Help your kids exercise their mind and learn schoolwork

Herbs are not the only tools we have to strengthen the mind and body. Here are some strategies to help strengthen the minds of your children. These strategies are offered to help students develop a more efficient and effective memory. This listing is by no means exhaustive but rather is meant as a place to begin to help kids learn schoolwork.

1. Take the mystery away.

The first and perhaps most important strategy is to see that all students understand how memory works, and also know their particular profiles of memory strengths and challenges. Then, students should be taught memory management strategies.

2. Give directions in multiple formats.

Give students directions in both visual, verbal and tactile formats. Try using all the senses for the most immersive learning. In addition, their understanding and memorizing of instructions could be enhanced by encouraging them to repeat the directions given, and explain the meaning of these directions. Give examples of what needs to be done as this helps kids remember directions.

3. Teach students to over-learn material.

Teach kids to “over-learn” new information. Often they practice only until they are able to perform one error-free repetition of the material. But, several error-free repetitions are better to solidify the information.

4. Teach students to use visual images and other memory strategies.

Another memory strategy that makes use of a cue is called word substitution. The substitute word system can be used to remember information that is hard to visualize. For example, for the word occipital. These words can be converted into similar words that sound familiar and that can be visualized. The word “occipital” can be converted to “exhibit hall” (because it sounds like exhibit hall). The student can then make a visual image of walking into an art museum exhibit hall and seeing a big painting of a brain with big bulging eyes (occipital is the region of the brain that controls vision). With this visualizing system, the vocabulary word the student is trying to remember actually becomes the cue for the visual image that then cues the definition of the word.

5. Give teacher-prepared handouts prior to class lectures.

Class lectures and series of verbal directions should be reinforced by teacher-prepared handouts. The handouts for class lectures could consist of a brief outline or a partially completed graphic organizer that the student would complete during the lecture. Having this information enables students to identify the salient information that is given during the lectures, and prompts them to correctly organize the information in their notes. Both of these activities enhance the memory of the information as well. The use of Post-Its to jot information down is helpful for remembering instructions.

6. Teach students to be active readers.

Students should underline, highlight, or jot keywords down in the margin when reading chapters to enhance short-term memory registration and/or working memory when reading. Then they can go back and read what is underlined, highlighted, or written in the margins. To consolidate this information in long-term memory, they can make outlines or use graphic organizers. Research has shown that the use of graphic organizers increases academic achievement for all students.

7. Write down steps in math problems.

Students who have a weakness in working memory should not rely on mental computations when solving math problems. For example, if they are performing long division problems, they should write down every step including carrying numbers. When solving word problems, they should always have a scratch piece of paper handy and write down the steps in their calculations. This will help prevent them from losing their place and forgetting what they are doing.

8. Provide retrieval practice for students.

Research has shown that long-term memory is enhanced when students engage in memory retrieval practice. Taking a test is a memory retrieval practice, i.e., the act of recalling information that has been studied retrieved from long-term memory. So, it can be very helpful for students to take practice tests. When teachers are reviewing the information before tests and exams, they could ask the students questions or have the students make up questions for everyone to answer rather than just retelling students the “to-be-learned” information. Also, if students are required or encouraged to make up their own tests and take them, it will give their parents and/or teachers information about whether they know the most important information, or if they are instead focused on details that are less important.

9. Help students develop cues when storing information.

According to memory research, information is easier retrieved when it is stored using a cue, and that cue should be present at the time the information is being retrieved. For example, the acronym HOMES can be used to represent the names of the Great Lakes – Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior. The acronym is a cue that is used when the information is being learned, and recalling the cue when taking a test will help the student recall the information.

10. Prime the memory prior to teaching and learning activities.

Cues are helpful that prepare students for the task to be presented. This is often referred to as priming the memory. For instance, when a reading comprehension task is given, students will get an idea of what is expected by discussing the vocabulary and the overall topic beforehand. This will allow them to focus on the important information and allow more effective depth of processing. Advance organizers also serve this purpose. For older students, CliffNotes or other similar study guides for pieces of literature are often helpful aids for priming the memory.

11. Use Post-Its.

The use of Post-Its for jotting down information can be helpful for students who have short-term memory or working memory challenges.

12. Activate prior knowledge.

You can enhance the likelihood that students will build on and retain new incoming information, by activating the student’s prior knowledge. This will make the new information more meaningful to them as it fits in with their foundational knowledge already accepted by their brains. An easy way of accomplishing this task is to ask, “What do you know”, “What do you want to know”.

13. Give extended time.

If students have difficulty with the speed of retrieving information from memory, they should be given extended time for taking tests so that a true picture of what they know may be gained.

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14. Use multi-sensory methods.

When learners, both young and old, experience something through multiple senses, they are much more likely to remember it. Use a Multisensory approach by engaging as many of the senses as possible when teaching (seeing, touching, hearing, smelling, and tasting).

15. Review material before going to sleep.

It should be helpful for students to review material right before going to sleep at night. Research has shown that information studied this way is better remembered. Any other task that is performed after reviewing and prior to sleeping (such as getting a snack, brushing teeth, listening to music) interferes with the consolidation of information in memory.

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