We cannot deny the fact that there may be some people with photographic memories. In other cases, there are people who understand the subject matter so well that they may not need any memory aid other than their own understanding. However, even in such cases, these people may be unconsciously using some special techniques that aid memory. The good news is that these techniques can be learnt. Memory is one of the vital determinants of your child's performance at school. Memory aids will help your child all his life, not only in academics.
Why does your child end up forgetting important data? Our brain is bombarded with thousands of facts each day. All the information is accessible for a short period of time. After that, the nuggets of information that were not imprinted deeply enough are forgotten. The key to memory enhancement lies in ensuring that the important bits are retained.
Mnemonics is one of the commonly used systems for developing or improving memory. Here are some techniques that you can teach your child:
Acronyms: An acronym is an abbreviation for a set of words. Your child can learn the names of organisations or a set of names of scientists or a set of names of places by making up acronyms for them. Thus, for a science experiment, apparatus, procedures, observations and conclusion can be APOC. This may be rearranged to form PACO or CAPO. Another idea is to pick out the keywords in a long answer and then make up an acronym for the keywords. This way the entire answer can be recalled.
Acrostics: In acrostics, you take the first letter of each of the words in the list you want to remember, and then make a sentence with words starting with those letters. This is useful for remembering longer sets of words. For example, if you wish to remember Anorak, Hat, Raincoat, Windcheater, Screen, Gumboots, and Umbrella, in that order, you can convert this into a sentence like a hot roast with sugar gladdens us. It is easier to recall a sentence than a list of items, which may be unrelated.
Poems and Songs: Your child may find it easier to remember her answers if she finds the sentences rhyming. Alternatively, you can teach them to her in a singsong manner, perhaps to the tune of 'Twinkle twinkle'. This inspires creativity and makes the learning process entertaining.
Method of Loci: This can be an effective method for extremely long lists or answers. It is particularly useful as it employs visual imagery as well. Ask your child to select a path that he or she takes everyday, the path to school for example. Now ask him to associate an object in his path with an item on his list. For example, there is a lamp post on his way. The item on his list is 'wind'. Have him imagine a wind blow so strong that the lamp post falls. Suppose the next object is a series of steps, and the subsequent item a kite. Imagine the kite bouncing up each step with a little of its tail cut off every time. The association can be as nonsensical or meaningful as you wish.
Chunking: A person can remember seven (plus or minus two) items, especially numbers, with ease. Hence, if you have a very long string of numbers, try creating chunks of a few digits together instead of struggling with the whole number. If your number is 12256888305, break it up into 1225 6888 305. Alternatively, try having your child remember it as December, square of 16, three fat ladies, and his sister's birth date (30 May).
Good Old Rote: All said and done, mnemonics can be used to jog your child's memory. But a large part of the portion has to be learnt by rote. This is however not as difficult as it sounds. The trick is to not read up too much at a time. Tackle one chapter or even half a chapter in one sitting. Revision is of utmost importance. Have your child go through what he learnt at least thrice at different intervals before the exams. The mantra to remembering clearly is the 3Rs—read, revise, and recall.
Numerous factors go into enabling effective recall. Studying in a well-lit atmosphere, freshness of mind, a healthy diet, physical activity, all this plays a role as well. As your child gets the feel of these techniques, he may come up with a few of his own. When you remember that studying smart and not studying hard is the key, learning becomes fun.