How to improve your memory

How to improve your memory

Auditory memory is highly correlated with achievement and learning and although auditory memory capacity is genetically determined, and therefore unlikely to change, it is possible to improve academic performance by improving the efficiency of existing capacity using memory intervention techniques.

 

Fundamental to the ability to recall information are the following:

  • Attention
  • Active Listening
  • Calmness – increased anxiety affects memory
  • Adequate Rest – lack of sleep impacts on concentration and memory

 

A mnemonic is a specific reconstruction of the target content intended to tie new information more closely to the learner’s existing knowledge base and thereby facilitate retrieval. There are a variety of mnemonic techniques which can be used.

 

1.    ACRONYMS

 The first letter from a group of words is used to form a new word.

For example;   SCUBA (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus)

SOWETO (SOuth WEstern TOwnships)

ROYGBIV (Rainbow Colours – Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo,    Violet)

 

 

2.    SENTENCES/ACROSTICS

Like acronyms, you use the first letter of each word you are trying to remember. Instead of making a new word, though, you use the letters to make a sentence.

For Example;  King Phil Came Over for the Genes Special (Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Genus, Species)

Sentences are often used to assist children recall sight-word spelling.

For example “South Africa Is Dry” = “said”
Betty Eats Cake And Uncle Sells Eggs = because

The disadvantage of acronyms and sentences is that they may assist with memorization but not comprehension.

 

3.    RHYMES & SONGS

Rhythm, repetition, melody, and rhyme can all aid memory.

Just think how many children sing the “Barney” “I love you” song perfectly. 🙂

Many children learn the alphabet to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

A combination of rhyme and visual association is useful when trying to recall a list of items People learn a series of words that serve as “pegs” on which memories can be “hung.” (maximum 10). For example:

One – gun

Two – shoe

Three – tree

Four – door

Five – hive

Six – sticks

Seven – heaven

Eight – gate

Nine – wine

Ten – hen

To learn a grocery list for example, one might associate gun and bread by imagining the gun shooting the bread. Two is a shoe, so one would imagine a pouring tomato sauce over the shoe, and so on.

When you need to remember the list of groceries, you simply recall the peg-words associated with each number; the peg-words then serve as retrieval cues for the groceries.

 

4.    METHOD OF LOCI

This technique combines the use of organization, visual memory, and association.

  • Identify a familiar path that you walk.
  • This could be from the entrance of the school to the classroom.  What is essential is that you have a vivid visual memory of the path and objects along it.
  • Imagine yourself walking along it, and identify specific landmarks that you will pass. For example, the first landmark on your walk could be the security hut, then the fish-pond, then the playground, the office and the classroom. The number of landmarks you choose will depend on the number of things you want to remember.
  • Associate each landmark with each piece of material that you need to remember. You do not have to limit this to a path. You can use the same type of technique with just about any visual image that you can divide into specific sections. The most important thing is that you use something with which you are very familiar.

 

  5.    VERBAL REHEARSAL

Repeating words or numbers, either vocally or sub-vocally (e.g. try saying the numbers over and over, like this: 2, 7, 5; 2, 7, 5; 2, 7, 5.);

 

6.    CHUNKING

When you have large chunks of information to remember, it is easier to group related information together. This is the premise of “mind maps” which encourages children to identify key concepts and then group them together using visual representation.

On an auditory level, for example, when trying to recall a telephone number it is easier to recall 78 22 781 than each number individually.

 

Finally just to remind those who may have already forgotten 

 

 CLARRS (Chunking, Loci, Acronyms, Rehearsal, Rhyme, Sentences) 🙂
Auditory Memory: In one ear and out of the other?

Auditory Memory: In one ear and out of the other?

The frustration of talking to children where information goes “in one ear and out the other” is common to both teachers and parents. But for children with a poor auditory memory, this statement is pretty close to the truth.

Auditory Working Memory is a system for temporarily storing and managing
the information required to carry out complex cognitive tasks such as learning, reasoning, and comprehension

Can you add together 23 and 69 in your head?

