Learning Strategies to Boost Science Comprehension

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Not long ago, I came across this interesting article about learning strategies. The author discusses four specific strategies to improve student learning when implementing and designing lessons. The ideas came from a longer article that included many other study strategies to support student learning.

Learning about strategies and implementing them into everyday lessons isn’t always easy. In addition to time constraints, teachers also need to consider the availability of technology, differentiation of content and assessments, learning objectives, standards, and much more. 

World Ocean Day is June 8, and this seems like an excellent opportunity to look at the four learning strategies discussed in the article above and consider how to incorporate them into science lessons. Learn more about World Ocean Day on their website, which contains an event planning toolkit that includes posters, videos, and animations. The five guiding principles for the event are:

  1. Support locally-led conservation.
  2. Work toward a more equitable and inclusive vision for nature conservation.
  3. Honor the sovereignty of tribal nations.
  4. Support private conservation.
  5. Be guided by science.

Keeping World Ocean Day in mind, let’s look at how to include these four strategies in lessons about oceans and conservation.

Retrieval 

This strategy boosts learning by deliberately recalling information without having materials to reference—for example, finding out what students know about oceans without having a map, textbook, or teaching materials in front of them. Many of us would consider this to be prior knowledge. Short quizzes provide the opportunity for educators to determine prior knowledge and build instruction from that starting point.

  • Quizlet (reviewed here) is a flashcard creation tool. Create your quizzes or choose from the vast library available on the site. This Ocean Flashcard set is an example of one that includes several vocabulary terms and definitions. Copy any group and modify it to fit your needs. Use the flashcards and activities like matching games, practice tests, and learning practice throughout your teaching unit for additional practice. 
  • This Ocean Quiz for World Ocean Day provides questions as an introduction to World Ocean Day. Find out what your students know by taking this quiz together. Don’t worry about incorrect answers; they offer opportunities for engaging students in developing further understanding of the content!
  • What do your students know about plastic pollutants in the ocean? Ask students to take this Ocean Plastic Pollution Quiz: to find out what they know about endangered ocean animals and ocean litter.

Concept Mapping

Pictures, diagrams, and images help learners organize information and understand the connection between information. Help students create relationships through the use of graphic organizers.

  • Use the draw tool in Google Docs to create graphic organizers. Take a look at these examples, then save them to your Google Drive by making a copy. When studying oceans and pollution, the Cause-and-Effect Chart is a simple way to document the effects of pollutants. Offer the Brace Map as a tool for students to brainstorm solutions to ocean pollution.  
  • Use Mindmaps (reviewed here) to create graphic organizers as a class, or have older students create and share their own. For example, create a graphic organizer describing animal and plant life in the ocean or a chart that lists features of different oceans.
  • Find ideas and download templates for science graphic organizers for both primary and intermediate grades at Science A-Z. Sign up for a free trial to access and download the available items. 

Elaboration

This strategy involves studying by explaining information and describing with details. It also emphasizes the connections between known information and new content. 

  • Use a tool such as EdPuzzle (reviewed here) to add questions into videos that allow students to explain concepts or expand upon the information in the video. This example uses a video called “The Secret Life of Corals” and includes multiple-choice and open-ended questions for students to complete.
  • Classroom Management Systems such as Nearpod (reviewed here) provide many tools for elaboration. This example guides students through a series of activities that allow students to explore ocean ecosystems and elaborate using different strategies such as think-pair-share.
  • TED-Ed lessons are another source for including elaboration in your science lessons. These lessons always include introductory videos and encourage students to dive deeper into the materials through several different question responses and guided discussions. This lesson begins with a video from Bill Nye and challenges students to explore what would happen if all of the ice melted on the earth. Find out more about how to adapt and use TED-Ed lessons with this recent blog from TeachersFirst about Earth School.

Spaced Practice 

Do you remember cramming for tests? Spaced practice is the exact opposite—it’s the deliberate practice of spacing learning activities to build up retention of information over a longer period of time.

  • Incorporate choice boards into your science instruction that offer students the ability to demonstrate learning by selecting a variety of activities throughout your teaching unit. Here are some examples of science choice boards for several topics in grades 3—5. Learn more about choice boards by watching this archive of the October 2020 OK2Ask webinar, “Engage & Inspire: Choice Boards for Differentiation.”
  • Build time into your weekly schedule to review previous lessons. Include a learning center as a review area or incorporate previously learned material in computer centers. For example, have a link to your Quizlet activity at a computer center or share it with students for at-home practice throughout your ocean unit. Leave quiz activities available for students to use throughout the year. Consider creating a Wakelet (reviewed here) collection of learning activities students can access on classroom computers and at home. Use this resource list template as a starting point to add links and classroom materials for your ocean unit. 
  • This video explains the strategy of using spaced practice in clear terms, including a look at the psychology behind using this method to help students spark memory and support retention. 

Find additional ocean resources, including Bitmoji lessons, Newsela articles, and Flipgrid ideas, in this Wakelet collection, which also includes links to all information shared in this article. 

What learning strategies do you incorporate into science lessons? Do you have a favorite technology tool that improves learning? We always enjoy hearing from our readers in the comments! 


About the author: Sharon Hall

Sharon Hall was a recipient of the Presidential Award of Excellence in Math teaching. With over 15 years of classroom experience as a National Board Certified teacher, Sharon shares her content knowledge and reflections on ideas for basic classroom technology integration with us.


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