Learning Strategies


Educators of young children have a propensity to share the goal of fostering children’s successful learning and achievement. As the pressure to give emphasis to academic standards enhances, it is all the more vital to reflect on the most effective practices for make certain that children are in fact learning what is being taught. Several factors related to children’s achievement are not in teachers’ control, but creating a climate of engagement in the classroom is (Finn, J.D., & D.A. Rock. 1997). The use of strategies is a powerful teaching tool vital in promoting children’s achievement for the reason that it focuses children on learning; supports learning specific skills and concepts; and provides children positive associations with learning.


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Categorizing is another very basic strategy that many of us use to help us remember items (Baine, 1986) Thus, if you are given a list: APPLE   JEEPNEY   PANSY   TRUCK   SAMPAGUITA   PLUM   PEACH   MOTORCYCLE   ROSE   MARIGOLD   MANGO   CAR the items will be much easier to remember if you note that the items belong to only three categories fruit, vehicles, flowers. Noting that there are four examples of each will also help. The category labels help considerably when it comes to retrieving the information. Most educated adults do this sort of thing automatically.

But, again, like any strategy no matter how simple, it is not something we are born knowing. Very young children are not likely to group items at all, but if they do, it will be most likely according to some sort of association (cornflakes — milk, baby — bottle, paper — pencil). If young children are taught to group items into taxonomic categories, they will still not use category labels effectively when retrieving the information, without explicit instruction. From around 6 or 7, children seem to benefit more from instruction in categorization strategies. If the children are very young, such instruction may only confuse them. Using category labels as retrieval cues appears to be a more complex strategy than the first step of learning to group according to category, and doesn’t appear until later.

Even children as old as 11 may benefit from explicit reminders to use category labels as retrieval cues and search the categories exhaustively before moving on. At around 7, about 50% of children appreciate the value of categorization as a memory strategy. This doesn’t increase all that much over the next few years (about 60% of ten year olds), although nearly all 17 year olds understand the strategy.

The value of category labels in helping young children learn is another strategy. Category labels don’t appear to particularly help recall in children before the age of ten. Picture recognition is assisted by labeling in children as young as four. Researchers have had mixed results in labeling pictures as an aid to learning paired associations in young children. Labeling pictures does not appear to help very young children remember the order of items, but can be helpful to children from six years old until they are of an age to spontaneously label, when such explicit labeling may interfere with their own learning strategy. Labeling however often part of a wider strategy and may is well be helpful to young children for other reasons than improving recall. For example, it may be useful in helping children acquire language.

Mnemonics is another strategy used by teachers for the children. Research into whether young children can improve recall by using visual imagery has produced mixed results (Yair, G. 2000). It would seem that, in general, the instruction to generate mental images does not improve recall in children 5 yrs and younger, but does improve recall in children 8 years and above. Children of six and seven appear to be at a transitional stage whereby some children can use the strategy effectively in some situations. The story, or sentence, mnemonic is a verbal mnemonic in which words to be remembered are linked together in a sentence or sentences (Brewster, C., & J. Fager. 2000). It is an effective strategy for learning a list of words.

The research confirms that memory even in very young children can be helped by teaching them to use this verbal mnemonic strategy. It is more effective if the words are linked by verbs rather than prepositions simply stringing together words like this: The cat and the banana and the boat were in the sky” is much less memorable than composing: “The cat ate the banana and tossed the boat into the sky.” Sentence mnemonics have been effectively used by 6th graders to remember the correct spelling of words. The keyword method is one of the most successful mnemonic strategies to be used in education.

It is of proven effectiveness as a method of learning new words, foreign language words, and social studies facts. As a technique for learning new words, it has been compared with the following common strategies: learning words in context; finding root words; learning synonyms and antonyms; presenting words in meaningful sentences; having students discriminate correct from incorrect use of words in sentences; and having students generate their own meaningful sentences and is apparently more effective than any of these methods. The keyword mnemonic has been used effectively by 4th graders. When pictures have been provided, it has been used effectively by 2nd graders. It is suggested that, for children 10 years and younger, instructions to visualize are supplemented by illustrating pictures.


Ideally, teachers should use a wide range of strategies and then masterfully facilitate their implementation. Not only do strategies enable teachers to capture the interest of children as they learn the skills and concepts necessary for success in school, but children also experience what it feels like to be engaged in learning – a lifelong gift.  The strategies chosen depend on the purpose, teaching style, and the children in the classroom. Regardless of the strategies selected, effective facilitation is a key to making them work. By facilitation it means that the techniques used to execute a strategy.


Baine, David 1986. Memory and instruction. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

Brewster, C., & J. Fager. 2000. Increasing student engagement and motivation: From time on task to homework. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory.

Finn, J.D., & D.A. Rock. 1997. Academic success among students at risk for school failure. Journal of Applied Psychology 82 (2): 221–34.

Graham, S., & B. Weiner. 1996. Theories and principles of motivation. In Handbook of educational psychology, eds. D. Berliner & R.C. Calfee, 62–84. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Yair, G. 2000. Reforming motivation: How the structure of instruction affects students’ learning experiences. British Educational Journal 26 (2): 191–210.

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