Why Should Preschoolers Use Retrieval Practice?
In many ways, preschoolers are just like all other learners. They acquire skills incrementally, build upon prior knowledge, and solve problems through trial-and-error. They rely on memory for learning. Like other learners, preschoolers benefit from a strategy called retrieval practice.
Retrieval practice is calling to mind (retrieving) what has been learned. Simply remembering a bit of information reinforces learning and makes it easier to retrieve that information in the future. When retrieval is spaced out over time, it’s called distributed practice, and the effect is even more powerful.
A growing body of research shows that retrieval practice works well for learners of all ages, including preschool students. A 2007 study explored the use of retrieval practice with children as young as 3 and found that “the children very much enjoyed the technique, willingly engaged with it, and were delighted at the opportunity to play it a second time. Keeping their attention on the task at hand also seemed easier with the retrieval practice technique than with the other study conditions.”
When students of any age retrieve key skills and concepts repeatedly, over the course of an entire school year, they master the material, and they retain it for a lifetime.
As an added benefit, the strategy builds self-confidence. Students find that they can call to mind what they’ve learned—again and again. They begin to see a connection between their effort and achievement.
Of course, preschool children do much of their learning through discovery and play. But they also learn—with the help of adults—to draw letters, numbers, and shapes and to count and sort. They learn to compare objects, order events, and find patterns. Retrieval practice is perfectly-suited for mastering these tasks. Lessons like the ones offered here provide daily distributed practice to support both mastery and long-term retention.
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