Unraveling the Importance of Repetition in Literacy Instruction

Phonemic Awareness and Phonics

Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.” – Zig Ziglar

 

When it comes to literacy instruction, the concept of repetition has stood the test of time as an essential and powerful tool for effective learning. From early childhood to adulthood, repetition plays a pivotal role in building strong foundations for literacy skills and fostering deep comprehension. While some might view repetition as monotonous or unnecessary, its significance cannot be underestimated. In this post, we’ll delve into the reasons why repetition is important for literacy instruction and explore how it positively impacts the learning process.

 

Reinforcement of Learning

One of the primary reasons why repetition is crucial in literacy instruction is its ability to reinforce learning. When learners encounter new information or skills for the first time, their brains start to form connections and pathways (it’s why we often say that teachers are brain engineers!). However, these connections are fragile and can fade away if not consistently activated. Repetition provides the necessary reinforcement to solidify these connections, making the knowledge more durable and readily accessible. Just like muscles become stronger with regular exercise, repeated exposure to literacy concepts strengthens neural pathways, leading to improved retention and recall.

 

Mastery and Fluency

Repetition is a key component of achieving mastery and fluency in any skill, including literacy. When learners repeatedly engage with letters, words, or sentences, they gradually move from a state of conscious effort to automaticity. Fluent readers can decode and comprehend text effortlessly, enabling them to focus on higher-order thinking and comprehension. The process of repetition paves the way for mastery, transforming the act of reading from a mechanical task into a gateway to exploration and understanding.

 

Building Confidence

For many learners, the journey to literacy proficiency can be challenging and daunting. Repetition offers a sense of familiarity and predictability, which in turn nurtures confidence. As students encounter the same words and structures multiple times, they begin to feel more comfortable and assured in their abilities. This newfound confidence motivates them to take risks, explore more complex texts, and tackle challenging literary works with enthusiasm, thereby fostering a lifelong love for reading.

 

Addressing Individual Differences

In any classroom setting, students have diverse learning styles and learn at different paces. Some grasp concepts quickly, while others may need more time and practice. By offering repeated exposure to content, teachers can accommodate various learning speeds and ensure that every student has the opportunity to grasp the material fully. This personalized approach enhances overall learning outcomes and prevents any child from falling through the cracks.

 

Encoding and Retrieval

The process of encoding and retrieval is fundamental to memory formation. When learners engage in repetition, they encode information in their minds through various sensory inputs (e.g., seeing, hearing, speaking). As a result, the knowledge becomes deeply embedded in their memory, making it easier to retrieve when needed. Then, when they encounter a familiar word or phrase, the brain is better able to retrieve the associated meaning effortlessly, freeing up mental resources to focus on comprehension and critical thinking.

 

Overcoming the Forgetting Curve

Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist, introduced the concept of the forgetting curve, which illustrates how we tend to forget information over time if not revisited. Repetition is the antidote to this natural process of forgetting. By spacing out practice sessions and revisiting material at intervals, learners can counteract the effects of the forgetting curve, reinforcing what they’ve learned and enhancing long-term retention.

 

Repetition not only reinforces learning and fosters mastery, but also boosts confidence, accommodates individual differences, enhances memory, and helps overcome the forgetting curve. By harnessing the power of repetition, we can help our learners succeed and lay the foundation for automaticity and comprehension.

 

References

Settles, B., & Meeder, B. (2016, August). A trainable spaced repetition model for language learning. In Proceedings of the 54th annual meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (volume 1: long papers) (pp. 1848-1858).

Hintzman, D. L. (1976). Repetition and memory. Psychology of learning and motivation, 10, 47-91.

Toppino, T. C., & Gerbier, E. (2014). About Practice: Repetition, spacing, and abstraction. In Psychology of learning and motivation (Vol. 60, pp. 113-189). Academic Press.

Kang, S. H. K. (2016). Spaced Repetition Promotes Efficient and Effective Learning: Policy Implications for Instruction. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 3(1), 12–19. https://doi.org/10.1177/2372732215624708