The best learning is learning that sticks. According to the science of learning, the goal is not to learn quickly then forget. It's to learn and be able to retrieve the information from long term memory. Classroom actions that cause the learning to stick are actions that serve learners best. Our services and resources are grounded in the following principles that lead to lifetime learning.
The principle of spacing states that the best activities are not amassed and never revisited. Spaced practice gives our brains the opportunity to stretch to make connections. It is with that stretching that neural pathways and memory are developed and strengthened.
When we interleave activities, we do small incremental practice. Then we do something different. That thing may or may not be directly related, but we always come back to the initial activity again. By doing just a little at a time, we build small sections of that neural bridge that make connections, and memory stronger.
With varied practice, we practice a skill, but not the same way every time. With too many different ways to practice, our brains are overloaded with information. However, if we target a skill in just a few different ways, we continue to strengthen our cognitive muscle memory around that skill.
According to the Simple View of Reading, there are two main components of reading under which all other reading activities fall, decoding and language comprehension. Our decoding automaticity and strategic use of language helps us to become fluent readers. The best practice is practice that allows us to strengthen both decoding and comprehension.
Decoding is the ability to break words, sentences, phrases, and passages into their smaller components. Related, is encoding which requires putting those smaller parts together to make words, sentences, phrases, and passages. In other words, in order to read children literally have to know the words on the page. If students can't read the words independently, they won't be able to comprehend written passages independently.
Language comprehension is the other major component of the Simple View. Language comprehension is not the same thing as reading comprehension. The foundation of language comprehension is the ability to understand the language. From the time children are born they are experiencing the language of their native tongue. Language ranges from the informal conversations we have with friends to the formal discussions we have in school and at work. If students read the words on the page but can't relate to the meaning of the words, they won't be able to comprehend written passages independently.
Our Targeted Assistance Plans were designed to bridge the gap between theory and practice. Teachers and tutors use data from assessments like the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) to inform their implementation of TAPs. By applying the sciences of learning and reading as outlined in the TAPs, teachers design activities that engage their students in the skills that the students need to become great readers. With the help of the plans, teachers move data and students feel empowered because they are mastering skills that were previously difficult. There is definitely an art to teaching, however, over the past decade, cognitive science has shown us that there is also a science to teaching that we can't ignore if we want our students to succeed.