My world history class (500-1500 C.E.) is a semester-long course. Don’t get me started on how, why, or the injustice around that as that’s a story for another time. One of the benefits of teaching a semester course is the ability to course-correct half-way through the school year. I don’t have to wait until August to start anew. I can do that in January (at the half-way point in the school year).
Having implemented brain dumping with my GATE/PreAP students, and reading their reflections on the benefits of that on their ability to retain information, I decided to institute regular brain dumps across all of my six world history courses this semester. I don’t have the GATE/PreAP class this semester, so all of my world history classes contain a heterogeneous mix of high-achievers, English language learners, and special education students. I see this as a positive because these students were randomly assigned to my classes so I should be able to get a good idea of the impact of brain dumping on the ability of my student to retain information over the long-haul.
Friday marked the introduction of brain dumping to my students. This was a timed exercise in which students were given three minutes to dump the contents of their brains onto a blank piece of white paper using only pencil.
The second part was another three-minute timed exercise in which students shared their brain dumps with their group. Anything they did not have on their mindmap, they could add in pen. The point being, what was written in pencil are things they remember and the items written in pen are those they need to spend a bit more time on since they did not remember it without prompting.
I collected their first brain dumps because when we do another one on this same topic, I will pass out their first attempt so that they can (hopefully) see growth over time.
What I loved hearing from the conversations of students is the fact that many remembered the details of the various themes of geography after being reminded by their group. This realization served to lend value to this process as believe students gained confidence in the knowledge that they had the information in their brain, they just had to activate it.
One may ask why use valuable class time for this exercise if you only have 20 weeks to teach 1000 years of history. And I would ask: How can we afford not to? Isn’t the whole point of education to help students learn the content so they can apply it to their lives?
This is a valuable strategy to employ with your students. If you consistently apply it, I believe you will soon find yourself in agreement with me: Brain dumps are worth it.