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girl building robotWhether you are a teen helping with a day camp, or an adult leading a club- it helps to have some tips and tricks in your back pocket to teach the content you want 4-H members to learn. 4-H volunteers and professionals often find themselves teaching a wide variety of audiences with different needs for learning. Trying to meet all those needs can sometimes seem overwhelming, but this week and next, our blog will focus on six specific strategies that will make this much easier- especially with practice! This blog post will discuss and give examples of three teaching strategies that can up your teaching and facilitation game- spacing, interleaving, and retrieval practice.

Why Bother? Isn’t the 4-H Curriculum “Good Enough?”

Some 4-H curricula have teaching strategies embedded within them. Some just have activities structured to help youth learn content. Learning and applying a few of these teaching strategies will make your teaching more interesting and engaging to a wider range of 4-H members. Engagement + interest = more fun for everyone!


The term “spacing” simply means to spread learning out over time. When information is learned over the course of several weeks, months, or even years, youth (and adults) are more likely to retain that information than if it were dumped on them over several hours or days. This is why 4-H projects are so effective- youth often stay with the same project for one or more years, learning more complex information each year until they have mastered the content. Some project work even leads to future careers.

Here is an example of how you might apply spacing to the youth you work with in 4-H: One of the things youth want to do this year is participate in the Consumer Choices contest. Rather than teaching a marathon Saturday workshop the week before the contest, start early and introduce the concepts slowly either as part of a club meeting or an extra session before or after the regular club meeting time.

  • Meeting #1- Explain why consumer skills are essential, what the topics for this year’s contest are, and the contest rules
  • Meeting #2- Review cell phone plans and portable speakers (two of the topics). Demonstrate how to fill out a judging card and practice judging situations for cell phone plans and speakers.
  • Meeting #3- Review ground transportation and smoothies (two more topics). Review how to fill out a judging card and practice judging situations.
  • Meeting #4- Explain what oral reasons are- have an older youth demonstrate or what videos of youth giving oral reasons. Next, hold a mock contest and let youth practice giving oral reasons.

 Interleaving (not to be confused with interweaving)

Interleaving means switching between topics. This allows youth opportunities to practice life skills in different situations. This helps reinforce the life skills that we teach in 4-H. For example, judging contest strategies are the same- it’s just the content that changes from contest to contest. Judging contests help youth learn about different topics, but the real value is they are learning how to think critically, communicate clearly, and work as a team. Applying those same skills to different subject matter helps youth learn lifelong skills (not just how to regurgitate facts). Here’s an example of interleaving that builds on the consumer choices example above:

The youth you work with will also want to learn about robotics, so you introduce an activity from the 4-H Junk Drawer Robotics curriculum. You divide the youth up into groups of three to complete a challenge to build a robot that draws. While teaching, refer back to what youth learned about critical thinking when they competed as a team in consumer choices. What did they learn about communication and teamwork?  Ask them to apply those lessons to this situation when building a robot.

Retrieval Practice

boy building air plane

4H youth work together in a drone course. Photo taken 10-15-18.

One of the best ways to strengthen your memory is to practice retrieving that information from your brain!  Many of our 4-H curricula include games that allow youth to practice information retrieval. Quiz bowls and skill-a-thon stations are two great ways to incorporate retrieval practice. Here is an example of retrieval practice that builds upon the consumer choices example:

Youth enjoyed participating in the consumer choices contest and asked if they could do more activities like that. Your local 4-H agent suggested a program called “Living on My Own” which is a financial simulation that helps teach financial literacy skills. As the youth rotate through the stations, they retrieved and practiced some of the consumer skills they learned earlier as they decided on housing, transportation, food, and other items based on their simulated salary and living situation. Being about to recall and practice these skills helps reinforce financial literacy.

One of the best things about 4-H is it is learner-centered. That means that youth can choose what they want to do and learn in 4-H. Your local 4-H Extension Office can help you find the best curriculum to support your youths’ learning needs, but the curriculum is only part of learning. 4-H supports learning (usually referred to as a project) through a variety of competitive and non-competitive events. The three strategies described in this post can help volunteers and 4-H professionals link learning between projects and activities. Next week’s post will explore three more strategies for teaching youth- elaboration, concrete examples, and duel coding.


  • Potter, S. (2021). Educational Design and Delivery – Utilization of Multiple Teaching Strategies. 4-H VKRC Fact Sheets.
  • Weinstein, Y., Madan, C. R., & Sumeracki, M. A. (2018). Teaching the science of learning. Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, 3, 2.
  • Weinstein, Y, Sumeracki, M & Caviglioli, O (2019) Understanding how we learn: A visual guide. Routledge, Abingdon, Oxon, UK.



Heather Kent
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