Hands-on Tasks are Good
Kathie F. Nunley
or 'hands-on', activities benefit everyone and should be plentiful
and encouraged with all students. The reason for this relates to the
two different memory systems in our heads. One is called the semantic
memory and the other is the episodic memory. They are actually in
two different locations in the brain.
memory is composed of those things we have specifically set out to
learn and remember, such as "who was the 1st president of the United
States?" or "how many stars are there on the flag?" Or, "what is 6
times 3?" All of us were taught the answers to these questions and
we intentionally set out to remember them. We stored them in our semantic
if I ask you "what did you have to eat last night?" or "where were
you last Christmas?" Or "what is your most memorable birthday?" You
would also be able to answer these questions. But why? Did you specifically
set out to remember what you had for dinner last night in anticipation
that I would ask you today? Did you go to bed repeating it over and
over? No of course not, yet you remember it easily. This is information
that is stored in your episodic memory (think of it as the 'episodes'
of your life). It is our autobiography of everything that has happened
to us. It is unintentionally remembered.
two systems are linked or networked together and often one will help
us with the other. We know that they are completely separate in the
brain however, because in some instances a person will lose one but
not the other. In Alzheimer's disease, people tend to lose their episodic
memory but not their semantic. So although they don't know if they
have children, they do remember that there are 50 stars on the flag.
I tell people I'm a biology teacher they usually reply..."Ughhh, all
I remember about biology is that we had to dissect frogs". I find
it fascinating that I get this response from so many people, even
if it's been 40 years since they were in high school. Why do they
remember the frogs? Possibly because it was one of the few hands-on
events that they experienced that year.
is by understanding the relationship between these two memory systems
that we can see the true advantage to using "hands-on" activities
in the classroom. They target both memory systems and the students
have a better chance for retention.
F. Nunley is an educational psychologist, author, researcher and speaker
living in southern New Hampshire. Developer of the Layered Curriculum®
method of instruction, Dr. Nunley has authored several books and articles
on teaching in mixed-ability classrooms and other problems facing
today's teachers. Full references and additional teaching and
parental tips are available at: http://Help4Teachers.com Email her:
Kathie (at) brains.org
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