When you ask for directions somewhere, can you get there without writing the instructions down?

Such tasks engage working memory, the memory we use to keep information immediately “in mind” so we can complete a task.

Some children find this relatively easy. Others try to carry out the instructions, but lose track of the details along the way.

Auditory Working Memory involves:
  1. Taking in information that is presented orally and Listening actively in order to rehearse what we have because this information rapidly decays after one or two seconds.
  2. Attending Selectively in order to repeat the information to ourselves. Research has shown that if short term memory is low, we have a hard time selecting what we wish to hear. In other words, selective attention doesn’t work so well when auditory memory is poor.

    Selective Attention

  3. Processing that information for meaning
  4. Storing  it in your mind
  5. Recalling what you have heard.

 

A “breakdown” in auditory memory can occur at any point in the pathway

 

Auditory Memory Pathway

 

In the classroom, teachers may describe these children as

  • Inattentive,
  • Easily distracted
  • Forgetting what they have learned,
  • Forgetting instructions
  •  Makes place-keeping errors (skipping or repeating steps)
  • Not completing tasks,
  • Making careless mistakes,
  • Difficulty in solving problems

If you’re thinking this sounds a lot like attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you are right!
A great deal of research in the last few years has shown that low auditory working memory is indeed associated with ADD/ADHD. Some research has shown that stimulant medications can enhance one’s auditory-verbal and visual-spatial working memory. However, there is no long term benefit. In other words, the working memory is improved only as long as the medication is in the system.

 

However some auditory memory weaknesses of students can easily go undetected by a teacher especially when there are no signs of ADD or ADHD.

Often children with auditory memory problems appear to be trying very hard to listen.
Their eyes are focused on the teacher and they appear to be attentive.
The teacher assumes that the child has heard all that is being taught. However, in reality, they often absorb and make sense out of very little of what is being stated by the teacher.

As a result, these students recall only a small amount or none of what is being said. They might remember a word here or there, or parts of a thought, but often do not truly understand much of the information presented orally to them.

The ability to learn from oral instructions and explanations is a fundamental skill required throughout life.

 

The following difficulties may arise because of poor auditory memory.

 

Poor Comprehension of Orally Presented Directions:
  • Often the child thinks that he has understood directions for completing an assignment, when actually he has understood very little. As a result, assignments are often completed incorrectly.
  • The child may only be able to take-in and think about only three or four words at a time so they only hear three or four words.
  • Subconsciously he stops listening in order to process the information.
  • Then he listens again.
  • As a result, the child loses a word or two from every phrase. The information no longer makes sense and becomes confusing, boring, and hard to pay attention to.

While some children can recall a lengthy sentence well, they may not be able to process and recall a short passage that is presented orally. These students may be able to answer a specific question about the information that has been presented to them orally or that they have read, but are not able to grasp the whole paragraph.

The child thinks that he knows what he has heard or read orally, when actually, he has processed and recalled very little of the material.

Sometimes parents and educators assume that children have understood an entire passage when they answer a specific question about the passage, yet, that specific information might be all that they have gleaned from the passage!

It is therefore important that when reading stories to children, they are encouraged to retell the story with the main idea and supporting details, in order to demonstrate that they have total comprehension.

 

Difficulty Copying from the Board:

As mentioned in the first example, a child with auditory memory difficulties can often only remember one or two words at a time. He therefore needs to constantly look up at the board, down at his paper, up at the board, down at his paper. Copying from the board is a tedious task for him whereas other children can remember a sentence at a time.

 

Difficulty Taking Notes:

In order to take notes you need to:

  • Listen to the teacher.
  • Hold what you have heard in memory while writing it down.
  • Continue listening as the teacher continues with the next sentence.
  •  If you are not writing verbatim what the teacher says, you must also use logic and reasoning to form your own thoughts about what’s being said, while writing, while listening.

If your auditory memory is poor, auditory processing, processing speed, or logic and reasoning, note taking could be practically impossible.

