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Ideas for Activities for Adult Learners w/ Memory Issues

Here are descriptions of some memory techniques.

Learning for understanding

Concepts that are foundational to the study of academic subjects, like evolution or democracy,
are complex and cannot be memorized. Students need a lot of experience with information
about these concepts in order to understand them. An instructor may assume that students understand
the concepts contained in material they are teaching because students can correctly answer
multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank questions related to the material. But, in many cases, these
exercises can be done without understanding the concepts because statements can be found in
the text that match the questions. Students may also seem to understand many concepts because
they come to school with strong (and largely functional) ideas about how the world works.
But sometimes the sequence of logic that results from applying what they know factually to more
theoretical and complex knowledge creates false conclusions.

For example, adults know that animals must eat to live, and that plants need water and soil to
live, so they may conclude that plants "eat" soil. It may be difficult to explain the concept of
photosynthesis - that plants have a radically different way of getting the energy they need to live
from soil, water, and light.
In addition to the methods mentioned previously (building factual knowledge, direct strategy
instruction, active learning, using examples and analogies), you can build students' knowledge of
concepts by doing the following. Using the example of "democracy":
● Define (1) what the concept is, and (2) what it is not (democracy is not the same as capitalism).
● Give examples of democratic countries (United States, France), and examples of nondemocratic
countries (China, Cuba).
● Have students dissect and sort examples and non-examples by key factors, and come up
with their own examples and non-examples.
● Lead students in a discussion about the factors related to democracy that have been
identified, and prompt them to explain what they mean by asking "Why" questions.
● Have students write about the topic of democracy, both to help them use new vocabulary
presented in text and discussions, and to help them (and you) see if they understand it.
By giving examples, using discussion, asking "Why" questions, and having students work with
the new information, instructors can help them take many separate pieces of information, connect
them in a way that leads to understanding, and remember what the concept means.

Making practice interesting
Practice is vital for learning anything well. But dull, rote practice often turns students off. Some
ideas for making practice more interesting are:
Turn it into a team game - students can practice addition or multiplication by playing a card
game, or practice vocabulary and spelling by playing Scrabble.
Create an assignment that uses computers or has a real-world connection - writing a letter to
a company or political representative, or making a family budget and using a computer to
create a document with a table or graph.
Do five minutes of group drill to fast music.
Teach students to give themselves a reward after practicing for a certain amount of time -
they can watch 30 minutes of TV after studying for 30 minutes.
Have parents practice basic skills - like the alphabet, counting, addition and multiplication
tables - with their school-age children.
Some information and facts simply have to be memorized, and students should be made aware
of this. On the other hand, not everything has to be memorized. For example, only one-half of the
multiplication table needs to be memorized - a student who knows 4 x 6 = 24 should also know
that 6 x 4 = 24. Memorization is very important, but it should be used judiciously

Solution Preview

Here are ideas for activities, which can all be supported by the information that follows the activites listed.

Here are far more than three activity ideas you can use:

answering questions
creating questions
doing a project
engaging in discussions
hands-on activities
summarizing
taking notes or writing about
presentation afterwards
doing worksheets
teaching another student
working in groups with other adult learners
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There is an example for each category that could be turned in to an activity for your assignment. Use the list above and combine it with the activities they did in the adult education examples.
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ADULT LEARNERS
Te a c h i n g S t r a t e g i e s to Improve Learning and Comprehension

http://www.doe.virginia.gov/federal_programs/esea/title1/part_b/even_start/adult_reading_instruction/adult_learners.pdf

MEMORY

Memory Techniques

The ability to retain and retrieve information can be enhanced by using specific memory techniques.

There are several proven memory techniques that can help students remember all the new
facts, ideas, and skills they must absorb and learn. Before choosing a technique, it is important
to figure out what kind of information you want students to learn:
Do they need to remember a complex concept (like democracy or photosynthesis)?
If so, learning for understanding is what they need.
Do they need to remember a completely arbitrary fact (like 6 x 7 = 42 or the spelling of the
word "science")? If so, practice is what they need.
Do they need to learn a rule, shortcut or pattern (like the "I before E" spelling rule or the
order of operations in math)? If so, memory tricks called mnemonics can help. Association
could also be the best method here.

Here are descriptions of some memory techniques.

Learning for understanding

Concepts that are foundational to the study of academic subjects, like evolution or democracy,
are complex and cannot be memorized. Students need a lot of experience with information
about these concepts in order to understand them. An instructor may assume that students understand
the concepts contained in material they are teaching because students can correctly answer
multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank questions related to the material. But, in many cases, these
exercises can be done without understanding the concepts because statements can be found in
the text that match the questions. Students may also seem to understand many concepts because
they come to school with strong (and largely functional) ideas about how the world works.
But sometimes the sequence of logic that results from applying what they know factually to more
theoretical and complex knowledge creates false conclusions.

