Live, Die, Repeat: a sadistic but brilliant teaching structure

I love teaching structures. Knowing a broad array of teaching structures is the difference between a teacher-ninja (ever have so much fun in class and only later realize that your teacher was brilliantly leading you towards a realization?) and a clunky amateur. Today at General Assembly Web Development Intensive, the teachers used a structure which I can only describe as terrible, sadistic and brilliant. I never even imagined using this technique with my students while I was teaching Biology. Its awful… and yet so helpful! Its essentially the same technique that Tom Cruise uses to develop the chops to kill a race of snarling aliens (Edge of Tomorrow) and that Malcolm Gladwell praises in his book Outliers. I call it Live, Die, Repeat.

Live, Die, Repeat: the breakdown (from a teacher’s perspective):

  1. Have a clear idea of the project you want students to create. At General Assembly Web Development Intensive, we used Live, Die, Repeat to teach students how to build an application in Ruby on Rails, but it can be used to teach many other skills as well.
  2. Set the timer. When beginning to learn Ruby on Rails, we started off with 30 minute increments. This can change depending on how long your classes are and the skill you are trying to teach.
  3. LIVE: Start the timer. Encourage students to get as much done as they can in that short period of time.
  4. DIE: At the end of the time, students must delete EVERYTHING.
  5. REPEAT: Reset the timer and start again.

Your students will hate you at first for making them delete their precious work. After doing this a couple of times, students should notice a discernible difference in what they can accomplish in that amount of time.

Somewhere in history of teaching the idea of rote repetition became unpopular. However, used the correct way its a powerful way to master a craft.