Rehearsal Strategies

What is a rehearsal strategy?

A rehearsal strategy uses repeated practice of information to learn it. When a student is presented with specific information to be learned, such as a list, often he will attempt to memorize the information by repeating it over and over. He may say the words out loud, or he may sub vocalize the information (say it to himself). The repeated practice increases the student's familiarity with the information. For many people, the learning of our social security number, our telephone number, or the items we want to pick up at the grocery store prompts us to use a rehearsal strategy.

How can rehearsal strategies help your students?

Rehearsal strategies can be used to learn relatively brief amounts of information, and is good for learning "foundation information." Foundation information is necessary to learn before more complex learning can take place. For example, learning that a+b=b+a, or the commutative property of addition, is essential to doing more complex work in algebra.

How can you implement rehearsal strategies to effectively meet the diverse learning needs of students?

One of the most important concepts you will teach students about rehearsal strategies is evaluating when a rehearsal strategy is just right, and when a different strategy is needed. For certain information, (for example the telephone number we need to memorize until we can write it down or make the call), verbal rehearsal of the numbers is a fine strategy; no more complex approach is necessary. However, memorizing long lists of information may require a different strategy to yield better results. Helping students evaluate whether rehearsal will accomplish the task in the best way will enhance their knowledge of themselves as learners.

Attaching a multisensory experience to the rehearsal may also assist the learners. For example, many children can only "say" their alphabet when they sing the ABC song. You may find that some learners do better with rehearsal strategies when they can attach sound or movement to the items to be learned.

Learners may also become attached to the sequence of their learning. For example, when I'm doing business over the phone, I'm often asked for the last four digits of my social security number. I have to start reciting at the beginning of my social security number because that is the sequence in which I learned it. Understanding that your students may have different approaches and preferences (some may prefer to practice in quiet, others with noise; some students will want the written information nearby) will allow you to provide a supportive environment for their diverse needs.

If you are using rehearsal to teach information that contributes to a larger concept or skill, keep in mind that lots of practice may be required for the students to learn the information to a level of automaticity. After initial learning takes place, you will need to review at times to ensure that the students have retained the information. We have all memorized information that we have promptly forgotten when we stopped rehearsing.

How do you decide on what type of rehearsal strategy to use?

Consider your students' preferences for rehearsing information, and allow for as much variety as possible. Encourage students to create songs or dances to go with the information to be learned.

Making a game out of the rehearsal work is helpful also. Some ideas include the following:

Bean Bag Toss - Students recite information when the bean bag gets tossed to them. Then they toss to another student or back to the teacher.

Choral Response - Students respond as a group with rehearsed information (especially helpful in the early stages of rehearsal).

Team Competition - Teacher asks questions requiring rehearsed information, students answer individually to gain points for their team.

How do you construct your own rehearsal strategy?

  • Analyze the information to be taught and determine whether rehearsal is the best approach. If so,
  • Decide whether you want the students to rehearse individually, in pairs or groups, as a whole classroom, or a combination of these. If information is important to the whole group, and/or if it contributes to a larger concept or strategy, then group rehearsal should be included.
  • Arrange information into the best order you can devise. This helps makes the information easier to memorize. If students need to rearrange information, be willing to consider that also, but do not compromise the learning. For example, rehearsing the seasons out of order may be easier for some students, but is the resulting learning as good?
  • Remember to think about student abilities so that the format for the rehearsal (games, songs, dances, etc.) facilitates understanding rather than confusion.
  • Present information to be attended to and learned.
  • Guide students through the rehearsal process.
  • Reinforce (a) the students' learning of the material as well as (b) their ability to use rehearsal.