For example, adults know that animals must eat to live, and that plants need water and soil to
live, so they may conclude that plants "eat" soil. It may be difficult to explain the concept of
photosynthesis - that plants have a radically different way of getting the energy they need to live
from soil, water, and light.
In addition to the methods mentioned previously (building factual knowledge, direct strategy
instruction, active learning, using examples and analogies), you can build students' knowledge of
concepts by doing the following. Using the example of "democracy":
● Define (1) what the concept is, and (2) what it is not (democracy is not the same as capitalism).
● Give examples of democratic countries (United States, France), and examples of nondemocratic
countries (China, Cuba).
● Have students dissect and sort examples and non-examples by key factors, and come up
with their own examples and non-examples.
● Lead students in a discussion about the factors related to democracy that have been
identified, and prompt them to explain what they mean by asking "Why" questions.
● Have students write about the topic of democracy, both to help them use new vocabulary
presented in text and discussions, and to help them (and you) see if they understand it.
By giving examples, using discussion, asking "Why" questions, and having students work with
the new information, instructors can help them take many separate pieces of information, connect
them in a way that leads to understanding, and remember what the concept means.

Making practice interesting
Practice is vital for learning anything well. But dull, rote practice often turns students off. Some
ideas for making practice more interesting are:
● Turn it into a team game - students can practice addition or multiplication by playing a card
game, or practice vocabulary and spelling by playing Scrabble.
● Create an assignment that uses computers or has a real-world connection - writing a letter to
a company or political representative, or making a family budget and using a computer to
create a document with a table or graph.
● Do five minutes of group drill to fast music.
● Teach students to give themselves a reward after practicing for a certain amount of time -
they can watch 30 minutes of TV after studying for 30 minutes.
● Have parents practice basic skills - like the alphabet, counting, addition and multiplication
tables - with their school-age children.
Some information and facts simply have to be memorized, and students should be made aware
of this. On the other hand, not everything has to be memorized. For example, only one-half of the
multiplication table needs to be memorized - a student who knows 4 x 6 = 24 should also know
that 6 x 4 = 24. Memorization is very important, but it should be used judiciously
--------------
Mnemonics

Many important facts are also totally arbitrary, such as the steps in long division (Divide,
Multiply, Subtract, Bring down - DMSB). As teachers, we can make these arbitrary facts more
memorable by using phrases, letters or stories. For example, the steps in long division can be
remembered as Does Math Seem Bad? or some other such phrase, which is called a verbal
mnemonic. Some well-known verbal mnemonics include:
Arteries go Away from the heart.
Every Good Boy Does Fine for the written musical notes on the upper register lines of the staff
(E, G, B, D, F).
SOHCAHTOA the famous chief of the Trigonometry tribe (Sin = Opposite over Hypotenuse,
etc.).

Rhymes are another type of mnemonic, with some examples being the number of days in the
months (30 days hath September . . .), spelling rules ("I" before "E" except after "C"), and multiplication
tables ("2 times 4 is 8, that's great"). Some programs use rap, playground chants or other
music genres to make up mnemonics.

A third type of mnemonic is a cartoon, such as four quarts of milk playing musical instruments
as a way to remember "quartet" (this mnemonic was devised by GED students).
Mnemonics are very effective, and they are even more effective if the students make up the
phrases, key words, songs, or drawings themselves.
Association

A fourth proven memory technique is association - memorizing one thing, and then connecting
or associating other things to it. For example, students only need to memorize the spelling of
"science" and then they can associate the spelling of "scientific" and "scientist." Likewise, students
can sound out the spelling of "democratic," and learn that "democrat" and "democracy"
are spelled using the same root pattern. Learning "pediatrician" helps you figure out "pediatrics"
and "Pedialyte." Likewise, memorizing 4 x 6 = 24, and then learning that 6 x 4 = 4 x 6 = 24 is
an example of association.

In summary, the key to helping students remember information better is to make whatever they
are learning meaningful in some way, whether that is understanding why the information is useful,
getting a conceptual understanding of it, or making it memorable with a rhyme, song, picture or
association.
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High Expectations

Creating a culture in the classroom and the program where achievement is expected can bolster student learning.

Many of our adult students were not successful in school. Many were consistently behind
their peers academically, which is one of the most cited reasons for dropping out of school.
So students come to us with low confidence in their ability to learn. At the same time, they
have some belief that they can learn, otherwise, why would they come? Instructors need to
communicate to students that they believe they can learn regardless of their previous school
experiences. Holding high expectations of students should also encourage instructors to be
creative in explaining things in multiple ways, teaching powerful learning strategies, and using
examples that are familiar and relevant to students.

Examples in Practice:

Adult Education. Cara, an administrator, went to a pre-GED "graduation" ceremony at a
nearby program. As the students received their certificates, many of them talked about the
encouragement they got from their teachers, how the students supported each other, and
how much work the students themselves had put into studying and learning. Cara decided
that a similar ceremony at her program would send the message that staff and students had
high expectations for learning, and that students could meet those expectations if they did
the work.

