Practical tips to help students and guardians activate the memory process properly as they learn

Published August 14, 2020, 5:18 AM

by MB Lifestyle

Memory matters

By Khristian Ross Pimentel

Imagine someone told you their phone number. You go somewhere to get a piece of paper and a pen. Before you even write it down, the numbers have disappeared from your mind. As humans, we forget, and children are prone too forgetting, too.

As parents and guardians help teach their children this upcoming academic year, they need to understand how memory works so that the lessons are not wasted.

How memory works

Memory is a process. The process of encoding information in your brain begins when a stimulus enters your sensory memory. It is encoded as short-term memory. When the stimulus has relevance or has been repeated, it may proceed to become part of your long-term memory. Otherwise, you forget this information. When a related stimulus enters your brain again, all it has to do is to retrieve a piece of old information from your long-term memory whenever you need it.

Children and adults forget when they never really learned the material. This happens when they do not understand the information they are learning, when they cram the information, or when they stored too few cues to help them remember. They may also forget when something interferes, such as stress, pressure, physiological conditions, or anxiousness. These situations should be avoided to help your children not to forget what they learn.

When you teach, aim for your children to store information as part of their long-term memory by emphasizing, repeating, and valuing relevant information.

Here are some tips to help students and guardians activate the memory process properly:

Practice makes permanent

Have you ever wondered why Michael Jordan, Michael Phelps, or Manny Pacquiao are excellent in their respective fields? It’s not just because of talent. It took them a lot of practice. Practice is important to master a skill. While it is popular to say that practice makes perfect, that is not actually that accurate. Rather, practice makes permanent.

But for practice to make permanent, make sure the process of practicing is done correctly. Feedback is important. Your children should distribute their practice over a period of time, such as doing it daily or weekly, instead of practicing it all in one day. In this way, their mind will have time for breaks where they can process the information they are learning. It will also give them time to think about what they are studying. According to psychologists, an individual needs at least 10,000 hours of practice to be an expert in a field. Now it is time to start honing your children’s gifts.

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Making connections

Connections help sharpen memory. Keep in mind that past experiences help the entry of new information. Connect their lessons to these past experiences. To do this, you can teach them to reflect or write journals. Always begin with what your children know already before you lead them to the lessons that you want them to know.

Healthy mind, healthy body

A healthy body and a healthy mind can help improve retention. Make sure they have adequate sleep, as both body and mind need enough rest. Encourage your children to eat nutritious food that is known to aid memory like broccoli, spinach, and carrots.

Moreover, positive emotions will help your children learn as they begin to enjoy learning. In their book, Motivated Minds, Deborah Stipek, a professor of education at Stanford Graduate School of Education, and journalist Kathy Seal stress, “When children study because they enjoy it, their learning is deeper, richer, and longer-lasting. They are also more persistent, more creative, and more eager to do challenging work.”

Memorization strategies

Most of all, teach your children strategies that will make their minds sharper. Introduce the use of acronyms, catchwords, acrostics, associations, visualizations, mnemonic devices, organizations, physical movement, word cards, flash cards, and self-tests. Use a variety of strategies sparingly. But don’t expect that they will learn everything. We are not able to learn everything before the pandemic. Our children may not learn everything too during this time, but at least you can help them remember the important things.

Khristian Ross Pimentel is a public school master teacher in Antipolo City, having taught for six years. He is a graduate of Philippine Normal University with a bacherlor’s degree in secondary education, and of UP Diliman with a master’s degree in educational psychology.