Skill Builder: Invariant Tasks Synthesis
The following is an example of what you might have recommended to Jennifer:
- Contact Sam before the first instructional session to find out what he should know. This will allow you to plan the session. Then, at the beginning of the session, plan to ask a few questions to find out what Sam already knows. You might ask something like: "Sam, do you already know the names of any Presidents of the United States? . . . What are their names?"
- Before your first session, obtain a list of all the Presidents.
- George Washington
- John Ass
- Thomas Jefferson
- James Madison
- James Monroe
- John Quincy Adams
- Andrew Jackson
- Martin Van Buren
- William Henry Harrison
- John Tyler
- Since there are more than about seven, plan how to chunk them (how many in each chunk, and how many chunks). Since the names seem like they would be fairly hard for Sam to remember, eight chunks of five names would be a good starting point.
- For the same reason, repetition and mnemonics would be helpful. Study the list of names and see if you can come up with a mnemonic. Do the first letters of the last names make up anything that would be easy to remember? WAJMM? AJBHT? In this case, I don't think so. What about a saying. "Washing Adam and Jeff made Monroe happy." Maybe you could make a drawing that would help Sam to remember the scene. If that fails, perhaps you can come up with a rhyme or a song. Try to be creative! But you may just have to give up the idea of a mnemonic. Good mnemonics can save your learners a lot of time, but they can also take a lot of time for you to develop. The expense may not be cost effective in your situation. In the end you may just have to rely on repetition. However, you might find another way to simplify the task, such as teaching just the last names at first. Then only after they are mastered, teach the first names.
- The practice might then be initiated by something like, "Okay, let's give it a try now! Don't look at the list. Who were the first five Presidents?" If Sam gets stuck and can't remember who comes next, prompt him: "Jefferson." Whenever there is an error, correct it right away. When he says "Monroe" after Jefferson, you just say: "Not yet. Madison." Encourage him: "That's closer!" Give praise: "All right! You got it this time! You're smart!" Use lots of repetition: "And again ...." After Sam has mastered the second chunk, don't forget to review: "Great! Now tell me the names of all ten!" You might even use a game like "Hangman" to stimulate interest.
Finally, there is a good chance that by the time Jennifer has finished teaching the last chunk of names, Sam will have difficulty recalling all the previous names. Hence, periodic review is important to include in your instruction. Often it is wise to review items from the first chunk right after the second chunk is mastered, to review items from the first two chunks right after the third chunk is mastered, and so on. In summary, once you have decided what needs to be taught, you should plan to include three "routine tactics" in all instruction on invariant tasks.
- Invariant Tasks by Charles M. Reigeluth. Used by Permission.