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Using Background Knowledge

Adults often have much knowledge about their jobs, how to deal with domestic and daily issues like
paying bills and transportation, and other knowledge that children are not likely to have. However, it
can be surprising how little knowledge some adult learners have about academic or school-related topics.
For example, they may not know what it means to declare war, where different foods come from,
how to figure out the change due for a purchase, or that American pioneers did not drive cars. As
instructors with far more education, we take this type of background knowledge for granted.
A lack of background knowledge can make it difficult for students to read, learn, and remember what
they have learned, especially from textbooks and other materials used in typical adult education classes.
Background knowledge also helps students comprehend what they read, figure out new words, figure out
the answers to questions (solve problems), and apply their skills in new areas (transfer).
To enhance adults' background knowledge, teachers of adults need to expose them to new information
through reading, field trips, discussions, and hands-on learning activities. While sticking to
topics that students already know about may be more comfortable for all, it will not help students
learn very much. Teachers should check each lesson to identify the foundational information that is
needed to understand it (see Task Analysis), and then be sure to teach that information instead
of assuming that students know it already.

Examples in Practice:

Adult Education. Jennifer, a basic literacy tutor, has realized that her student does not understand
the taxes and benefits on his pay stub. She explains each box on one pay stub, and has him
explain back to her using another pay stub. To relate this to his reading instruction, they also
use words like tax, box, and net from the form to work on his decoding skills.

The human mind learns and remembers by connecting new information to old. If a person does not have existing knowledge to connect new information to, then learning is extremely difficult.

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Using Active Learning

Learning is much less likely to occur when students passively listen or observe than when they
are actively involved. Learners need to think about new facts, ideas and skills; use them to think
about questions (problem solving); and apply them to new areas in order to effectively learn and
retain information. Active involvement on the part of the learner can take many forms, for example:
It is crucial that students actively work with the facts, ideas, and skills they are learning, rather
than just hear someone talk about what they are supposed to learn. For example, students learn
more from a field trip where they take notes, fill out a checklist, or write a report about the trip,
than when they simply attend and observe. Self-study, which is often presumed to be active
because the student is self-directed, can also be very passive if the student simply reads whatever
is assigned but does not engage in additional learning activities. Self-study can also be very
frustrating to students if they do not have the background knowledge, skills, and strategies to
learn from a textbook (see Background Knowledge and Direct Strategies).

Examples in Practice:

Adult Education. Catherine, a GED teacher, inherited a geometry class from another teacher.
The students were used to sitting silently, reading their textbooks and doing written exercises
for the 45-minute class, and only one or two students ever raised a hand to ask for help.
Catherine wanted to change this and encourage participation, so she decided to begin each
class with a real-life math problem for the group to discuss. After a brief class discussion
about different ways to solve the problem, she put the students into small groups and asked
them to prepare and present their answers to the real-life problem and one from the textbook.
The groups needed a lot of help to learn how to explore problems together, but by the end of
the semester they were making good progress and had learned an important work skill, too
(see Learning in Groups).
------------------------------------------------------------

Thinking about Thinking (Metacognition)

Adults enhance their ability to learn and understand information when they can "monitor their own thinking."

As children mature, they become more aware of their own feelings, thoughts, and preferences.
So we might assume that adults, who have more life experience, often reflect on their
own thinking related to learning - about how well they understand something from a lesson or
if they have mastered certain material and are ready to take a test. However, adults' level of
personal self-awareness does not automatically transfer to school learning. This is partly
because it is hard to be aware of how well you are doing when you do not know much about
a subject.

For example, can you find the error in this paragraph?

Correlation is a measure of association between two variables. A correlation can be positive
or negative; a positive correlation means that an increase in one variable is associated
with a decrease in the other variable. Positive correlations range from >0 to 1, negative correlations
from <0 to -1.

Probably not, unless you know something about this particular statistics topic.

You may not know enough to decide what to pay attention to or where to look for errors.
How can we teach students to monitor their own level of understanding? One of the most effective
ways is to ask them "Why" questions: Why do you say that? Why did you give that answer?
What information is your answer based on? (It is important to ask "why" even if the answer is correct.)
We can also teach specific learning strategies, like summarizing or generating questions,
that help students realize whether they comprehend what they have learned. And we can send a
strong message that the ultimate purpose of education classes is understanding what we learn, not
just getting the answer right. This can help students get in the habit of ...

Solution Summary

Here are ideas for activities, which can all be supported by the information that follows the activites listed.

Here are far more than three activity ideas you can use:

answering questions
creating questions
doing a project
engaging in discussions
hands-on activities
summarizing
taking notes or writing about
presentation afterwards
doing worksheets
teaching another student
working in groups with other adult learners

There is an example for each category that could be turned in to an activity for your assignment. Use the list above and combine it with the activities they did in the adult education examples. Mnemonics

Many important facts are also totally arbitrary, such as the steps in long division (Divide,
Multiply, Subtract, Bring down - DMSB). As teachers, we can make these arbitrary facts more
memorable by using phrases, letters or stories. For example, the steps in long division can be
remembered as Does Math Seem Bad? or some other such phrase, which is called a verbal
mnemonic. Some well-known verbal mnemonics include:
Arteries go Away from the heart.
Every Good Boy Does Fine for the written musical notes on the upper register lines of the staff
(E, G, B, D, F).
SOHCAHTOA the famous chief of the Trigonometry tribe (Sin = Opposite over Hypotenuse,
etc.).

$2.19