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The Spiral Effect

The human brain is a funny thing. I think it’s fascinating that I can remember some random memory from my childhood but will soon forget a key concept in a book that I recently read. If not used or reviewed in a consistent manner, information or skills that we learn can easily be tucked away in the creases of our brain only to be lost forever.

When we are learning a new fact it is necessary to review, practice, review, practice, and continue that cycle until it becomes cemented. In our house, in every subject that we learn we practice a spiral effect which means that we are always circling back to things that we’ve learned throughout the year. A key math concept that was introduced in August is reviewed every week even after the unit is done, so that 8 months later we are still briefly touching upon that subject every week. In our house, or RV, or wherever we are residing at the time, Fridays are our review and test day. In all subjects I review key concepts or ideas that we have learned and we simply do this by having a conversation. For example if we are learning place values in math, I may ask them a few problems to locate certain place values. That 1 minute assessment review, gives me an accurate idea of whether we need to spend more time revisiting concepts or if it is learned and we just need to continue reviewing every week.

With our history we are constantly reviewing what we learned. We have put a timeline of important date and people together so that at the beginning of each learning session we are reviewing our story and following the timeline. This regular review helps make sense of the material and provides a better opportunity to bond in the brain.

An effective way to really build out this idea of teaching within the spiral effect is to take a calendar in the beginning of your school year and for each subject write down the concepts, ideas, or elements that you want your kids to know. That could be taking your science curriculum and picking out a few concepts for each month. You can then weekly plan your lessons accordingly. But with these key concepts you know exactly what is to be learned for that time period and you have those ideas written down so that you can use the spiral effect and review, review, review on a consistent basis. We just finished a unit on space, so our key concepts for the previous month was gravity, solar system, and planets. When we continue on to our new units I will continue to spiral back to those key concepts to make sure things aren’t getting lost in the creases of the brain.

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