Count the Vowels

Saundra McGuire
Louisiana State University
Author Profile


Students are given a list of words and told to count the vowels and turn the sheet over. They are then asked to list the words. When they fail they discover how the words are arranged and find it easy to remember them.

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This activity works in any course at any level.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Reading is the only skill required

How the activity is situated in the course

As a stand alone activity.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

the different levels from which information can be considered

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

recognizing relationships

Other skills goals for this activity

occasionally, working in groups

Description of the activity/assignment

Students are asked to count the vowels in a list of 15 words. They are then asked to write down as many WORDS as they can remember. They can usually remember only 3 - 4.
Next students are told to look at the list of words and asked to memorize them. They can usually remember about half of them after trying to memorize the words.
Finally, students are told that the words are listed in a certain way, with a guiding concept to the arrangements. They readily understand the words are listed according to number. After spending 30 seconds to memorize the words this time, students generally tend to remember 12 or more.

Metacognitive components of the activity

Students learn that considering the organization of informaton is important to remember it.

Metacognitive goals for this activity:

To show students that they can significantly and immediately improve their learning.

Assessing students' metacognition

Students tell us in verbal or email communication that they have now "stopped counting vowels" and are learning information.

Determining whether students have met the goals

When students are asked why their performance went from 20% to 80% or higher, they can identify the metacognitive skills necessary to do better in their courses.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Teaching materials and tips

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Supporting references/URLs