Friday, October 19, 2018

Cheating vs. Cramming

What is the difference?

I cheated. Those were the words I heard a high school student say yesterday when he heard he did well on a history exam. My stomach dropped. Cheating just won’t get you very far. Even though I dreaded the answer, I asked, “How did you do it?”

And then the answer became crystal clear – he hadn’t cheated in the sense of copying answers or stealing the answer key. He described how he had studied on the bus and all through study hall right before the exam, memorizing the terms long enough to regurgitate them in less than an hour. He felt he cheated because he had cheated himself – he did not fully learn and comprehend the information. He only stored it in his short term memory where he could summon it in order to pass a test.

Cheating and cramming – are they really very different? The differences appear to be in whom they harm. Both harm the student who does it. However, cheating harms the other students in the class, especially when they are graded on a curve (it also harms the teacher who doesn’t get an accurate picture of the classroom learning). Cramming harms the student – he cheats himself from truly learning the information beyond regurgitation.

Strategies to Improve Learning

Sometimes there are just things that need to be memorized in order to be able to use the information later. The alphabet, counting numbers, spelling rules, orders of operation in mathematics, and the capitols of states – these things often require memorization strategies. However, if we really want our kids to understand information, to learn on a deeper level, and to stop cheating themselves, we need to offer them some creative learning strategies.

Use Mnemonic Devices

Help your kids find mnemonic devices that already exist, or better yet, have them develop their own. One example of one used to remember the order of operations in mathematics is:

  • Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally – translates into Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction
  • For a great list of other mnemonic devices, arranged by subject, check out this site.

Make it a Game

Turn any subject into a BINGO game. Make a grid on a word processing program and add one term into each square. You can take one notecard for each term and write down the definition, or just type up the definitions and print, then cut each definition apart. Mix up the definitions and then randomly draw a definition and read it aloud. If a player recognizes the term that matches the definition, he can cover the square with a marker (coin, scrap of paper, etc.).

When my kids were younger they loved their Disney Memory game – where you draw and try to match pairs. You can use this premise for almost any topic. Create cards with terms or visual aids – I made a set of cards that had pictures of landforms, and the match to the pair was a card with the term (you could also just have a duplicate picture card).

  • Use an old deck of cards, even with cards missing, and glue your pictures or terms onto the face of the cards for a sturdier study deck.
  • Laminate your cards if they will be used repeatedly or by several children.
  • You can also use the same cards to play games like “Go Fish”.

Learn Through Art

Even though subjects like spelling or mathematics might not seem to have anything to do with art, I’ve learned with my kids that practicing basic facts can be much easier when you incorporate the visual learning that art can supply.

If your child is trying to learn how to spell the word elephant, have her repeatedly spell it out in the shape of an elephant (it can be easier for younger kids to print a line drawing picture of the elephant that they can trace with the spelling word).

Go With What They Know

Take pop culture and modern media and have kids used those mediums to reinforce “dry” topics.

  • Have your kids take their favorite commercials and try to sell their subject. Maybe they are learning about women’s suffrage – have them imagine what the modern day commercials would be like for and against the movement.
  • One year my kids took the history topic of early American settlers and turned it into a script for a fictional newscast. My son acted as the reporter in the studio (Dan Rather-Be-Fishing), my daughter was the reporter in the field, and my other children were the Native Americans and Pilgrims. We videotaped their scenes and put together an entire news broadcast. The interviews were based on real facts, but they were also stuffed with tongue and cheek jokes and modern twists.

Until our classrooms get away from test-oriented regurgitation, we need to give our kids tools so that they can get back to the enjoyment of learning and stop cheating themselves.

Related posts:

  1. Parents – Are You Doing Your Homework?
  2. Choosing the Right Path for Your Child’s Education
  3. 3 Tricks for Good Study Habits

View full post on Parenting Tips For Raising Successful Kids |

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