How Children Learn Best

We all have different types of memory. People have heard of long and short term memory but it is more subtle than that.

When we are trying to learn new information we can only use our working memory which is short lived and can only hold 3-5 meaningful items at any time. If too much information is presented at once it leads to overload so that is why learning is best done in small chunks which the working memory can process.

New information doesn’t stay in our working memory. To properly understand it, retain it and be able to recall it in the future, it has to move into our long-term memory.

When your brain processes information, it categorizes that information and moves it into long-term memory, where it is stored in knowledge structures called "schemas." These organize information according to how you use it. So, for example, you have schemas for different concepts such as dog, cat, mammal, and animal.

You also have behavioral schemas for actions like hitting a ball, riding a bicycle, ordering food at a restaurant and so on. The more practiced you become at using these schemas, the more effortless these behaviors become.

There are lots of different strategies that teachers will use and develop with students to help them do this. For example we know that the mind processes visual and auditory information separately. Auditory items in working memory do not compete with visual items in the same way that two visual items, for example a picture and some text, compete with one another.

Also working memory treats an established schema as a single item, and a highly practiced "automated" schema barely counts at all. So, learning activities that draw upon your existing knowledge expand the capacity of your working memory.

This means we teach students important skills before introducing a more complex topic. This will help them establish schemas that extend their working memory; and this then means that they can understand and learn more difficult information.

Retrieval Practice

Students need to be able to recall information that has been previously learned. The more this is done and checked the more embedded in their long term memory the information will be. We use retrieval practice in all lessons to ensure this happens and we interleave our material so they revisit older material regularly so their schema is well developed and they can access the information stored. This frees working memory to work on applying information to new situations

Rosenshines Principles Of Instruction

This is one of the cornerstones of our teaching and completely underpins the model by which children learn best.