 

 Reading Difficulties:

Phonics (sounds) is an auditory learning system and it is imperative to have a sufficient auditory short term memory in order to learn, utilize and understand reading using phonics.  The ability to hold speech sounds in memory is needed for tasks such as comparing phonemes, relating phonemes to letters, and sounding out words.

 

 Spelling Difficulties:

Many poor-spellers depend on memory for spelling and so they don’t do very well. Even someone with a superior memory can only “remember” the spelling of a few hundred words. Spelling is actually an auditory and a visual skill.

You must be able to hear the sounds within the words and to visualize. How often have you spelled a word and recognized, “No, that doesn’t look right?”

Children who memorize spelling words often forget the words soon after the spelling test. The brain says, “I don’t need that anymore,” and dumps the words to make room for next week’s spelling list.

 

 Poor vocabulary:

Children may experience difficulty developing a good understanding of words, remembering terms and information that has been presented orally, for example, in history and science classes. These students will also experience difficulty processing and recalling information that they have read to themselves.

When we read we must listen and process information we say to ourselves, even when we read silently. If we do not attend and listen to our silent input of words, we cannot process the information or recall what we have read. Therefore, even silent reading involves a form of listening.

The good news is that auditory memory is trainable and like any muscle the more you exercise it, the more it will improve.

The not so good news is that the capacity for auditory memory appears to have a genetic basis and if you have a poor auditory memory the chances are that you won’t be able to rely on someone in your family for help.

LEARN TO LISTEN

LEARN TO LISTEN

 

If you believe that your child has learned to “tune you out,” then you need to break the habit. Let him know that both of you have developed a bad habit and you want to break it! Tell your child that you will make a request just one time, and you will expect him to listen and follow directions. Then, stick to your guns!

Breaking bad habits is not easy and it takes real commitment and energy. But it will be well worth the effort in the long run.

 

1. Consequences

The best consequences are “natural consequences” because they occur without having to do anything at all. For example, if you call your child to the dinner table and he does not come, he will be left eating a cold meal alone at a later time.

Within the classroom situation, if a child is not attending to an instruction, then ignoring the child when they come and ask for clarification may reinforce the notion of careful listening behaviour.
In many cases, it is up to the parents and educators to decide on and agree on a consequence.

Consequences need to be relevant, reasonable and doable.

 

2. Modeling:

You can teach your child to listen by having good listening skills yourself.

 

Here are some ideas to help you:

  • Do not Interrupt – when someone says something that we disagree with, we love to interrupt and even go the extra step further by proving them wrong. Hearing what your child says improves their listening skills by encouraging them to not interrupt.
  • Be Together – just by interacting with your child and building a relationship, they are spending more time with you. The more time you have in their lives, the more influential you become, and the more you interact and talk to them, the more your effective listening skills run-over onto your child.
  • Honesty – just like adults, children can see when you are not listening. You need to be attentive and honest in your listening by not tricking them into thinking that you are listening.
  • Have Patience – you cannot expect your child to be patient and attentively listen to you when you cannot be patient yourself. Understand that children take longer than adults to say what they want.

If you don’t have the time to devote your full attention to your child, then tell him, and set aside time later on.

 

Games and activities to facilitate good listening:

  • Simon Says – Your child must follow your directions, but only when you begin the sentence with the words “Simon says.” Keep your child moving and the directions coming quickly to make the game exciting.
  •  I Spy – Give your child clues about something within viewing range. See how quickly he can guess what you are spying.
  •  Twenty Questions – Think of a person, place or thing and give your child up to 20 chances to ask questions that will help him guess the answer.
  •  Red Light, Green Light – One or more children line up at the back of an open space. The “policeman” calls out the words “red light” or “green light” with his back turned to the group. The group can only move forward when the policeman calls “green light” and must stop when they hear “red light.” The policeman turns around when he says “red light” and any child caught still moving is out. The first to follow the directions and reach the policeman becomes the new policemen.
  • Environmental Noises – Commercial games with common environmental sounds are available and I am sure there must be an “#app” available. Otherwise, listening to the “real thing” can be fun. See who can identify the most sounds.
  • Broken Telephone – A whispered message is passed through a group until the last person last player announces the message to the entire group.
  • Listening For Absurdities encourages children to listen for details. For example I ate the cold-drink through a straw. Sentences can increase in length and complexity.
  • Reading to your child and discussing what you have read and predicting what might happen. Making a few ‘purposeful errors” will give you an indication of how actively your child is listening. For example you could change the characters name in the story.
  • Audiobooks – These can be downloaded, purchased or rented through listener libraries.
  • Watch TV with your child (Yes I said it :-)). This means that you have to watch one of the programmes that your child enjoys but not cartoon network. While you’re watching, pretend that you didn’t hear something and ask your child to tell you what the character said.

