Prepare students for the next class by asking them to make predictions about the readings or problems assigned for the next class.

Excerpted from “Using Brief Interventions to Maximize Student Learning.” Magna Publications, 2014.

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