Could you memorize 15 pages of material – cold?
My eldest has a memory that astounds even me sometimes. Although only in high school, the amount of material she has memorized is daunting.
Because her school believes students should also spend time exercising their memories, students are asked to memorize large amounts of material.
And although this is only one of the ways mastery of a subject is determined, the teachers place a high value on being able to have prodigious amounts of material available at the tip of a student’s tongue. For example, on a recent test she memorized 15 pages of material – a minimal amount- and was tested in class the next day.
It would be hard enough for one student to have to stand up and recite all of that material, let alone a whole class. Instead, the teacher gives a three or four word phrase from anywhere in the material and the person called upon has to recite the subsequent material – until the teacher tells them to stop.
The myth of a good memory
Lest you think my daughter was born this way, think again. While she is bright, she wasn’t always able to memorize this much material. In fact, when she switched into her present school in fourth grade, she spent an hour and a half trying to memorize a short paragraph in history.
Research and numerous real-life examples show that a person can train their brain to remember larger and larger amounts of material. At the same time, scientists have also studied the brains of memory champs and found no superior cognitive abilities or structural differences in their brains.
Memorization is a skill that can be learned like any other skill
Memory is like any other skill: the more your child practices, the better they’ll get. So why don’t we have more memory masters around if strengthening your memory is so easy?
First of all, strengthening your child’s memory, while not necessarily hard, does require work. It’s not something you can expect your child to accomplish in a day, though if your child is consistent it can be done in two or three months. Many people, unfortunately, expect a quick fix to improving their memory, and are reluctant to invest the time in order to get the job done.
Second, you need to make sure your child is using the right techniques in order to strengthen their memory. Some popular techniques like making up a silly story in order to remember a shopping list, might work for memorizing a grocery list, but fail miserably when it comes to remembering more complicated material.
In order to improve your child’s memory, you need to know WHY they have trouble remembering
If you went to the doctor with severe stomach pains, you wouldn’t expect your doctor to send you home with a prescription for Pepto-Bismol. The same is true for memory: there is no one method that will work for everyone with memory problems.
Instead, you need to know about the different types of memory there are, and where your child’s memory dysfunction lays. Once you’ve determined where your child’s memory is falling short can you make a plan to strengthen their memory.
3 methods you can use today to help improve your child’s memory
Here are some practical methods you can use to help your child improve their memory. They’re not gimmicks, but are real methods based on the way we learn best. I’ve used them with my own children and countless other clients:
Visualize what needs to be remembered
One of the best ways to remember things is to form a visual image of what you need to remember in your head. Next time your child has to remember the story of Thanksgiving, for example, let her draw, trace, or color pictures that represent each key point in the story.
After she finishes 2 or 3 pictures, stop and ask her to tell you in a few words what each picture represents.
Teach your child how to paraphrase
Often children with learning disabilities have hard time pulling out the most important information from a chunk of material. They may listen to a teacher describing what they’ll be doing for the day, but be unable to remember a word of what was said, because it was all just one big blur to them.
They even miss hearing key words like “first” or “next” or “last,” which would help give them a clue that important information is about to be said.
You can use a wordless picture book to help your child learn this important skill.
Teach your child how to rehearse material they want to remember
Many children have no clue how to memorize. It almost seems as if they expect the material to enter their brains through osmosis. Good memorizers make an active attempt to remember material with rehearsal strategies: whispering under their breath, repeating it over and over again, testing themselves, imagery, or anagrams and other tricks.
Making a conscious effort to use specific techniques to remember can have a huge impact on how much your child remembers, even if they are preschoolers.
Was there a time when your child remembered something you didn’t expect them to remember? What was it? Tell me about it in the comments below.