I blog on Brain-Based Learning, Metacognition, EdTech, and Social-Emotional Learning. I am the author of the Crush School Series of Books, which help students understand how their brains process information and learn. I also wrote The Power of Three: How to Simplify Your Life to Amplify Your Personal and Professional Success, but be warned that it's meant for adults who want to thrive and are comfortable with four letter words.

How To Teach Students Spaced Practice (FREE Lesson & Planning Tool)

Spaced Practice Lesson & Planning Tool


It's been a while and I feel like I have not been living up to my promise to help you become a better teacher or mentor lately. Today, I plan to make up for it by giving you a lesson you can use to help students learn why spaced practice works and a tool to help them use it effectively.

You see... I am not blogging as much these days because I'm killing myself to get this new project done. Don't worry, I love this kind of killing of myself. It's just that between family, teaching, and my third love, writing, I am creating a 12+ week program to help students learn faster while retaining more. I am putting it all in a Workbook/Notebook any teacher can use with his or her students.

Essentially, it is a series of lessons that use brain science and brain-based learning to help students optimize their brain by training it. It's stuff we don't traditionally teach, but ironically it's the stuff that makes the biggest difference. I know: the story of our teaching lives...

Anyways, back to... 

Teaching Spaced Practice

First, we must recognize the procrastination struggle is real. Students (and ourselves too) often put things that seem overwhelming off. Thus, to fight the urge to procrastinate, it is important to plan, chunk, and focus.

Planning makes it real. When we commit to doing something and put it down on paper our mind moves it from the land of imaginary to the realm of real everyday life. 

Chunking makes it smaller. The idea is to trick out mind into perceiving the big project as one small task at a time. Seems simple, yet we rarely do it and trying to grind it out is what leads to procrastination. This is why planning a series of 25-minute time chunks, or Pomodoros, is effective in preventing procrastination and promoting productivity.

Focus makes productivity. Even though 1 Pomodoro seems small and sometimes too short to get much done, it is not. The key is to have one tangible goal for it; to know what we're doing before we start and do only that one thing for 25 minutes without stopping or distractions. 

The learning magic happens when we allow the information to sit and our brain to form and strengthen connections. Then, the concepts can stick in our long-term memory.

You see, many students make the mistake of thinking that remembering and understanding is about how much they study. It is not. True learning; the kind that results in us being able to recall and apply the knowledge and the skills we learn, is about how much we study, how often we practice, and the time in-between the study sessions.

But it isn't just about remembering and storing information. Spaced practice is key to understanding. For the hard stuff to sink in, the brain must alternate between the focused and the relaxed mode. It needs smart spaced out practice and frequent breaks for neural connections to become stronger and to form new neural connections that lead to the formation of meaning.

The basics of this process of meaning formation or understanding are the same for everyone. What is different is the amount of time and the number of repetitions it takes. But, as often in life, this is something we all must figure out for ourselves because it is our brain and it’s unique.

And being unique is good. 

But the approach we take to teaching our students must be one that guides each of them and allows each individual to come up with their own way to learn.

Free Spaced Practice Lesson & Planning Tool

The Spaced Practice Lesson I use in my upcoming Crush School Student Notebook: 12 Weeks To Better Learning involves teaching students why spaced practice works and planning for it. It also provides these 3 easy ways students can start to plan their learning:

  1. Get a calendar planner and start using it.
  2. Use your smartphone to keep track of due dates and plan your study/school work.
  3. Use a google calendar on your laptop or tablet you carry in your backpack.

These might seem like no-brainers to adults, but I often find my students don't know about these simple ways of keeping track of school and life.

Grab the Spaced Practice Lesson here.

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