Memory is also a bit of a blanket term. Most of us have heard the terms ‘short-term’ and ‘long-term’ memory, and mastery of both is vital for maximising academic success. Whilst short-term memory relates to the processing of new information, long-term memory aids more sophisticated engagement with the subject at hand. Both types of memory play a crucial role in helping students develop a deeper understanding of a topic.
Here are some of Mentor Education’s top tips for boosting both short-term and long-term memory power.
Encourage active learning
Active learning doesn’t mean doing jumping jacks whilst studying (though there is some evidence that physical activity can be conducive to learning!). No, active learning involves true interrogation of the material: developing a more intense engagement through discussion, questioning, and undertaking comprehension-based activities. When studying a text or working through a problem, encourage your child to ask questions, and, in return, ask them what they think. Taking the time to formulate queries and answers will not only improve your child’s problem-solving and critical thinking abilities, but also will inspire deeper understanding of the topic – and will make it more likely that they’ll commit information to memory, as they’re more actively engaged with the material.
Make it rhyme
It’s an old trick, but an undeniably powerful one: turning information into a poem or song. This uses different parts of the brain, and can make it easier to recall specific details about the topic under discussion: it translates the material into a pattern, which our brains are wired to recall more easily.
Make it visual
Again, a multisensory approach can really aid recall. This time, introduce visual tools: create flashcards, drawings, or even mind maps. Not only can pictures spark a valuable cognition process, but also forging connections between words, images and different topics brings another dimension to a pupil’s understanding – all of which helps with information retention. Colour-coding and visual organisation (splitting info into small chunks which are signposted by a distinct heading or quote, for example), can also be really useful.
Make it personal
Whilst this is not always applicable – not every mathematical problem can be related to a personal experience, after all! – if you can find ways to make the topic correlate to something your child has actually experienced, it’s likely to stick in their memory. This exercise provides a different way of forging connections: it creates a deeper sense of meaning and resonance, both of which help the student to remember important details more easily.
Turn the tables
For this exercise, you’ll need to put your child in the driver’s seat: they are the ones who will need to teach you! Pretend you know little about the material they’ve been studying, and ask if they can describe what they’ve learnt: ask them to show you how to solve the problem, or explain the story or scientific process. You could even set up a scoring system and give them extra points (or a little treat) based on how much they remember. Then, if you identify any gaps in their knowledge, go back over the topic with the relevant materials in front of you and talk through any queries.
Bonus: forget it!
One of the most important exercises for boosting memory is to perform a test – which means giving oneself time to forget! Set your child the task of learning something and then wait a period of time – a week is a good rule of thumb – before quizzing them to see how much they remember. If there are elements that have been forgotten, make note, and then embark on the process of re-learning – but mix it up when you do so (change locations, change style [use visual aids or songs if you haven’t already], change positions: if the previous ‘period of study’ on this topic was conducted whilst sedentary, for example, try moving around!). This tactic – approaching the same topic but in a different way – can sharpen focus and enhance clarity by building on the foundations of what you’ve already done. Most importantly, keep trying! Anyone can improve their memory skills, but it does take time, patience and effort.