Try, Try Again: Practice & the Brain
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"Practice makes perfect" or does it? If we practice without knowing what's necessary to improve, no matter how much we review, we may not ever get better. Have no fear! There are things you can do to make practice well worth the time and the energy you and your child put into it.
Practice improves a skill or helps individuals learn a concept only if it's monitored and feedback is provided. This kind of practice over time increases recall. According to research, we have only a 10 percent chance of remembering something done once in 30 days, but a 90 percent chance of remembering something done six times in 30 days! That's why practicing is such an essential part of learning!
Here are some ideas for activities and tips that help build brain power with practice:
- Offer information in small doses and increase the amount as your child shows understanding. For example, when learning to create patterns, introduce horizontal patterns created using two elements, such as buttons and crayons. Then move to more complex patterns by increasing the number of attributes and directions of patterns.
- Teaching is a great way to learn. As your child gains confidence in school, try arranging for her to be a tutor as she gets older. This will not only benefit the child she's tutoring, but it also helps her practice and stay comfortable with things she's already learned. On that same note, you can also utilize peer teaching. Often children will more readily provide clear feedback to each other than adults. Children speak the same language and share perspectives.
- Teach the value of persistence and determination. There are great examples from nature, even nursery rhyme, like “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” It's a great example of try, try again. Many skills are mastered only after repeated failures and lots of attempts!
- Get insight for good feedback. Ask your child to explain her thinking when she works on a project or how she's attempting to accomplish an activity. This provides insight for feedback; specific, supporting feedback helps perfect performance. If you ask your child to explain her work to you, you will know what she understands and, therefore, what feedback can be specific and supportive.
- Stop and reflect. Reflection is critical to improvement. We all need time to reflect in order to evaluate and contemplate where we are and what’s needed to become better at what we’re doing. So after you're done with an activity, take a break!
These strategies are great starters for first graders and young minds but these concepts are relevant for people of all ages.
Some Books to Check Out:
Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats
Itsy Bitsy Spider by Tracy Moncure, Pam Schiller (eds.)
Want to Read More?
Sousa, David. 1995. How the Brain Learns. Reston, VA: The National Association of Secondary School Principals.
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