 

Poor listening skills are a major challenge in the classroom as well as in the home. Listening skills are the cornerstone for developing interpersonal relationships and yet it is one of the most neglected language skills in teaching environments. Many children receive as much as half of their educational programming through listening but have little instruction on how to listen effectively.

Hopefully we can break the cycle.

Listen Hear!

Listen Hear!

One of the biggest complaints that I hear from teachers as children enter a more formal learning environment, is that the children do not know how to listen.

I am not talking about the children with Auditory Perception Difficulties or the children with any form of hearing loss. Neither am I referring to the “selective listening” behavior displayed by most children at one point or another.  I am referring to children who enter the formal schooling system without any delays or difficulties and develop difficulties because of poor listening skills.

The passive nature of hearing is very different from the active nature of listening.  Take, for example, many of the adverts on TV. Unless they have a very catchy jingle, or something visual that draws in your attention, you are often able to “tune out” and not even know what the advert was for.

We need to ask the question WHY children are not learning to listen.

 

1. BAD HABITS

When a child does not respond to a parent’s first request (and how many kids do?), parents often subscribe to what appears to be the obvious solution – they repeat their request, sometimes several times, until they get the desired response from their child. On occasion, this is a useful tactic for parents. Perhaps their child did not actually hear the request, or maybe he was distracted and needs another reminder.

However, when repeating requests, directions or questions becomes the typical way you interact with your child, it may very well be that bad habits have developed. And I say bad habits (plural!) because both the parents and the child have developed a bad habit here. The adults have become accustomed to talking and talking and talking while their child has learned to ignore, ignore and ignore. Why should he stop and pay attention the first time when he knows that there will be many opportunities to hear the request. And the child may even have developed a “deaf ear” to all the chatter, which means that he has stopped paying attention to what is being said.

Enter the grade one classroom, and the poor teacher is faced with a whole group of children with poor listening habits.

2. TECHNOLOGY

The ability to concentrate and pay attention are key factors in being a good listener. Research has shown that too much television watching at an early age might contribute to poor listening skills later in life.

When you think about it, does your child talk much when watching television or playing computer games?

Unless they provide commentary and annoy everyone else around them, you probably answered “not much at all”.

They will sit in front of a gaming console, computer, or television and become ‘mind slaves’ to the device as they ‘switch off’ their mind into the rapid, hypnotic pace these devices deliver. Of course, we do listen while watching yet the devices deliver sound at a greater speed that is considerably more entertaining to children then the sound of nagging parents talking to them.

I have often had the retort from parents that “my child can sit for hours playing a video-game. How come you are telling me he can’t focus?”  They are correct, but the type of focus required for a video game and active listening, is totally different. Activities such as video/computer games, require a high level of concentration and reasonable skills to play. When these two are combined, time becomes distorted. Children receive instant gratification from television and video games whereas the pace of normal conversation is slow in comparison.

Some research has suggested that extensive exposure to television and video games may promote development of brain systems that scan and shift attention at the expense of those that focus attention.

This being said, TV, video games and the like are not evil. In fact there is more and more research into how technology can be incorporated into learning and the plethora of educational  ‘’apps” is testament to this. The old adage of everything in moderation and everything with MEDIATION is paramount.

3.    ANXIETY

One of the many reasons that anxiety in children is on the increase, is because of pressure to succeed in the school environment. Whilst this issue is the realm of the psychologist/psychiatrist, the impact of anxiety on listening behavior cannot be discounted.

