In my previous post I addressed the importance of moving knowledge from working memory to long-term memory. Of course, practice is an important factor, but did you know you can speed up retention by carefully timing that practice? Spaced repetition uses a research-based formula to present information in the most efficient order for learning.
Now, one of the biggest challenges my struggling readers face is a puny vocabulary. The deficit impacts their comprehension. It also causes them to miss test questions measuring concepts they know because they’re unfamiliar with the vocabulary in the answer choices. As you can imagine, I put a lot of time into developing their vocabulary. I find I get the most bang for my buck by teaching root words and affixes – since I can teach one root, and they can extrapolate from that the meaning of dozens of new words.
Recently, I discovered a flash-card program that lets me combine the power of spaced repetition with the power of root words… and I was amazed at the results. In just 15-20 minutes of practice with TinyCards, my intensive reading students learned 25 root words with 80% accuracy. We continued to revisit the cards from time to time, and on our end-of-quarter test students demonstrated they had not only retained the knowledge of these common roots, they were able to apply it to new word identification with the same 80% accuracy.
The TinyCard program is free, and I’m sharing a link to the root word cards referenced above. I added simple illustrations to my card set, since illustrations have been proven to increase retention. If you decide to try it, or if you’ve used these cards before (or a similar program called Anki), I’d love to hear about your results as well.