From TED talks to neuroscience journals, the consensus on improving memory is clear: make information fun, meaningful, and visual-spatial, while training the brain to focus. Most of the videos I’ve watched emphasize memory of facts, dates, spelling, and playing cards (Not sure that minors need to memorize decks of cards in less than 5 minutes but it might help with Hearts or Spades.) Did you know that there are memory athletes who compete in how quickly they can memorize hundreds of names?
While we are not only teaching facts to be memorized, these athletes do have some useful tips for the load of information required at each grade level. Multiplication.com, for example, effectively uses a story-mode with unusual characters to support memorization of times tables.
An ancient Greek strategy uses places (“loci”) to help store information. For example, you picture the words or concepts you want to recall in familiar places, attached to a vivid story. To memorize the six syllable types, I could walk up my front steps to find the door has turned to glass. It is CLOSED so I whack the glass to OPEN it. As soon as I walk inside, I see an unfamiliar band playing in the hallway but can’t hear anything. And how did they get in my house? I step closer and notice they are all wearing band tee shirts saying SILENT E, which is weird, right? I run to the kitchen and grab my phone to call the police, keying in my cLE password (c for consonant). The police send a special V-TEAM to sort things out, but those guys end up in the hallway playing with the Silent Es! I’m about to give up when some lady on a motorcycle revs out of the living room! The loud RRRR sound scares everyone away!
Okay, that’s a bit lame, but I guarantee that if a student or class create a picture story using spaces in the school building, they will remember all of the syllable types. And just imagine the fun they’ll have! Where does the meaningful part come in? Guiding students to understand the benefits of learning those syllable types or multiplication facts. Learning about memory and how to improve it. Helping them make connections with previously learned material. Practical and social applications, like being a student memory jock. And maybe some of your kiddos will end up in memory triathlons!