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Practicing Skills Video

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Part 1Anchor

Part 2

Whether we are learning to play an instrument, to play baseball, or to do mathematics, we know that a major part of the learning is understanding the “game,” its goals, how it works, why we do what we do, when to use which technique.

But we also all know how important practice is. Lots of practice.

The question, then, is how to make that practice

  • interesting -- "drill and thrill" rather than "drill and kill"
  • both useful and sufficient, and yet
  • contained enough so that it is effective and doesn’t crowd out the other important pieces of learning.

Even within practice, we want to give children a chance to do the music or baseball or mathematics, so that even during practice, they are getting to understanding how these “games” work.

Why brief practice?

Research tells us that for skills like the ones students need for mathematics short practices that recur frequently are far more effective than the same amount of time packed into one session.

A technique to try that takes no time at all: At the beginning of the day, assign three different children to be "today's classroom specialist" on one multiplication fact each -- only one thing for each child to remember -- and then going back over that once just to ask which thing they were specializing in (as if you'd forgotten what you had assigned to whom) is likely to be good enough to last until, perhaps at the end of the period, you ask again. Then just before lunch. After recess. Ask only once each time. And, if you do it in front of the whole class, the chances are pretty good that many children will remember all three facts.