How To Stop Re-Teaching The Same Material

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When you teach the same thing for three days straight, and your students still don't get it.

Why aren't your students learning? You're doing everything right. You spend hours planning lessons, grading homework, and you even leave nice comments on their papers—even though you know the students are likely to throw them out. Don't you hate it when you give your students the exact problems that will be on the test, you go over each of the answers with them, and THEY STILL FAIL THE TEST! What the.... Please tell me, how do you get the problems wrong when you go over every single problem in class? 

What's the solution?

Allow me to introduce you to the perfect solution that will end all your miseries with re-teaching: test them more. Wait a minute? My kids aren't learning, they're flunking their tests, and your solution to stop re-teaching is to test them more? Are you crazy!

No, I'm not crazy. I know it sounds funny, but I can tell you from experience and from ironclad research (see the testing effect), testing more actually works. 

Memory first, notes second.

To get more students to pass your tests you must increase their ability to remember what you teach. Remember this mantra: memory first, notes second. I tell it to my students every day. If you want your students to learn anything, and remember what they learned, you must get them to use their memory before they look at their notes. 

Flashcards are the perfect example. On one side of the card there is a question, and on the other side is the answer. Your goal, when using flashcards, is to answer the question without looking at the other side. The best part is that you can verify if you are right or wrong by simply looking at the answer on the other side of the card. 

Your job as a teacher is to force your students to use their memory prior to looking at any notes. Notes are not bad, they just need to be used correctly, which is when you get stuck. Too many times I've seen students make the huge mistake of using their notes while as they complete their assignment. That is the worst thing you can do. It weakens your memory and you will do poorly on your test.

Test your students everyday

Testing your students more doesn't mean more grading for you. You can teach the same way, all you have to do is change the dynamic. For instance, ask your students to see how far they can get answering questions without using their notes. Tell them to use their notes when they get stuck, or to verify if they are right or wrong.

Memory first, notes second can feel uncomfortable at first, but just tell them no pain, no gain.

One example

There are plenty of free programs out there you can use to create flash cards. I love using Quizlet because it has different ways to test your students, and its FREE. Check out the following samples from Quizlet that I use with my students. 

1. Study these facts here

2. Test yourself here

You'll find that testing yourself doesn't have to be painful, and your students will actually enjoy it. They won't even realize that they are studying. That's great because you will have sharper students that will perform better on their tests, and most importantly... 

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...finally you can stop reteaching.

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