Anxious children are often preoccupied with worries about their success in activities and their ability to obtain the approval of others. They tend to “tune-out” when others are talking because they are often so worried about what they are going to say when it is his or her turn to speak.

Listening skills are something that requires practice. Good listening skills are an integral part of good communication and are one of the foundation skills for later learning success.

Early Signs of Reading Difficulties

Early Signs of Reading Difficulties

Children develop at different rates. While some children with foundational literacy difficulties will catch up to their peers, children who make slow early progress often need extra help. If they don’t get it, they can experience delays in literacy development which ultimately impacts on their academic success.

 

There are some early signs that your child might be having trouble with foundational literacy skills. These signs involve both oral language (vocabulary and listening skills) and knowledge of word structure (knowing letters, rhyming, sounding out and blending sounds in simple words).

3-4 years

Seek help or advice if most of the time your child has trouble with three or more of the following activities:

  • Telling you what action is going on in a picture book (running, barking, eating)
  • Using all of the necessary words to make a complete sentence – for example, ‘I’m going to the zoo’ rather than ‘ me going zoo’
  • Listening to an adult read to her on a regular basis
  • Remembering a previously read book when shown its cover
  • Showing an awareness of how books are handled
  • Naming simple objects represented in books
  • Concentrating on and responding to print, such as the letters in names, signs and so on
  • Scribbling to make shapes that look like letters
  • Playing with words and making rhyming words. Children particularly enjoy making up “rude” rhymes. E.g. hum, bum, mum
  • Repeating at least parts of nursery rhymes.

 

5 – 6 years

Seek help or advice if most of the time your child can’t do the things listed above, and struggles with three or more of the following.

In spoken language:
  • Understanding everyday spoken directions
  • Incorporating new words when he speaks, and noticeably using longer sentences (often more than five words)
  • Recognising the beginning of words and sounds that rhyme, and producing examples
  • Breaking simple words into their parts (syllables or single sounds), and putting sounds together to make words
  • Using the proper endings of words – for example, ‘He played soccer with me’ rather than ‘He play soccer with me’

 

In reading:
  • Showing interest in books and reading
  • Trying to read – for example, your child should recognize their own name, brands (McDonald’s ‘M’, Stop Signs, Woolworths etc.) Recognizes the sounds of letters and makes references like, ‘that one starts the same as my name, or snakes start with the same letter that Stop does..
    • Following the sequence of events in stories
    • Relating what happens in books to her own life events
    • Listening attentively when books are read aloud, deriving meaning and pleasure from it.

In understanding print concepts:
  • Knowing that words in print are different from pictures, and are there to be read
  • Observing and commenting on print in different settings, such as on TV, food packets and so on
  • Appreciating the different purposes of print – for example, prices, shopping lists, recipes, assembly instructions
  • Knowing that each letter in the alphabet has a name and a sound, and being able to name at least eight of them
  • Understanding that writing is a tool for communication, and scribbling his name, messages and so on (regardless of whether you can read what he scribbles).

By the middle of grade one your child should be enjoying learning to read and should be developing a growing sight – word vocabulary such as  the, and, and is. The letter – sound associations should be more automatic and he should be eager to read. The following may be warning signs as you listen to your child read aloud:

  • Doesn’t know the sounds associated with all of the letters
  • Skips words in a sentence and doesn’t stop to self-correct
  • Can’t remember words; sounds out the same word every time it occurs on the page
  • Frequently guesses at unknown words rather than sounding them out

You can also look at your child’s writing for clues about reading difficulty. By the end of Grade R, a child should be writing his name and some other consonants. Mixed uppercase and lower case letters is appropriate.

 

 

It’s important not to panic if you see some of these warning signs in your child. Lists of early warning signs can help you be on the lookout; however, there is no precise list of surefire signs of a reading difficulty. Each child is unique and may exhibit only some of the signs. Knowing what to look for can help you decide whether you need to investigate further.

When in doubt check it out.

