We all know that repeated exposure to vocabulary and structures is needed so that we can readily recall it. The longer it’s been since we’ve practiced a word, the more likely it is that we will have forgotten it. There’s an initial steep decline in our ability to remember a word after the first time we learn it. However, if we practice a word multiple times we are much more likely to remember it over time.
The idea behind the Leitner System is that the easier it is to recall the words (verb forms, etc.) on a flashcard the less often that flashcard will be need to be studied in the future. The opposite is also true. The more difficult it is to recall the material on a flashcard the more often it is studied. The repetition of each flashcard is scheduled so that the learner spends most of his time studying material that is more challenging. Material that has been retained well is studied only occasionally to ensure it has not been forgotten.
The method of “Spaced Repetition” works like this:
- A container is set up to hold the flashcards. It is divided into multiple individual compartments (3-5).
- All flashcards start in box 1.
- When the material on a flashcard is recalled correctly it is moved forward by one box. (See the diagram above-green arrows). If the flashcard makes it to the last box it remains there.
- When the material on a flashcard is not recalled it is returned to deck 1 regardless of what box it was in.
- Each subsequent box has a longer period of time before the flashcards in it are repeated.
- Make a time plan: study the Group 1 cards once a day, Group 2 every 3 days, and the Group 3 cards every 5 days, etc. If you look at a Group 1 card and get the correct answer, you “promote” it to Group 2. A correct answer with a Group 2 card “promotes” that card to Group 3.