Seven Laws of Teaching Your Own: Law of Review & Application

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Throughout my reading of The Seven Laws of Teaching by John Milton Gregory, I noted verbs he used as synonymous with teaching – kindle, give success, glow with truth, guide – as well as adjectives that he uses to describe good teachers – warmhearted, enthusiastic, skillful, sympathizing.

In Gregory’s ideal, a teacher will

  • stand at the spiritual gateways of his pupil’s mind.
  • summon the minds to their work.
  • guide them into the right paths to be followed.
  • excite the minds of the pupils.
  • guide, direct, and test the process of learning.
  • lead the march; their reconnaissance becomes a conquest.
  • maintain the order necessary to produce learning.

Today, we learn his final law.

Begin with the introduction, summary, and table of contents for The Seven Laws of Teaching Your Own series.

The book is available for free online.

Summary of the Seven Laws of Teaching

7 Laws of Teaching: Law 7, the Law of Review and Application.

Summary of Law 7: The completion, test, and confirmation of the work of teaching must be made by review and application.

Gregory posits not only that review and application are the “essential conditions of all true teaching,” but also that “not to review is to leave the job half done.” The aim of reviewing material is threefold:
  1. To perfect knowledge.
  2. To confirm knowledge.
  3. To render knowledge ready & useful.
Reviewing can include a number of different aspects, as well:
  1. Review is more than repetition.
  2. Review involves making fresh conceptions and new associations.
  3. Review revisits knowledge so understanding becomes vivid
  4. Review is best spread over days and weeks.
  5. Review breeds the habit of thinking things over.
  6. Review creates a fresh vision.
  7. Review is rethinking and relearning.
Thus, Gregory notes that it is difficult to overstate the importance, the necessity, of review. In fact, he goes so far as to say, “No time in teaching is spent more profitably than that spent in reviewing.” Our reviewing should not be mere repetition, but should involve fresh conceptions and new associations. There is a spectrum of types of review, from the simple repetition to the complete restudy; each point upon that spectrum holds value and has a place in our efforts. Reviews should be frequent, thorough, and interesting. In fact, going over information after a lapse of time allows the opportunity for a fresh perspective and new connections. Not only that, but it also allows for “mental incubation.” Our brains work without our conscious effort (Gregory says this, but this statement is in fact the thesis of the interesting popular economics book, Blink), so when we come back to a thought after time has passed, we are more prepared to receive it and incorporate it or respond to it properly.

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#### SC013: The Law of Review

Gregory especially elaborates upon the necessity of a final year-end review. The final review, he says, should never be omitted, should be searching, should be comprehensive, and should demonstrate masterful competency (by teacher and student alike). Often, Gregory says, our teaching is pouring water into broken cisterns. Review will not affect the quality of the water, but it affects the cisterns, patching them up, repairing and preventing leaks.
Even in the best-studied book we are often surprised to find fresh truths and new meanings in passages which we had read perhaps again and again. It is the ripest student of Shakespeare who finds the most freshness in the works of the great dramatist. The familiar eye discovers in any great masterpiece of art or literature touches of power and beauty which the casual observer cannot see. So a true review always adds something to the knowledge of the student who makes it.

Applications to the Homeschool

Personally, I think review is particularly difficult in a homeschool setting. When I taught a class I had several methods of review (often in game form) up my sleeve that I pulled out on Fridays, or when students seemed bored and dull, or when -- cough -- I wasn’t prepared well enough for a lesson. At home we tend to just keep doing the next thing. Review can be anything from a preparatory question asked before a lesson, to narration after, to an exam at the end of a term. Having the children show Daddy their work in the evening is another sneaky way to work review into our habits. Having a timeline, maps, or art on the wall; binders on the bookshelf; and books strewn is another way to facilitate review initiated by the student. Another way children review material that we tend to overlook is in their play. When they play Little House in the backyard (my 5-year-old prefers to be the panther), when they build WWII bombers with their Legos, when they play war shouting “Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes!” it shows that the ideas are penetrating and assimilating in their minds. This is another reason we need to allow leisure for free play. It is often during these times that things “connect up” in their brains, even if it looks like they are simply daydreaming. I spent loads of time daydreaming as a child, and I think it is like “practice thinking,” not at all a waste of time. So, when we think “review” we do not need to strictly think only of our academic times reserved for review, although we certainly should have such time.

Ways to Review

  • Recite your lessons. That is, speak your narrations.
  • List people, things, places. That is, collect a list of nouns related to the subject being reviewed.
  • Write “recitations.” That is, write your narrations.
  • Draw maps, plans, or pictures of the material.
  • Create a short, written Q&A.
  • Find applications and apply.
  • Have students both ask and answer questions.

Principles & Applications of the Law of Review

  • Know that review is always in order. When in doubt, review.
  • Have set times for review, especially at every beginning and every end. Every beginning and end of lessons, days, weeks, terms, and years. Good thing there are a multitude of avenues to review.
  • One third of your teaching time should be spent in review. Whew, there's something to shoot for!
  • Through review, make haste slowly but progress surely. It is better to go deep than to stay in wide shallows.
  • Seize any opportunity to reference old lessons. Help you students form the habit of making connections.
  • Incorporate old lessons into the new. This is the teacher's duty of review and connecting and associating.
  • Be ready and able to conduct impromptu review at any time. This means your material should be accessible and thought through.

Violations of the Law of Review

  • Concern with getting through a semester’s work rather than with making the work the students’ possession.
  • Delaying of review until the end of a semester or year.
  • Making review a lifeless, colorless repetition.
Again, Gregory wants us to know:
No time in teaching is spent more profitably than that spent in reviewing.
Let us take the time to review and form new connections with old material.
Seven Laws of Teaching your Own Series

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