Last night while I was looking for a book to read, I came across an old typing manual I used back in high school. Published in 1966, it emphasized the use of repetition to teach touch typing. Flipping through the pages, I remembered the exercises that had me typing lines like"ddd ded ded dea dea ddd ded ded dea dea" and "clip flip chip ship skip drip grip quip" over and over again until my fingers moved to the right keys automatically. Sure, it would have been fun if I played keyboarding games where I shot an alien down each time I typed a letter correctly, but I think plain old repetition really got the job done.
I don't teach keyboarding to my students, but I do use repetition when I want my kids to learn a large amount of vocabulary over an extended amount of time. My students need to know hundreds of literary terms (comprehensive lists found here and here), so I usually give them a vocabulary packet at the end of the first week and I tell them that they will be quizzed on the first five words in the packet the following Wednesday. They usually laugh, but then I tell them that the following week, they will be quizzed on five words that I will choose from the first ten words in the packet. The next week, they will be quizzed on five words that I will choose from the first fifteen words and so on and so forth. By the time the Wednesday before their big exam comes around, they will be quizzed on five words...but on any five words from the entire packet. They constantly review the same words over and over again, adding to their vocabulary repetoire a little at a time. I do incorporate more "fun" ways of learning different terms (I'll talk about a vocabulary twist I add to the Story Starters creative writing activity in a future post), but this weekly exercise is extraordinarily effective. At the end of the year, I always ask my kids to review my course and give me some constructive criticism for next year's students. They always say that the quizzes helped them tremendously, which is pretty high praise for what could easily be a really boring weekly routine.