9 Researched-Based Ways To Get Anyone To Learn and Remember (Part 4A of 5)

Wow! I wish I would have known what I am about to tell you years ago.  This would have allowed more than half of the students I teach to actually learn and remember what they learned.  So here it goes:

A few weeks ago my husband was studying for an exam (post graduate certification) and instead of going to his office, he studied at home one afternoon.

As I was sitting on the computer I couldn’t help but watch him.

He looked like a mad scientist!  Or what I pictured Einstein to be doing if he were alive.

This is what I saw:

He had a book on the table, and as he was reading, he would take notes and draw diagrams in different colors on a whiteboard as he listened to Baroque music, walking around the room chewing madly on dried mango slices.

I wish you could have been there to see it.  It was one hilarious sight.  I had to ask him,


Oh and his answer (like many) caused me to do some research of my own.

Read on to find out why we should be seeing similar situations in our classrooms.

This Is Active Learning at It’s Finest

What is active learning?

It is situations in with multiple modes of sensory input are used simultaneously to achieve optimal memory retrieval.

When a student learns through multiple modes, various regions of the brain are stimulated, thus information is stored in various places.

This is called ‘mind leveraging’.

When you leverage the input through the use of multiple modes, information is “saved” in multiple areas of the brain as opposed to just one single area. In turn when it comes time to retrieve that same information, you have multiple sources to draw upon.

University of Texas ran a study in 1997 on Retention.  Below is a chart I have created based on the results.

Bottom Line: The more regions of the brain that receive stimulation, the easier it is to retrieve it.

There are various ways we learn.  As I have stated many times, the more ways we engage in the more learning and memory that occurs.

Learning Styles

We all have learning styles.  In a few weeks I will teach you how to get really functional and assess students to discover their learning style strengths and how to use these strengths to strengthen the weaknesses.

For now, I want you to see the importance of activating as many learning styles as possible when you teach no matter what styles are more apparent within your group of students.

As Paul studied, there were many modes of sensory input activated.  He was reading, writing with various colors, teaching the content to a fake group of people on a whiteboard, listening to music as he was eating dried mangos.

When planning your lessons, look at the activities below as an ala carte menu.  Make sure you are activating all the senses, but select various activities for each lesson

Read It

No matter what subject area/grade level/environment we teach, reading needs to take place. Offer a variety of genres for students to read on the same topic.

For example if you are studying aquatic animals; read aloud a fictional story about aquatic animals then teach students to use nonfiction conventions using a textbook, but then transfer that learning to a magazine article.

Read It Resources:

    • fiction/nonfiction book
    • textbook
    • newspaper article
    • magazine article
    • ebook
    • ezine article
    • report

Below you will learn that not all students are proficient readers, and when reading is the only pathway to learning these students disengage.

Hear It

This is the most popular form of teaching and the least popular form of learning.  Do you realize students “hear us” 90% of the day and according to The University of Texas Study on Retention they only retain 20%?  Hmmmm…..

This starts to explain why we are falling behind.

Again, the more regions of the brain you activate the better.

Students need auditory stimulation, but not ONLY this type of stimulation.  Here are some ideas to stimulate.

Hear It Resources:

    • podcast
    • read aloud
    • “book on tape”
    • partner/group discussion
    • music
    • allow to speak during reading or writing
    • guest speakers
    • lecture
See It

More of us our visual learners than auditory learners and we need to see the “big-picture” .

See It Resources:

    • videos
    • diagrams
    • charts
    • photographs
    • pictures
    • images
    • graphs
    • mind mapping
    • visualization
    • highlighting
    • color-coding,
Do It

Many students are kinesthetic/tactile learners and we rarely get kids to “move it”.  Think about the organization of your classroom.  Are students sitting while they are learning?

What happens when they stand up while you are teaching?  I bet I could tell ya.

What happens when a child is doodling while you are preaching?

How many times a day do you tell your students to sit still and to put down their pencils?

When you do this you are not only closing that pathway for learning, but you are telling them that they way the best learn is wrong!

These are the learners that fall through the cracks, although these are the creative thinkers, the innovaters, the discoverers and we interrupt their learning daily!

Better yet, we bring these students up in our team meetings with concern as to something possibly being wrong with them.

Everything is completely right with them.  It’s us that is the problem.

We need to step away from the traditional classroom.  It is not working for us people!

“We Are Not Information Dispensers, We Are Memory Enhancers”

(Judy Willis 2006)

I think we have forgotten our job descriptions.  We are not in the classroom to drop information into our students.  We are in the classroom to provide opportunities for learning to occur thus helping students work their minds and memory.

The United States education system is falling behind, way behind and we keep teaching the same way.

Research says human beings learn best and retain more when they are in an active learning state.  That means they are DOING THE LEARNING!

Do It Resources:

    Write It:

    • notetaking
    • flash cards
    • list making
    • graphic organizers

    Draw It

    • illustrative learning

    Move It

    • hands-on constructivist learning
    • role play
    • reader’s theatre
    • field trips
    • experiments
Feel It

Some say that emotions and cognition are at the opposite sides of the spectrum, although the latest research is proving otherwise.

