There are many types of memory. A child may be strong in storing one type of memory but not the other. There are two major types of memory — long-term and short-term, based on how long the memory is stored. And within long-term memory, there are two major subtypes, explicit and implicit memory.
Explicit memory requires conscious thought, such as recalling who came to your birthday party last month or naming all tropical fruits (this latter type of memory is called semantic memory, or “knowledge” memory and is often tested in schools). Implicit memory, on the other hand, does not require conscious thought. It allows you to do things by rote, such as tying your shoe laces or riding a bicycle.
Just like there are many types of memories, there are many types of memory strategies. Most of the strategies applicable for school-going children involve improving storage and recall for semantic memory. Often, they use a technique called mnemonics, which help students form patterns for easier recall. Such as with…
* Acronyms – An acronym is an invented combination of letters, with each letter acting as a cue to an item you need to remember. An example would be using the acronym ROY G BIV to remember the colours of the rainbow — Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.
* Imagery – Using visualisation to create interesting mental images for easier recall. For example, if you need to remember a shopping list of bread, eggs, sugar, milk and toothpaste, you can picture cracking an egg on a slice of bread, then pouring milk over the egg, followed by squeezing toothpaste and sprinkling sugar over the milk. The more bizarre the image, the easier the recall.
Furthermore, engaging more senses when creating the imagery, (eg. “hearing” the sizzling sound of an egg being cooked and imaging the sweetness of the sugar) will enhance the memory.
Pointers on memory strategies:
1) Different strategies appeal to different children. For example, children who are strong in their visual network may find the use of imagery to be more useful while students who are stronger linguistically may prefer using acronyms. It is useful to expose different strategies to our children to see what may be most applicable for them.
2) Humour is valuable when using strategies because our brains are good at remembering unusual or silly things.
3) Help children see strategies as life-long skills because learning a strategy slows down the learning process at first — for strategies to be truly effective, they need to become automatic processes. Constant practice is the best way to build automaticity for any skill.
Tips for building memory:
* Get adequate sleep daily to allow for memory consolidation and improved long term information storage. The National Sleep Foundation in the US recommends that school-going children aged 5 to 12 years old sleep 10-11 hours per day.
* Review information frequently and engage the information actively during reviews (with mini-quizzes and asking the child to tell someone the facts in a different order) to strengthen the formation of a long-term memory
* Discuss memory strategies with your child and encourage your child to actively apply these strategies to try to figure out which suits them best.
* Boost visual and auditory skills — remember that engaging more senses can help with mnemonics.
* Practise visualisation skills by creating mental images that are as rich as possible using cues like colours, backgrounds, emotions etc.
* Play verbal games that involve one-time listening accuracy and mental ordering similar to The 12 Days of Christmas song (which starts off with just a partridge in a pear tree, but by day 12, has a long list of things bought…). You could turn that into “I went to the store/on a picnic/overseas…” Or you could try to name things according to the letters of the alphabet.
Contributor Cheryl Chia is the director of BrainFit Studios.