3 Creative Ways to Help Learners Retain Information
The secret to soaring test scores may be as simple as asking your students to act out — act out what they read, that is. According to new research from two major universities, physically acting out text can help students improve their comprehension and their ability to make inferences — especially for struggling readers and English learners.
Here’s how you can use this simple strategy to help students boost their scores on both reading and math tests:
The key to improving reading comprehension is getting students to “embody” what they read — connect words and phrases with real actions and experiences. When students embody text, they’re more likely to remember what they read and understand it well enough to make inferences.
But this strategy doesn’t just work for reading — it’s great for math as well. In one study, students who acted out math story problems were 35 percent less likely to be distracted by irrelevant numbers or other information. In another study, first and second graders were assigned to read a collection of short stories about farm life. The control group simply repeated key sentences out loud, while students in the experimental group were asked to act out what they read by moving toys around on a desk or by dragging pictures of the toys on a computer screen.
At the end of the experiment, students who had acted out what they read — in either a physical or virtual environment — had better comprehension and were better able to make inferences about the text.
So how can you implement this ground-breaking strategy in your classroom?
Here are a few simple ideas:
- Create Popsicle-stick puppet shows
Have students put on their own Popsicle-stick puppet shows. Provide paper, art supplies, and Popsicle sticks so students can create a background scene and puppets (to create puppets, have students draw the characters on paper, cut them out, then glue them to the sticks). To keep the focus on reading and acting out the text, set a time limit for creating the background scene and puppets. Have each group perform their puppet show for the whole class, and record the performances on video if you can.
- Put on a play in 30 minutes or less
Having students act out a play can be educational and fun, but it can also be incredibly time consuming. To keep preparation and rehearsals to a minimum, use the Imagine Learning English script for The Case of Missing Manny—you’ll find it in the Level 2 Supplemental Guide. First, play The Case of Missing Manny for the whole class by projecting Imagine Learning English onto your whiteboard or overhead projector screen. You’ll find the play in the “Listen and Read” activity in Level 2 of Imagine Learning English. After you’ve read the play as a class, have students get into groups, use the script to rehearse once, and then put on their own five-minute version of the play. Voilà! You’ve just put on a play in 30 minutes or less.
- Play the imagination game
Research shows that students who call up experiences or images while reading see the same kinds of benefits as those who physically act out a text. So next time you read a story out loud to the whole class, play the imagination game: have students close their eyes and concentrate on imagining what they’re hearing. Then have students practice using this strategy when they read on their own — especially as they prepare for reading comprehension tests or work on math story problems.