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Try It! This Works!

Memorizing is tough, memorizing lists is tough! Memorizing is made easier by things like mneumonics (new-mon-ics). Mneumonics like HOMES for the Great Lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior) give our brains “a hook” to hang things on; a way to make sense of a list. The site explains why our brains like mneumonics:

1. They make the material more meaningful by adding associations and creating patterns. In fact, mnemonics work better for material that is less meaningful.

2. They help organize the information so that you can more easily retrieve it later. By giving you associations and cues, mnemonics allow you to cross-reference the information in different parts of your memory. This mental structure is very useful for material that has very little inherent organization.

3. Mnemonics typically involve visualizations that help make the facts more vivid. This is especially helpful for people who are visual learners. Additionally, these visualizations help focus your attention on the material by making the learning more fun.

Memory aids that build links can be visual like this picture of an energy drink:

I made this with a student to help her remember the term “mitochondria” and to help her remember that the function of the mitochondria is to produce energy in the cell.

Another memory aid that builds connections for a student is narrative, or story. I taught students the capitals of the provinces of Canada in less than half an hour. Ham up the stories, the funnier the better, and the more memorable! For a copy of this, click here.

We tried another narrative.  I put 10 items on a tray, students looked at the items for a minute, then I took the tray away.  I asked them to write what they remembered.  Next, I took out the tray and made a story in which I walked through my house and in each room I incorporated one of the items.  For example, to remember: hat, tennis ball, book, juice box, sock, and calculator:  I walked into my house and hung up my hat. Then I walked into the hallway and kicked a tennis ball that was left on the floor. I was frustrated so I went into the living room and sat down but I sat on a book. I quickly got up and went into the kitchen for a juice box. After that I went to the living room where I found my sock. I put it on and decided to get to work. I went into the dining room and sat at the table with my calculator. And so on…  This method works best when your mental pictures are walking through rooms in your own house.  Try it!  Challenge someone that doesn’t know this trick and blow them away with your memory powers!

These tools are definitely NOT just for special ed. students! Imagine the university student that has to memorize the parts and functions of a cell, list genres of literature, rattle off events in historical order, or recall different types of generators and how they function!

Link Between Childrens’ Lack of Sleep & Brain Power

“link between poorer mental performance and lax bedtimes”

Late nights ‘sap children’s brain power

BBC News Health

I read this study and wanted to say, “Thank you Captain Obvious!” (My kids taught me that 🙂

Through the summer I find it somewhat amusing to observe what lack of sleep and lack of a regular routine does to my own children. One of my children is like a young puppy – getting randomly hyper and racing around and then needing to veg on the couch watching TV. Another one of my children shows a diminished speech filter and can become highly critical. I’ve seen episodes of dippiness (i.e. milk in the cupboard), a short temper, a lack of creativity, an inability to remember multiple instructions, trouble listening, hanging around / unmotivated, lack of focus, impulsive behaviour and uncontrolled giggles. All could look like symptoms of ADD or ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder). Hmmmmm.

Don’t get me wrong. Summer is so much fun for our family! I love the lack of routine and less strict bedtimes but they will have to remain summer activities for my kids.


Ticket Out The Door

I like to keep things cyclical – remind kids regularly of things we have learned. It is good for bringing information from short term memory to long term. The problem is that I don’t remember what to ask about!
The solution is the “ticket out the door”. Most days, as we work on something, I put a key concept on a small recipe card (I keep a stack nearby). The card gets added to an envelope with other recipe cards from previous lessons. The envelope is right next to the door. As students leave, I draw a card and they must answer the review question. Sometimes they must all answer the same question (whisper the answer to me), sometimes I ask each person to give me an example of the concept i.e. “everyone give me an example of a synonym before you leave”, and other times I draw one for each student ( a great review, too, for the others who hear all the questions and answers).
Today I put two more envelopes by the door. These are words I word like students to regularly review. I will sometimes use these as the tickets out the door.

Here are the words in these particular envelopes:



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