Essential Study Skills: Memory

Essential Study Skills: Memory

colorful brain mechanics
colorful brain mechanics

I have a dear friend who insists she was a terrible student. She complains about how she often finished reading her lessons ... and had no idea what she had just read.

Can you relate?

I sure can!

Until I have “pegs” upon which to hang new facts and ideas, most of it falls to the floor. Fortunately, once I become familiar with a subject, my retention steadily increases.

Brain Mechanics

As I learned a little about how our brains work, I discovered my friend and I are not alone.

Few people possess photographic minds able to immediately grasp and retain new information the first time they encounter it.

Most people need repeated exposure to new information before they begin to comprehend new ideas and connect them to what they already know.

If your students struggle to understand and retain what they learn, be encouraged!

Memory is like a muscle.

Memory is like a muscle that is strengthened with use. Before we talk about how to develop it, let’s talk about goals:

  • Are your students studying simply to pass a test?
  • Or are they studying to truly understand the material?

The destination determines the path….

The destination determines the path.

Study for a test

When taking tests that require students to store facts in their short-term memory, the following tips* may be helpful:

Engage Your Attitude: Choose to pay attention. Set your mind on success. Expect to remember. (It is amazing how often we conform to expectations, whether negative or positive.)

Engage Your Senses: Read aloud so your eyes and ears and vocal cords all receive an impression of the material. Slow down and gaze intentionally. Take a mental snapshot.

Engage Your Mind: Ponder what you learn. How does it relate to what you already know? Review, review, review—and do so quickly. You are more likely to remember when you review material within 24 hours of first encountering it.

(*This list is derived, in part, from Walter Pauk’s, How to Study in College as cited in Philosophy Adventure.)

Study for Understanding

All too often students strive to master memory techniques so they can pass exams—to the neglect of thoughtfully processing information and gaining true understanding.

They may earn an “A” for their efforts, but have they earned an education?

In our homeschool, we prioritized depth over breadth. Whenever possible, we dug deep into the subjects we studied. We analyzed and discussed issues, and wrote about our discoveries.

Take the challenge

If you want your students to become truly educated, do not make a practice of superficial learning.

When it comes to developing long-term memory, nothing compares to the rewards gained by etching God's Word deeply onto the tablet of one’s heart (Prov. 7:3).

Memorize a book of the Bible as a family. (We started with the book of Philippians.)

Apply your fine minds to a challenge worthy of your investment. You will be amazed to see how that memory muscle grows!

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