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How To Cram Better: What We Don't Teach In School

Posted by on in Teaching Strategies
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Learning is like playing the blues.

If you wanna get really good at it and be able to improvise, you must practice playing the blues a lot. You must also understand it. The scales, the chord progressions, the beats, the turnaround, the stories, the mood; the "how to blues."

If you wanna get really good at learning you must practice learning. You must also understand it. The brain, the habits, the strategies, what works, what doesn't; "the how to learn."

If you understand how your brain learns you might be able to hack your learning; to improvise and modify sketchy study strategies that mostly don't work and make them more effective.

Today, I attempt to do that with cramming and if you read my last post What's The Brain Deal With Cramming? you know that I don't recommend it and instead advocate for smart spaced practice. 

But today...

Just today, I AM PROMOTING CRAMMING. Not because I believe in it but because I find that many students cram, and as unfortunate as teachers find it, many will continue to cram their way through school. And, as my mission is to help everyone learn, I want to take this opportunity and attempt to make cramming more effective - perhaps effective enough that students can retain more information longer - even weeks after they cram it into their brains. 

Is this even possible?

There's only one way to find out so...

Let's Hack Cramming!


So there you be! Crazy? Perhaps. But just consider this:

My wife recently gifted me the new Van Morrison LP. I played it yesterday for the first time. It's good. It's blues above all else this favorite poet-musician-artist of mine crammed in there.

"The thing about the blues is you don't dissect it – you just do it," said Van Morrison. That's true, but it's also a lie. The truth lives in the idea that blues is performance driven. The lie is that you can't improvise well (cram) without a whole lotta love, know-how, and practice.

You see, his dad bought him an acoustic guitar when he was 11. Starting with learning basic chords and then forming bands before playing as a solo artist, Van Morrison has done a lot of spaced practice over time. And because of this he can cram and do it well.

So, I'm not saying you should cram. I'm not saying your students should cram. But if you or your students will cram y'all might as well learn to do it good. Like the blues... I'm just sayin'

You have the power to change lives. Use it often so they can change the world.


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Oskar is a Science, Engineering, and Learning How to Learn teacher and an author of the Crush School Book Series.

His professional interests are brain-based teaching and learning, flexible seating (#StarbucksMyRoom founder), social-emotional learning, social justice, and using technology to enhance learning.

He is also a fan of the Jedi order (and uses DA FORCE frequently), ninjas, and the superhero in all of us. He is on a Quest to Change the World because he can. We all can.

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Guest Monday, 20 May 2019