Five ways to help you (and your students!) remember things

Five ways to help you (and your students!) remember things

The importance of formalised assessment tests in recent years has led to a competitive race between nations to get top marks. How does this affect students who are already struggling with examinations and the pressure to do well? There’s now evidence pointing to the rise in exam stress and mental problems among primary school students sitting exams.

 

A lot of examination stress stems from the sheer pressure to do well – and, as a result, many students experience temporary memory block during exams, where they struggle to remember what they have learnt. People also often have trouble remembering things because memory is related to concentration, which means that multitasking can actually lead to forgetfulness. With this in mind, it would hardly be surprising to learn that many teachers suffer a certain degree of forgetfulness: they deal with tremendous pressure, mounting workloads, student concerns and parental expectations, a host of administrative duties, lesson planning and preparation, and marking. Teachers are constantly juggling several things at once. While we can’t really reduce the amount we need to memorise on a day-to-day basis, we do have some control on how we choose to manage it. Here are five ways to ease the memory load and help your students to remember things too!

 

1. Visual learning

One study conducted by neuroscientists at MIT shows that the human brain can process entire images that the eye sees for as little as 13 milliseconds – the first evidence of such rapid processing speed. There’s also evidence that visuals are directly stored in the long-term memory, as opposed to words, which get stored in the short-term memory. This information, coupled with the fact that nearly 65% of the population are visual learners, means that integrating visuals can not only help us learn better but faster. There are several ways we can integrate visual learning, such as by using images or drawing pictures, but the easiest is through educational films. It makes a great revision tool too, as long as the visual content is in line with what you’re reading.

2. Memory tree

Here’s what we know: it’s easier to remember a lot of information when it is broken down into a number of much smaller pieces of information. It’s also easier for the brain to take in this information if it’s represented in the form of a diagram (just look at how successful Mindmaps are). Finally, building connections between existing knowledge and new knowledge helps us to learn more effectively. How can we compound this information into one great strategy to improve our memory recall? We use a memory tree! Start with the trunk: draw a basic line or two to mark out a concept, then move on to connect the branches – ideas that are linked to the main concept. Each new idea forms a new branch attached to the trunk. Eventually, as you learn more or read further, you can build on your ideas by attaching leaves to the corresponding branch.

3. Repeat, repeat, repeat

We are not fans of rote learning, nor do we recommend it. What we do believe in, however, is revision. If students learn information efficiently, a couple of revision sessions should be more than enough to retain that information for a long time. But it is important to choose the right method of revision – too often, educators are kept busy focusing on innovative teaching methods to pay much attention to revision. And if revision is a chore, students won’t do it – or worse, do it in an ineffective manner, wasting their own time. Fortunately, there are easy and fun ways to incorporate revision into the lesson that allows you to gauge how much students have learnt, and serve to reinforce concepts in students’ minds. Educational quizzes, games, classroom discussions and activities are all great examples of revision tools. You can even use educational films again to help the class revise!

4. Practical tasks

As the old Chinese proverb goes: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Converting classroom lessons into hands-on, physical activities is a great way to learn. Educational experts call it kinesthetic learning: learning through physical activities. If your school doesn’t have a large lab to accommodate a myriad of experiments, don’t worry. There are lots of activities that can be done by a simple run around the school backyard or even local trips into the city.

5. Love what you learn

It might sound like a cliché, but we really do remember what we are truly interested in. Ever wonder why you forget phone numbers but can quote your favourite song word for word? It’s entirely down to how much it interests you. So the trick to getting your students to remember scientific facts? Get them to love science. It might not initially seem the easiest thing to do, but the rewards are well worth the effort!
Small open book filled with delicate hand made paper cuttings depicting city scene which is lit by sunlight casting shadow of city on white background behind.

Five ways to reimagine your classroom successfully

Education today exists within a paradox. New pedagogies and technology may have ushered in dramatic changes in the classroom, but core structures of classroom teaching remain unchanged and grossly out of date. The internet has changed how we seek out information. It has also changed how young people learn. Standardised tests may make it easy for countries to track educational progress, but they also put a tremendous amount of pressure on students, and in turn on their teachers.

