Drill and Kill-Does it have a place in the classroom?

The idea of “drill and kill” has been a hot-button issue for many years. Can the innovation of educational technology programs bring this idea back to the classroom? Does the Behaviorist Learning Theory have a place in classrooms today?

The Behaviorist Learning Theory states that positive behavior should be reinforced and undesirable behavior should be punished (Orey, 2011).

How does that theory relate to drilling students on facts, you might ask? There are many websites and computer programs that drill the students on their facts and instantly reward them with a positive saying, a silly song or a fun animation. When they get a wrong answer, they either hear a loud, harsh sound, see a negative phrase or mainly lose points. This can be seen as very negative. I can speak for my students when I say, the majority love playing these kinds of games. They love trying to beat their previous score. They do not really see it as a negative reinforcement.

Not all sights are aesthetically pleasing and do not grab the attention of the students. Those that do, effectively aide in student learning.

Here are some great sights that utilize the video gaming age to create fun, interactive games while drilling the students on their basic facts.

Sheppard Software

Arcademic SkillBuilders

Online Basic Skill Games-This site is a hub for many skill games!

The idea of drilling facts into the brains of our students can seem pointless, but when you think about it, those skills are the basis of most story problems, reading comprehension questions and many other various skills students will use.

Activity is important. Learning is better when the learner is active rather than passive. (‘Learning by doing’ is to be applauded) (Smith, 1999).

Technology has given what was once a boring “drill and kill” method and made learning facts active and engaging.


Smith, K. (1999). The behaviourist orientation to learning. In The encyclopedia of informal education. Retrieved from http://www.infed.org/biblio/learning-behavourist.htm

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program four: Behaviorist learning theory [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from http://laureate.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5700267&CPURL=laureate.ecollege.com&Survey=1&47=2594577&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=0&bhcp=1


4 thoughts on “Drill and Kill-Does it have a place in the classroom?

  1. Allie-

    What a great post! I totally agree that even though the drill and kill curriculum seems so outdated, it is an unfortunate evil that must happen in schools. I also find students really enjoy those drill activities if it has to do with technology. I have four iTouches in my classroom and the students really enjoy practicing their math facts with the fun games on these iPods. However, whenever I bring out the flashcards or timing sheets, that enthusiasm quickly disappears. The students love all of the bells and whistles that reinforce their successes. I find they end up mastering their facts so much quicker through technology then other strategies.

    By the way I love your blog! It is so fun of personality and fun to read! I am still trying to figure this blogging thing out and your site gives me some great ideas! Thanks!!!

    -Jill Morris

    • Thanks for the compliments!! 🙂 Teaching is all about presentation I think. We are doing the same basic things that teachers before us have done, we are just presenting them in a way that appeals to this generation. Thanks for reading!!

  2. Thanks for the links to the great websites. I teach math and I run into very basic road blocks of understanding such as students understanding fractions or subtracting negatives, etc. The problem is overcoming this hurdle, because I want to just say do 50 of these problems and it will be drilled into your head. In fact, our book claims that it takes 24 repetitions of an activity to produce 80% recall. In reality, my students don’t do homework (most my classes last year have 35% homework turn-in and those students aren’t the ones I am talking about anyway). The idea of “tricking” them into engaging with the boring basics again (which they desperately need) via interactive games is a quite nice way of sidestepping their ego/baggage/frustrations/ and self-image.

  3. Allie

    I enjoyed your post as well. I know that many people disagree with the “drill and kill” learning process, but I think about myself when I was growing up and we did these types of activities all the time. Yes, sometimes they can be very boring but I feel that practicing and memorizing some things are extremely important for many reasons. Research says that in order to truly memorize or learn something it has to be done multiple times (like over 250 times, I can’t remember the exact number, but I know it is a lot). Also, practicing things over and over can aide our memories. Remember the Memory game that we played as children, it reminds me of that. I can remember playing games on the early Apple computer that drilled us on certain things, it was fun but it was drill type activities. I also remember playing Around the World using math flash cards. It was one of my favorite games, maybe because I won numerous times, hahaha! Last, I might be old school with this idea, I feel that doing some of these things are good life skills for children to learn. In life, there are things that require drill practice. For example, sport plays, driving lessons, teaching our own children certain things, etc. So for me, drill and kill is another type of activity to incorporate into our classrooms, we just need to find interesting ways to implement them. I truly believe in a good balance of all different types of activities and I feel that drill and practice is just one of the necessary components that help our students become well rounded individuals. Others may not agree but that is just my opinion.

    Crystal Moyer

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