Moving Beyond Just Remembering
Higher level thinking. Is there a place for it in a LIFE Skills classroom? You bet there is! We, as teachers, have to move beyond the basic Who, What, Where, When and How to more complex questions to offer our students the chance of developing skills beyond just remembering.
Remember back in the day when we looked at the Bloom’s Taxonomy to discuss complexity? When you hit the LIFE Skills classroom, did you ever look back at that and try to find a place for it? I hope you have. There is a place for it. And there is a way to go beyond just remembering.
Beyond Just Remembering: Understanding
I had a student I worked with for years- she still holds a special place in my heart. She couldn’t read worth anything. She had a really hard time with all the prerequisite skills that she needed to be a functional reader. But she was smart. She was so smart. She was able to interpret pictures and listen for information. She just couldn’t read. When I got her IEP goals from her last campus, they were all focused on answering factual comprehension by pointing, letter identification, and some basic sight word identification. This did and still does make me sad. Nothing in her education plan looked to address critical thinking. Nothing was present to go beyond just remembering. Maybe it was because she struggled to speak. Maybe it was because she had some complex behavior issues. Maybe it was because she struggled with good hygiene. Whatever the reason, her prior teachers had written off what she was capable of learning.
When I started working with her, we really started to work on answering questions that were at the UNDERSTANDING level- describing things, giving an example, and explaining things. She was able to get better at this. She was able to use critical thinking with guidance. I loved seeing her grow.
So, how did I do that? A lot of self-talk. What is self-talk? It is all that dialog that happens in your head when you read things. We would read together and I would pause in the text to ask myself questions and think about what I had read. She had always been so focused in the process of reading- no one ever worked on the function of reading. What the information being learned and ideas being explored. Now I could model and we could practice how to do that so she could move beyond just remembering.
Beyond Just Remembering: Apply
This is all about asking a student to use the information… what would you do? I think the number one fallacy that comes with moving up to this level with students who struggle with verbal skills or response mode is that you can present the answers to questions like ‘What would happen if?’, ‘How would you use?’, or ‘How would you solve?’ As multiple choice. It does not have to be vocalized out of a student’s brain- we can preset responses so we can get beyond just remembering. Ask the tough questions… and provide the supports needed to make a student successful.
Beyond Just Remembering: Analyze
My son is always asking me why… Why this and why that. For everything. And there is a real life skill to looking at things and figuring out why. This is a skill that will help a student throughout their life, so we should teach this skill. Again, using self-talk and providing assistance with response mode is important and will also work here. In addition, you can start to help a student understand why by offering explanations as things happen throughout the day… “We are going to lunch. Why? Because the bell rang. If we don’t leave now we might miss lunch time.” A dialog like this delivered to a student throughout the day can help them to start to think about the why.
Beyond Just Remembering: Evaluate
When it gets to this level, the number one error I see teachers make is the amount of wait time given to a student. Remember, LIFE Skills students have delays in processing. We ask complex questions, wait a second or two, and then answer for them. No time to process. Please offer a student time to process information, think of an answer, and then formulate a way to respond. Wait time is just so important and so often not offered.
Beyond Just Remembering: Create
Finally, creation. This is way beyond just remembering! And this is tough to do… But in LIFE Skills, the easiest way to test a student’s ultimate level of learning is to make them a teacher. I will never forget the day I paired two nonverbal students together to work on vocabulary. The boy was in a wheelchair with minimal use of his entire body, but he had understanding and a beautiful social smile. The girl had Downs and struggled with fine motor. I handed her a stack of clothing flash cards we had been working on (words with no pictures) and she went to her partner, took a card, showed him, and then pointed to the clothing on him or on her. It melted my heart! She was a master now- she was the teacher! With verbal students, ask questions that go beyond just remembering… better yet, ask them to make a new and improved version, a spin off book, a new version of something they’re read or even rework a math problem by creating a story word problem from it- Just get them creating!
So Go Beyond Just Remembering
Don’t limit a student by only asking them questions from the remembering level. Move them to develop critical thinking skills by making analyze, create, evaluate, and apply. Print this quick chart to help you remember the kind of questions you can ask in the moment. My student who I mentioned earlier ended up developing some great critical thinking skills. She was not limited by her inability to read and I was proud of all the things she could do by the time she graduated.
How do you bring upper level thinking activities to your students so they can go beyond just remembering? Post in the comments and remember to subscribe so you never miss a new post full of tips, tricks, and freebies!