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Making Learning Stick

June 30, 2011

Make the most of any classroom time by focusing on activities that can help your learners move information from short-term memory to long-term memory and will allow the learning to continue beyond the classroom.

Just keep in mind these two guiding principles:

  1. Shorter segments of instruction are better than longer ones
  2. Learners remember more when they are involved in the learning

Learners don’t learn much after about twenty minutes of simply listening. Long-term memory increases measurably when learners say or do something every eight to ten minutes with the new information presented to them. Anytime you include an image, a graphic, a metaphor, a story or a physical movement along with the verbal information – you increase the length of time learners will remember the information.

Consider using any of the following 60-second activities to keep learners engaged in your next training class:


Ask questions of the learners to help them make the connection to what they already know about the topic or what they hope to learn in the class.

Designed to allow learners to:

  • Connect to their learning goals (what do they hope to get out of the training)
  • Connect to what they already know about the topic linking their current knowledge to the new content
  • Connect to other learners to form a more cohesive learning community


Encourages learners to state what they know or have just learned by responding to a topic-related question.

Designed to:

  • Make the whole group responsible for the number of responses needed
  • Increase learner involvement and critical thinking skills because there is more than one right answer
  • Involve more learners so the same people aren’t always answering the questions
  • Validate what the learners already know about the topic


A hand or a response used by learners to answer a question or demonstrate their understanding of a concept.

Designed to:

  • Check your learners’ understanding of the material
  • Decide what, if anything, you need to reteach
  • Involve learners without sacrificing time or flow
  • Interact with information in a low-risk way
  • Stay focused and be present


Create mental images that stick in a learner’s mind.

Designed to:

  • Link new learning to vivid mental images
  • Increase long-term memory of important concepts
  • Understand the concept more quickly and deeply
  • Make complicated concepts simple to grasp


Instruct learners to mark their written materials in certain ways so they remember the information longer.

Designed to:

  • Remain focused on the material in front of them
  • Think about the information as they read it
  • Make the written material more meaningful and memorable
  • Find the written points move quickly after training


This is the learner’s verbal or written commitment to do something with what he or she has learned.

Designed to:

  • Remember their personal learning goals from the beginning of the session
  • Decide what course of action they will take based on their learning
  • Make a commitment to follow this course of action
  • Apply what they have learned to their real-life work flow


Celebrations are closing activities that end the training on a positive note. When participants feel good about themselves and the learning experience; they will seek out more of the same.

Designed to:

  • Connect learners to each other once again at the end of the training
  • Ensure that training participants leave feeling good about what they have learned
  • Strengthen the learning community of the group
  • End the training on an upbeat, positive and memorable note

By including a 60-second activity every 8 to 10 minutes your learners will:

  • Think about what they have just learned
  • Keep their minds alert and attentive
  • Become active participants in their own learning
  • Link what they have just learned to what they already know
  • Increase short-term memory
  • Move some of the information into long-term memory
  • Have fun while they learn
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