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Teaching Strategies to Help Students Retain Information

Janelle Cox

As teachers, we are always looking for fresh teaching strategies that allow our students to retain and process the information that we teach them. Sometimes we tell our students to reread something in hopes that it will help them remember it better. Other times we encourage them to practice, practice, practice because we have all heard the saying “Practice makes perfect.” But we all know that in reality, some things just go in one ear and out the other. In fact, research has shown that if we don’t do anything with the new information that we learn within one hour of learning it, we will have forgotten about 50 percent of it. If you are looking for a few ways to really cement the information that you teach your students, then try using the following teaching strategies.

Use Visual Aids as Teaching Strategies

Research shows that visuals help us retrieve information better and more easily. They are also known to help us transmit messages faster which can help in comprehension. To help students retain information better, try using visual learning aids such as high-quality videos, maps, graphic organizers, photos, charts and such to enhance their learning. 

Visual aids also are a great way to grab students’ attention quickly. Have you ever heard of the expression, “A picture is worth a million words”? By using any type of visual stimuli, you can help to maintain students’ attention a little bit longer. Another great idea for a visual aid is to have students use a cartoon or a drawing. These are not only great visuals but they will help get your students’ creative juices flowing as well.

Have Students Work in Groups

A great way to help students process what they learn is to have them talk about it. By discussing the material, it forces them to process it. Not only will students retain the information better, but it will also improve their social skills, which research says can help their long-term retention.

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The next time that you teach a lesson, try and group students together to discuss what they have just learned. Many teachers opt to use the Think-Pair-Share strategy, where students first think about what they have learned, then they pair up and share what they learned.

Practice Skills

One of the best ways for students to retain information and really cement it in their mind is to practice what they have learned. Each time your students practice a new skill or apply the information in some way, they are strengthening their retention.

A great example of this is practicing math facts. Each time a student practices their math facts, they are strengthening the pathways that help them remember their facts. So every time that they practice them, they will retain that information more and more.

Use Peer Teaching

Research has shown that explaining or teaching others a concept will in fact help you learn the information better yourself. One study found that when students knew ahead of time that they had to teach a concept to their peers, they not only remembered the information more accurately, but they also choose the most important information to teach them as well.

Try to look for opportunities for students to peer teach. Not only will students reinforce their own learning by instructing others, which will allow for a greater understanding of the material, but the direct interaction between students will promote active learning as well. 

Encourage Students to Read Aloud

Another fantastic way to retain information better is to have students read out loud. Research has found that when you read something out loud you will retain that information better. Studies have found that when you read aloud you will have the memory of both reading the words, as well as hearing yourself read the words. The same study also found that when students read a list of words aloud, they remembered them better then when they read them silently to themselves.

Try putting students into pairs and have them take turns reading aloud to one another. Many teachers have found that this “Book buddy” method to be an effective way for students to recall what they read better.

Relate Material to What Students Know

Another great way to really help information stick is to relate new information to something that they already know. These connections are known to help people retain information better. Research has shown that when students connect what they are currently learning to their prior knowledge it is easier for them to understand the new concept.

An easy way to relate material is to give students a KWL chart. This is when students write down everything that they know about a topic, as well as what they want to know. Then, after they have learned the concept, they write down what they have learned. This graphic organizer is an easy and effective way for students to relate the material to something that they are previously know.

While reading a book two times through may help students retain the information better, it is not always the most fun way to do it. Try being creative and using any of the suggested teaching strategies listed above. Then, let us know how your students did in the comment section below.

Do you have any different teaching strategies to help students retain information better? Please feel free to share them below. We would love to hear what you do in your classroom.


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds master's of science in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Skyword. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.

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