We often hear from moms who are frustrated because their child is having difficulty recalling information from day to day. They say, “He knew his multiplication facts (long division steps, science definitions, etc.) yesterday, but today, it’s as if everything is brand new.” There are many specific strategies that can be used to help students hold onto information. Today, I thought I’d describe just a few.
1. Chunking Information- Chunking has to do with organizing, making meaning, or finding patterns out of information that is difficult to remember. You ‘chunk’ several hard to remember parts into one, easy to remember piece of information. This is helpful when memorizing lists is required. For instance, if a student needs to remember the three major types of rock, he or she might do so by remembering the ‘word’ MISsed. Metamorphosis, Igneous, and Sedimentary. In this example, the student might even think of the phrase- ‘The rock just MISsed me.’
2. Other Mnemonic strategies such as acronyms, acrostics, and rhymes are also helpful tools. Here are some common examples. Most people are familiar with the rule- “I before E, except after C.” or “You’ll be my Friend till the end”. And of course, there’s “ROY G. BIV” to help students remember the order of colors in a rainbow- Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet. There really is no limit to the variety of forms this strategy can take. Younger students will need some help creating their mnemonic strategy. As students grow older and mature, they can make up their own acronyms, acrostics, and rhymes that have specific meaning to them. In either case, it doesn’t matter if your child’s acrostic makes ‘no sense’ to you. In order for this strategy to most helpful, the acrostic, rhyme, or acronym should be connected to something that is meaningful to your child.
3. Graphic Organizers are also great tools for solidifying information. Basically, a graphic organizer is a one page, visual map that has blank spaces for your child to fill in information There are numerous types of graphic organizers and each type can be used in multiple ways. For example, a Venn Diagram (commonly created by overlapping two or more circles) can be used for reviewing. Students can visually demonstrate how two concepts, characters, skills, objects, decisions, etc are similar and different. Webs and other visual maps can allow a student to easily summarize, categorize, and organize information in a visual way. This aids in retention as it gives the child an opportunity to move from a passive to active learner. It’s easy to create your own graphic organizers, but if you want more ideas or prepared templates you can go to places like www.enchantedlearning.com, www.abcteach.com, and www.edhelper.com . Inspiration Nine software is another resource for creating your own graphic organizers.
4. Making use of visual prompts or cues is helpful for most students. Research has shown that people remember what they see- more easily and better than what they hear. Of course, using visual cues is not always practical or preferred. But, there are many simple ways to use this powerful learning tool. For example, color coding vowels and consonants can aid in remembering spelling words. Using color on a number line to differentiate between the 5’s, 10’s and remaining numbers can help students as they learn ‘skip counting’. Assigning a color to addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division symbols can prompt students to slow down and use the correct operation when solving math problems. Color is not the only way to utilize visual prompts. Superimposing a picture over a word can help students remember definitions, math facts, and more. To purchase ready-made products that make use of visual cues, explore the following resources - www.lonestarlearning.com, www.diannecraft.org, and www.vocabularycartoons.com.
5. Give a reason for learning. I’ve heard it said that most struggling learners are passive learners. In other words, they are going take the easiest way possible when it comes to learning new skills and information. Preferably- ‘just let me open my brain and you pour in what I need to know’. As teachers, we need to help them engage! Here are some ways to do that. Ask your child to look for specific examples, facts, or information prior to reading a passage, watching a video, etc. Ask your child what he or she already KNOWS about the topic you’re introducing. In educational circles, we call this activating prior knowledge. Then ask him or her what they want to learn. Write down the response. As a way of concluding or reviewing, discuss what was learned. Were their questions answered? If not, ask how you could find the answer? These are simple ways to get the ‘learning wheel’ turning. In theory, engaging in these type of activities makes learning more meaningful, and if something is meaningful; it is more easily held in memory.
What other strategies have you found helpful in helping your child retain information? I’d love to hear your ideas!