Active learning: “multi-tasking” when you read to children

I’ve been reading lately about ways to enhance learning for college students at The Foundation Coalition:  <www.foundationcoalition.org>.  This has relevance for all learners. The research shows that students learn more when they’re engaged in multiple learning activities.  And how much we tend to remember is linked to levels of involvement. The lowest levels of learning occur with reading only and low engagement ─ the highest with what we say and do.  The research rates the effectiveness of learning from lowest levels to highest:

  • what we read (we tend to remember 10% of what we READ)
  • what we hear (we tend to remember  20% of what we HEAR)
  • looking at pictures (we tend to remember 30% of what we SEE)
  • watching a movie (we tend to remember 50% of what we HEAR AND SEE)
  • looking at an exhibit (we tend to remember 50% of what we HEAR AND SEE)
  • watching a demonstration (we tend to remember 50% of what we HEAR AND SEE)
  • seeing it done on location (we tend to remember 50% of what we HEAR AND SEE)
  • participating in a discussion (we tend to remember 70% of what we SAY)
  • giving a  talk (we tend to remember 70% of what we SAY)
  • doing a dramatic presentation (we tend to remember 90% of what we SAY AND DO)
  • simulating real experience (we tend to remember 90% of what we SAY AND DO)
  • doing the real thing (we tend to remember 90% of what we SAY AND DO)

This ladder of learning underscores the importance of incorporating active learning into learning activities for all our students, whether college-level or toddlers. Active learning is an important instructional approach teachers use, in which students engage the material they study through talking and listening, writing, reading, and reflecting. These are the four basic activities through which all students learn, and specific active learning strategies use one or more of these elements (Center for Teaching and Learning, University of Minnesota, <http://www1.umn.edu/ohr/teachlearn/tutorials/active/what/index.html>).

  • Talking and listeningWhen the learner talks about a topic, they organize and reinforce what they’ve learned. In meaningful listening, the learner relates what they hear to what they already know.
  • Writing: Like talking and active listening, writing provides a means for learners to process new information in their own words.
  • Reading:  Through reading, learners receive and process information.
  • Reflecting:  Learners reflect to connect what they’ve learned with what they already know, or to use the knowledge they’ve gained. Pausing to think, use new knowledge to teach others or to answer questions increases learning retention.

What seems like the simple act of reading to your children – reading a story with lots of great pictures, taking some time to ask them questions and ask them what they think about the story can all enhance their learning.  I think this is active learning at its best.

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