Using Cognitive Closure to Remember Meaning
Closure in a lesson does not mean to pack up and move on. Rather, it is a cognitive activity that helps students focus on what was learned and whether it made sense and had meaning. Attaching meaning greatly increases the probability that the learning will be remembered. Remembering the meaning increases the likelihood that the learning will be used again in a new future situation.
One way to assist students in remembering the meaning of what was learned is to have them write it down in a journal after each lesson where something new is presented. It is important that they write down the answers to these three questions:
- What did we learn today? This question ensures that the students have made sense of what they learned.
- How does what we learned today connect or add to something we already have learned? This question increases the likelihood that the new learning will be associated in memory with similar or related concepts, making future recall easier.
- How can what we learned today help us in the future? This question goes to the heart of meaning. The human brain is apt to save information that can be useful to its owner in the future.
This writing task should not take more than a few minutes (depending on the age of the students). Preprinted journal pages can make this go faster with younger students.
Mathematics becomes much easier when students understand what it is about, and when the symbols have meaning for them and become a means to an arithmetic end rather than an end unto themselves. People who do not see meaning in arithmetic computations are often the ones who say they are not good at mathematics.