 

There are creative teachers out there, determined to help their students, but the current system makes it increasingly difficult for them to apply their creativity. The existing school and classroom structures don’t leave much room for imagination, and technology ends up being used just as another superficial tool. Every revolution begins somewhere. While it’s essential that school structures change, there are things that teachers and educators can do in the meantime to help themselves and their students in embracing change and reimagining education.

 

Here are five ways you can do it now:

 

1. The difference between the right way and doing it right

For years we have worked with our cemented beliefs on how knowledge should be imparted: a teacher faces a group of students sitting in rows. We’ve always regarded this setup as the right way to do things. However, we forget that students have agency, which has been further enabled by the internet and social media. This means that students now have various means to find information, and at startling speeds. The teacher is no longer the sage on the stage, imparting their wisdom. So how do we do things right? Teachers need to accept a shift in their role. With so much information on the internet available for students, it’s sometimes difficult to make sure that what they read is always accurate. This is where teachers need to guide students towards reliable, well-known sources of knowledge, teaching them to draw their own logical conclusions. Learning how to use technology correctly has never been more important.

 

2. Focus on goals rather than method

We know every person learns in a different way. While some students might grasp a concept immediately, others may need more guidance. Similarly, one student might excel in one subject and struggle with another. So how do we make sure that students get a rounded learning experience? By focusing on the learning outcome instead of the method. For years now, we have focused on set ways of teaching students, where the teacher writes on the board while the students study their textbooks. This means that most modern classrooms are actually following a design set to prepare students for the industrial age. The use of technology hasn’t yet changed that process as much as it should – students seem to have simply upgraded to e-books or reading on tablets. A good way to break away from rigid teaching structures is for teachers to experiment with a variety of pedagogies and mediums to see which combination helps students learn in the best possible way. These can include educational films with a flipped classroom or group rotation, contextualising lessons using topical news, and melding practical exercises and projects to theory (think NGSS ).

 

3. Learning-centered goals

In our previous blog post, we talked about a growth mindset and how to implement it in your classroom. Learning-centered goals fall squarely within a growth mindset territory. Often students struggle under pressure to manage better grades. Most don’t understand why they’re going wrong despite persistent efforts. This leads to loss of belief in one’s ability and eroded confidence. Teachers can help students get around this by focusing on learning outcomes rather than performance outcomes. This might mean allowing your students more time in class to come to their own conclusions, or allowing them some space to struggle with concepts and theories while they try to figure them out. In the case of a student who struggles with a subject or assignment despite their best efforts, a teacher can acknowledge that student’s effort before sitting them down and helping them figure out what they are doing wrong. This kind of approach allows a teacher to give support while simultaneously allowing the student to learn from their own mistakes.

 

4. A good education is not just limited to curriculum

It comes down to a difference between qualification and education. A good qualification shows that a young person performed well at school, but a good education gives them the skills needed to do well in adult life. Problem solving skills, critical thinking skills and the ability to communicate effectively are all vital qualities that employers seek in employees. These skills also heavily contribute to helping young people develop a well-rounded view of the world, helping them to become good citizens. Unfortunately, curriculum doesn’t always cover all the important skills that young people need to learn in life. A teacher keen to provide a good education to their students should take on the responsibility of trying to teach these skills. Luckily, it can be easily done. Encourage class interaction during lessons through open discussions, group assignments and paired project work. For example, a teacher can introduce global warming by assigning a educational film as homework (flipping the classroom in the process), before moving on to an open discussion about the film and what the class understood about the topic. This can then be followed by dividing the class into groups and tasking them to come up with three examples of situations that they think have come about due to global warming. Groups can discuss their findings as a class before the teacher moves on to a more traditional style of lesson.

 

5. Build links and connections

Thanks to technology, today we are living a world that is intrinsically connected, where grassroots programs such as rooftop gardens can impact global issues such as sustainability or depletion of fossil fuels. NGSS puts an emphasis on teaching young people to become good citizens. The best way to teach students to connect with a bigger community and become better citizens is to let them experience both first hand. Teachers can enlist help from local citizen science organizations to create projects that convert classroom lessons into practical, real-life applications. This helps students learn the practical applications to classroom theory alongside developing important social and communication skills. It also provides them with practical experience and a means to achieve measurable results in what they accomplish in the real world.