Science fact: Fish Have No Memory!
Quick short-term memory quiz (for those who just watched the video above):
1. How many strike outs were there in the game?
2. How many requests did the yellow fish make for a hot dog?
While the fish above have no memory, they seem to survive just fine in school. Our kids, though, absolutely need memory to survive and succeed in and out of school. Today I look at memory demands kids face in a typical day, and then show and tell suggestions to help boost memory.
Part I. Basic school day demands:
Preparing for school our kids must remember what they have to take with them to school (homework, books, lunch, snacks, change of clothes for after school or for gym, the comic they promised to share with friends during recess, etc.). They must also remember their schedule before, during and after school each day, and how they are going to get to the required destinations.
Arriving in school they must remember what they need for each class for that particular morning or portion of the day before they can get back to their lockers or cubbies.
Regardless of subject matter, students must remember where the class is meeting, what the teacher just said or demonstrated as well as what was said a few minutes ago, last class, last week, and what was read for homework, all while remembering the strings of information they want to relay and how best to relay them. They also have to remember to take out and hand in any homework due. In addition, when giving directions, teachers typically give them verbally and students must remember each step of those directions.
Math class demands: Students must remember math facts and formulas (for geometry, converting fractions, etc.). Students also must remember sequences for solving problems (commutative principle, associative principle, when to add and multiply numbers in and out of parentheses, and when and how to do long hand subtraction, division and multiplication, etc.), computation short-cuts, as well as the prompts given in the examples to be solved.
Language arts class demands:
- When reading students must remember sight vocabulary and phonics in order to recognize and decode the text in front of them. They must also remember the meaning of the words, sentences, paragraphs, pages, and chapters they just read - all while keeping track of the names, dates, and events, they just read.
- When talking or writing students must remember what they want to write or say, in the order they want to say it, while remembering the words they need, their spelling and punctuation (when writing), and the best way to say or write it.
- If responding to a question they also have to keep that question in mind checking and making sure they staying on topic as they answer it.
In social studies classes, not only do students have to remember all those items of a language arts class, they also have to remember sequences of names, dates, and events and their significance to a particular time or times in history.
Then there are memory demands of gym, music, art, and after school programs, and remembering social conversations they had with friends, parents and other adults...but I am assuming you get my point and want to move on to constructive memory training suggestions.
Part II. WAYS TO HELP STUDENTS REMEMBER:
1. Repetition and Rehearsal- teaching students to repeat strings of facts over and over - either chanting to themselves or through songs (my kids learned the state capitals in a song and years later, still remember them).
2. Visualization - sometimes visualizing directions and items helps us remember them and their required sequence.
Here is a video from Sesame Street demonstrating the power of repetition and visualization.
Sesame Street Animation: Repetition to help memory...visualizing to help memory
3. Rhyming - turning strings of information into rhymes helps kids remember. It does not work for Grover however in the following Sesame Street clip, but you and your child can watch this together and figure out why. Different types of strategies work for different types of kids and for different tasks. You will have to experiment which one works best for you.
Using rhyming to help boost memory.
4. Mnemonics- are finger / hand/ word games, tricks, or rhymes kids can use to help remember sequences or strings of words, numbers or events. I learned to remember which months of the year had 30 and which had 31 days by reciting the months across my knuckles. Roy-gee-biv or short sentences with ROYGBIV - represent the visual color spectrum (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo[thank you, Roger], violet). What are some of the mnemonics you used? What are some your child uses?
5. Build Associations. Teach kids to make associations and connections between what they know and have to remember. The more personal you can make something, the more one thing is associated with another, the more memory connections and channels there are to retrieve the information (see my blog on humor it discusses how humor connects various memory channels).
Let's continue the conversation. In the comments, please leave your favorite memory strategies or your child's favorite mnemonic device. Why constantly re-invent the wheel? Also, please watch these videos with your kids, talk about different strategies she or he can use to remember. Also talk about how different strategies may work for remembering different types of things. What works best for you? What works best for him or her? These should be ongoing conversations. Let's learn from each other.