Academic journal article The International Schools Journal

Using Energizers to Enhance Memory Recall in Grade 8

Academic journal article The International Schools Journal

Using Energizers to Enhance Memory Recall in Grade 8

Article excerpt

This two group pre-test/post-test study explored the effectiveness of using brain stimulating activities, or 'energizers', with middle school students to improve factual recall at an international school. The sample size of 59 grade 8 students was divided into a comparison and implementation group, and the effectiveness of the energizing activities was evaluated both quantitatively and qualitatively.

During the four week study, in addition to receiving lessons according to the planned inquiry-based curriculum, the implementation group participated in regular activities designed to stimulate the students on a deeper level. The results were surprising, and analysis revealed that using energizing activities with middle school students may be effective; however, further research is suggested.

Background

Study location

This study was carried out at a private international school in Germany where the curriculum is embedded in the IB's programmes. For most of the 680 students (3-19 year olds) it is a day school, but there are also approximately 40 international boarding school students in the middle and high school. The common language used by the school community is English, despite its members being diverse and coming from about 60 different countries. Approximately 35% of the students come from the host country.

Student demographics

Fifty-nine students from all four grade 8 classes participated. The researcher considered that this sample was similar to the school's overall student population. All students, except for one, were day students and most were from upper middle class families. English as an Additional Language (EAL) and Learning Support (LS) students made up part of the sample.

Background to undertaking this project

The common goal in schools is to provide personal success for every student and provide engaging instruction. This study attempted to discover if energizers or specific stimulating activities, interspersed throughout all lessons, would improve students' engagement with the material and thus benefit learning.

Educators provide a platform from which learning can take place. Teachers direct learning in classrooms, but whether students learn only superficially or deeply depends on the effectiveness of the teaching. According to Marzano (2007), three characteristics provide the framework for effective teaching: effective instructional strategies, effective classroom management strategies, and effective classroom curriculum design. When these three elements are refined, learning is more likely to take place. But what is learning?

'The human brain is a natural meaning-seeker and meaning-maker' (Dhority & Jensen, 1998, p9). From birth onwards, humans learn actively and passively. At any moment there is an input which is incorporated into one's thinking, and through a process of thinking (cognition and reflection), this internalized information influences the previous state of the brain. Thus, learning takes place.

Learning is further enhanced through the externalization of the thought process. Consequently, by synthesizing and expressing new thoughts, learning takes place (Tetsuo, 2011). However, learning and how the brain functions are not clear sciences, and this is what makes being an effective teacher so difficult.

Despite the fact that the study of the brain is not an exact science, knowing more about how the brain learns will better guide teachers in choosing teaching strategies which can be more effective (Almarode & Almarode, 2008; Collins, 2010; Hunter, 2011; Jensen, 2000, 2008, 2011). In the literature, there is evidence that the brain can maintain attention for about 10 to 15 minutes maximum (Almarode & Almarode, 2008; Hunter, 2011), and this could guide teachers to keep tasks or instruction short.

Also significant is the number of chunks of content that can be grasped at one time. Cowan (2001) suggested that the brain can process only three or four chunks of information at one time. …

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