Elaboration is a useful skill for students to learn. It is also a skill that helps students to learn. The primary way elaboration helps is by the connections elaborating forms.
As a teacher, there are many ways to get students to use this strategy in your classroom, or on assignments. One way you can do so is to have students answer how and why questions based on the key concepts/ideas you are teaching. Then, you can have students explain the relationship between the different concepts/ideas.
Then, as an extension to this, it is helpful to have students make connections from the content to their daily lives. This can be done simply by asking students, “How does this relate to your day to day life?”
By answering these questions, students will be organizing the content in their minds. This then makes it easier for your students to both comprehend and recall the information at a later date.
In answering these types of questions, students can use their class materials, but it is more helpful, if they attempt to answer the questions without looking first. Approaching the assignments in this manner will have the added benefit of showing the student what content they do not already know (students will need to be trained in order to do this effectively).
As teachers, I am sure that we include many elaboration strategies in each of our lessons, but do we make it explicit? I know that I do not often do so. So, instead of simply having students answer leading questions (how, why, etc), I am planning on having my students come up with the how and why questions on their own after I have modeled it with them.
The students will have a list of vocabulary words along with the key concepts of the particular unit. They will then need to create a diagram that shows and explains the relationships between the vocabulary words, and the concepts. Then, they will either include how it is related to their life in the diagram or they will write several sentences explaining how the content is related to their life.
For example, we are studying the water cycle in my 5th-grade science class. The key words are evaporation, condensation, precipitation, sublimation, and transpiration. The key concepts are how the water cycle works, and what affects the water cycle.
What I would expect from my students would be to draw a traditional water cycle that includes all the vocabulary words. Then, on the arrow that goes up for evaporation, students could write that temperature affects the rate of evaporation (hotter=more, colder=less). Something like this would continue for each step until they get to how the water cycle is related to their own life. Here, students would have flexibility. One student might write about how the water cycle helps plants grow. Another might write about how humans impact the water cycle by changing the environment.
For me, this blog is one way that I practice elaboration! I am working to connect various teaching strategies that I am reading about to my practice. Thinking and writing about how I am using, or will use each. And then working out how I can use the strategies together in order to maximize their effectiveness.