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Rote learning for the 21st Century

This morning whilst I was looking through my timeline I happened upon this tweet from @cazzwebbo

My answer was short and to the point.  "yes".  The lovely @cazzwebbo clearly was not satisfied with this response and we engaged in a short conversation that has resulted in this post.

Here is the non-tech response to the request to make learning by rote more pleasant.

1. Take the text to be learnt and in pairs get the students to read through.  First quietly, then partner A reads out loud to partner B and vice versa.  Then in unison.  Next fold the piece of paper in half.  Partner A holds the folded paper up so that he can see one side and Partner B can see the other.  Partner A can see the first half of each line, as follows:

Taken from Perfect Assessment for Learning
Naturally, Partner B can see the second half.  Now, Partner B starts by recalling out loud (and hopefully word for word) the first half of each line and Partner A does the same with the second half.  There may be some prompting needed.  The Partners can then swap round.

2. Tennis. Partner A serves the start of a sentence Partner B responds without looking at the text.  Score as in tennis.

3. In the style of... Students should be challenged (or they can challenge each other) with the task of reciting the whole text or sections of it in the style of someone famous or with a different accent.  It helps if it is someone a little bit out of character of the text.  They can play this in pairs or groups.  The groups could decide the characters or accents and place these in a hat.  The person in the spotlight chooses their character/accent and off they go.

4. Speed (or not).  This can be done as a class, smaller groups, or in pairs.  One person recites a section of the text and the rest of the class, group or the other person has to repeat it back at various speeds. 

5. Choir.  You do not have to be musical to do this! Split the class into 3 or 4 sections.  It is easiest to split them depending on the seating arrangement.  Take one sentence of the whole text and break it up into 3 or 4 bits and allocate each of these bits to the different sections in the class.  You are the conductor (or maybe one of your students would like to take on this role) and when you point at a particular section of your orchestra (class) they must repeat back to you their little bit of the text. You then point at another section and do the same thing.  You can speed this up, slow it down, mix it up or do it in order. 

6.  Four in a row.  Take the text, and insert small sections into a grid 5 x 5 or 4 x 4 (this depends on the size of your text and how big/small each section is).  Again, students play in pairs or fours (or more).  To win a square the player has to correctly say the line that comes before the text within the square (or the line after - that is up to you).  The first person to win four squares in a row is the winner.

7. Snakes and ladders - as above but on a snakes and ladders board.
8. Who's the quickest?  Get the students to time each other and see who can do it the quickest.  The first round you could allow for one mistake a sentence and then reduce the number of mistakes made.  The students judge each other.

Now for those with 'techability':

1. Use Decide now available on the app store.  On the wheel put sections of your text, as follows:

Students spin the wheel and complete the sentence.

2. Use Voice Record  to record a text and play back to a friend at a slower or faster speed.

3. Use Line-learner and record the first line of the text.  Leave the second line blank for your students who should then fill in the gap by recording their line.

4. Use an avatar to be the voice of your learnt text and put your avatar on relevant pictures as a background.  Or use an app like Morfo to give your learnt text a funny image.

5. Use Puppet Pals to bring some animation to the text.

If you have students who do not like to talk out loud then hiding behind an avatar is an excellent way to help them overcome their anxiety.   You can read more on this subject by clicking here.   However, if technology is not your thing or not available to you then the games mentioned in the first half of this post should give students enough of a focus away from the tedium of rote learning and enable them to commit the dullest of text to memory. 

I wonder if you have any more ideas to add to this post?  If so, I would love to hear them.  Please leave a comment in the box below.

Pictures and quotes taken from:
Gadsby, C (2012) Perfect Assessment for Learning, Independent Thinking Press


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