[Podcast] Make It Stick—How to know if your kids are retaining what they learn!

Brave Writer Podcast

Today on the Brave Writer podcast we’re diving deep into the book, “Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning,” by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Rodiger III, and Mark A. McDaniel.

Both Melissa and I were quite enthralled by this read, and for many solid reasons.

Let’s explore why this book has made such an impact—and why we can’t stop bringing it up in conversations!

Show Notes

Why we loved “Make It Stick”

Firstly, this book throws quite a curveball: It boldly challenges the widely accepted learning methods like reviewing texts or highlighting, arguing that they don’t necessarily guarantee long-term memory retention. Instead, it brings to light the importance of retrieval and recall as hallmarks of effective learning.

Learners can fall into the trap of “passing familiarity” where they believe they know the content, yet when put to the test, they realize they can’t recall it. It perfectly captures the illusion of mastery—a false belief that you understand something when, in reality, you might not. Language learners, for instance, might resonate with this. Understanding a language when it’s spoken is different from producing it effectively, and that’s the challenge many face. This book prompts us to ask: “Did the knowledge really stick?”

Techniques for effective learning

Alright, so if highlighting your textbook until it glows in the dark isn’t effective, what then? “Make It Stick” lays down some well-researched techniques:

  • Low-stakes quizzing and the importance of spaced repetition. It reminded us of Charlotte Mason’s approach that emphasized short lessons and paraphrasing knowledge into one’s own words.
  • The distinction between massed practice and interleaving. Though interleaving might make learning feel slower at the outset, it has proven to enhance long-term retention.
  • Desirable difficulty. Learning techniques that render the content just challenging enough aid in long-term retention. Remember, if it’s too easy, it’s like writing in sand; it just doesn’t last.
  • Oral exams in aiding retrieval mechanisms. The art of picking a topic and narrating it to a professor can be adapted beautifully with children through storytelling or creative exercises.
  • Reflection and narration. Another technique popular with Charlotte Mason, emphasizing on understanding what is known over what isn’t.
  • Free writing. Introduced by Peter Elbow in the 90s, this is one of our favorite techniques. Whether unguided or with set prompts, it provides an excellent channel for reflection on readings.

Think outside the box

Breaking out of the conventional, Make It Stick encourages us to think creatively. Instead of always turning to ready-made resources, it asks us to explore innovative learning methods. Imagine children creating their own versions of classic board games. Or the interactive use of non-traditional methods like role-playing or even the innovative use of Minecraft biomes to teach biology!

The benefits of homeschooling

One thing that stood out as we read the book was this: All of these techniques exemplify the strengths of a homeschooling education. It embraces a unique approach that utilizes deep understandings of how learning truly takes place. Homeschooling allows for continuous problem-solving, reflection, spaced repetition, and low stakes quizzing.

A little food for thought for homeschooling parents: let’s not find ourselves confined to just one teaching style. It’s a challenge, but as educators, we should stretch beyond methods we’re most comfortable with.


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