The more students feel (affect) during a learning situation, the more likely they are to remember it.

Think about it.  It is our emotions that give us our personal flavor, not our logical thinking.  Emotions are our personalities and guide us through the decision-making process.

There is a part of the brain called the “amygdala”.  There are 12-15 distinct emotion regions to it. (Jenkins 1998).

Without the amygdala or damage to the amygdala is detrimental to learning.

The capacity to play creatively, imagine, make decisions, have a sense of humor, musical sense, etc. are all destroyed.

The reason we remember learning experiences laden with emotions is because all emotional events are processed before any other processing occurs during that time.

In turn our brain is more activated and chemically stimulated thus allowing us to recall much better.

Bring emotions out (positive or negative) in your students through experiences that touch their heart.

Feel It Resources:

    • bring your own excitement to class (show students what excites you)
    • play music
    • when doing any activity allow students to share with peers.  Peers are to offer two positive comments about work.
    • foster parties in the classroom
    • set up lessons that allow controversy, debate or an argument
    • age appropriate rituals
    • help students make personal connections to work done in class (journaling, reflecting)
Taste It and Smell It

Taste and smell are just two more senses to stimulate as you teach and may or may not be dependent on the lesson you teach.

Allow students to chew gum.  As they chew they are stimulating a particular region of the brain.  Have events that are connect food and learning as much as you can.

For example if you are studying a certain time period, research the food eaten during the time period.  Have a feast!

If allowed, light a candle.  Wear perfume or cologne. If you are studying war, find a scent that smells like gun powder residue.  Make the learning come alive!

Think about your lessons.  Are you igniting at least more than one pathway?  If not, you better start.

Use this diagram to assist you as you plan your lessons.

For more information on multi-modal learning, click here

By the way, my husband who is not a genius, scored the highest on that test and is implementing the material learned in his practice as I write this post.  

And the studying tactics he was using, oh yeah, those were learned in a medical level neurology course.

Yesterday, I told him a list of 5 items we needed from the grocery store.  He forgot one of them….Not a genius, but I love him anyway! 

Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4B

Leave A Reply (10 comments so far)

  1. Mirela Ramacciotti
    1 year ago

    Dear Cara,

    Thanks for your post. In a vivid way (you’re indeed applying the concept) you made your point!
    As a language teacher myself, I’ve been aware of this info for some time now, as language learning taps into so many areas of the learning process. Perhaps you’ve heard of the VAKOG learning styles and I just wanted to add it to your post as it makes it easier to recall the whole concept when planning a lesson.
    Keep up with the good work!


  2. Jennifer Lee
    1 year ago

    Dear Cara,
    I enjoy reading your posts and ideas. I tutor children with learning disabilties privately and use some of the technques you mentioned, but your posts just reinforces that what I am doing is right. Here in Singapore, we have 36 to a class in school so it i almost impossible to use multisensory, multi techniques to teach. So we hear very little about different methods other than the traditional ones. I am in the process of applying to a few universities for Masters in Education. Could you recommend a few universities with good programs? I have a BAchelor in Special Education. Thanks. Jennifer

    • CCLB
      1 year ago

      Hi Jennifer!
      Glad to hear you are continuing your education. What type of continuing education are you looking for? I would be happy to point you in the right direction!

      As for your class size, 36 sounds much like many of the classrooms here in Chicago in which multi-modal learning and teaching is occurring constantly. Don’t let your class size discourage you! I have taught in classrooms of 34 first grades and implemented various modes of learning simultaneously. I thought it couldn’t be done with such a class size. But it was done and a great deal of progress was seen!

  3. Liz K Armah
    12 months ago

    Dear Cara,

    Many thanks for your post; I thoroughly enjoy your posts and ideas, too. I am a Montessori Teacher Trainer who who owns a nursery school that embraces children with mild special needs and an educational consultancy in Ghana, West Africa. I have been asked by a number of variety of schools to train their staff at all levels – from preschool to senior schoolteachers on this subject, which has been a major eyeopener for them. It has also changed their approach to teaching & learning in a more creative, innovative way that embraces the whole class.

    I have just started a series of training on this very subject with my teaching staff. We began with the two main parts of the brain followed by identifying their dominant learning style and that of a child within their class. This was fascinating to watch/observe as it stimulated much debate & has caused them to be more reflective practitioners as well as change/balance their approach towards teaching & learning.

    Incidentally, the Montessori method of education is extremely multi sensory and we make use of VAK (visual, auditory & kinasethetic learning styles) throughout our teaching & learning. It is very beneficial for special needs children, too, I may add. By the way, Montessori’s origins stem from designing materials (Sensorial, in particular – to develop/refine the senses)with these special children in mind as they are able to diagnose needs, eg Colour Box 1 – primary colours; Colour Box 2 – secondary colours & Colour Box 3 – shades of colours/light & dark for colour blindness.

    Thanks for bringing this important topic to our attention. More, please!