 

 

Teach your child to read

Teach your child to read

Children are miraculous! They are born with an innate knowledge of language. BUT children are not born with an innate knowledge of reading.
They need to be taught that text is read from left to right and that words are separate from images.

Although learning to talk and read are two distinct domains, they are also intricately related.

Early language skills are linked to later successful reading.

Young children need a variety of skills to become successful readers. Research indicates that children who enter school with more of these skills are better able to benefit from the reading instruction they receive when they arrive at school.

The following core skills have been identified as being crucial to the development of later reading.

 

1. VOCABULARY

Knowing the names of things is an extremely important skill for children to have when they are learning to read.

Help develop your child’s vocabulary by reading a variety of books (both fiction and nonfiction), and by naming all the objects in your child’s world.

 

2. PRINT MOTIVATION

Print motivation is a child’s interest in and enjoyment of books.

A child with print motivation enjoys being read to, plays with books, pretends to write and asks to be read to.

Encourage print motivation in your child by

• Shared book reading a special time, keeping books accessible, and letting your child see that you enjoy reading.

• Explain how reading and writing are used in everyday life, for example shopping lists, newspapers, TV guides, and computer screens.

A fun activity is to read through the TV guide with your child and bookmark a favourite programme to watch or record.

 

3. PRINT AWARENESS

Print Awareness includes learning that writing in English follows basic rules such as flowing from top-to- bottom and left-to-right, and that the print on the page is what is being read by someone who knows how to read.

An example of print awareness is a child’s ability to point to the words on the page of a book.

Your child’s print awareness can be encouraged by

  • Pointing out and reading words everywhere you see them – on signs, labels and the supermarket.
  • Going shopping with young children. This can be challenging, especially with all the sweet temptations within the child’s direct line of sight. I know that it is easier to leave your child at home when you go shopping, but try to make a point of taking your child with you at least once a week.

Something to keep your child occupied in the supermarket is to send him ahead of you in the aisle to try to find a certain brand of crisps/cereal/tomato sauce.

Use items that your child is motivated to buy 🙂

Drawing your child’s attention to prices also creates print awareness.

4. NARRATIVE SKILLS

The ability to understand and tell stories and describe things is important for children in order to understand what they are learning to read.

An example of a narrative skill is a child’s ability to tell what has happened at a birthday party, or a class outing.

Help your child strengthen his narrative skills by

  • Asking him to retell a well-known story. Encourage your child to predict what might happen next in the story. Facial expression can create excitement about what might happen.
  •  Encourage your child to tell you about things he has done that have a regular sequence to them. For example, having a bath.
5. LETTER KNOWLEDGE

Letter Knowledge includes learning that letters have names and are different from each other, and that specific sounds go with specific letters.

An example of letter knowledge is a child’s ability to know that the letter B makes a /b/ sound.

  • Playing games like “I spy” will develop phonemic (sound) awareness.
  • Focus your child’s attention on the letters in the words and highlight the letters that are in your child’s name.
  • Encourage your child to pay attention to the shape of letters and trace them with his finger.

 

6. PHONOLOGICAL AWARENESS

Phonological Awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate the smaller sounds in words.

Phonological awareness includes the ability to hear and create rhymes, to say words with sounds or chunks left out, e.g. monkey without /mon/, and the ability to put sounds together to make a word.

Strengthen phonological awareness by

  • Exposing your child to songs and rhymes.
  • Encourage them to “make up” silly rhyming words
  • Say words and sounds with a pause between the syllables and have your child guess what word you are saying. E.g. um—bre—lla

The environment and daily routines in your home can be one of the best teaching tools to help children develop pre-reading skills. A print-rich environment helps foster skills needed for reading. By surrounding your children with print in your home and talking to them about what it means, they will learn more every day. As your child points, labels, makes nonsense words, and tells you outrageous stories, they are practicing to be literate. The next time you hear the word “again p-l-e-a-s-e!” remind yourself that you are laying the foundation for life-long literacy. So with the same enthusiasm you’ve demonstrated one hundred times before, “READ IT AGAIN” as if it were the very first time!