Reveries of a Solitary Teacher: 3 (June 2015)

Last week I learned the French words for an ash-tray, after sun and many more previously unknown pieces of valuable language. This is because (particularly the after sun) they were essential to my continued enjoyment of half term.

A lot has been said about cognitive science relating to memory recently on Twitter and in CPD sessions, however it was not the approach to learning that made these words memorable. It was because I needed to know them. This is not to say that teaching for memory does not need careful consideration, however it must be part of a bigger picture. My main questions are:

Is it that students struggle with memory because there is not a cognitively outlined methodology for the acquisition of knowledge?

Is it just that half the stuff they get told they don’t need to know.

Is it that the “failure is the teachers fault” attitude means they feel they don’t need to take responsibility?

At school I learnt how to tell people what was in my pencil case in French and German, how to tell someone that I live in a house and an assortment of other moderately useless phrases that were mentally filed under the ‘not going to help me chat up French girls’ heading.

Obviously this is not me saying we should approach each subject from a how it will get you laid basis, however we need to make our students need to know. I am going to be putting together high stakes assessment opportunities for KS4 – ie get it right or do it again in your own time.

Any ideas on more ways to foster a need for the information required to pass the GCSE would be greatly appreciated in the comments section below. They need to need the information to want to remember it in the first place. “Après soleil” is not a word I will forget easily!


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