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Get Ahead Kids - Vol. 3, No. 5 - September/October 2011

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Study, Assessment & Memory

By Dorte Bladt

The most common question I am asked apart from 'How can I get my child to sit still and concentrate?' is 'How can I help my child remember what they have learnt?'

Converting information into long-term memory and knowledge that can be accessed on demand are real issues.

If I was to ask you to tell me a memory - any memory from your life, what would you say?

Would you describe your happiness and excitement as you walked down the aisle with your father on your wedding day? The wonder and amazement as you counted the fingers and toes after the birth of your first child? The horror and defencelessness as that motorbike came screeching around the corner, out of control, just before it hit your car?

These memories are associated with a strong emotion. That is how memories are formed. An experience is really just a combination of sensory information such as sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch and balance. This sensory information is just fact, it is neutral, but as our brains attach feeling to it, it gets processed differently and enters long-term parking.

Another way to get information into long-term storage is through repetition. Some things are hard to learn by understanding or experiments, such as times tables, spelling words and French verbs, and since these have no strong emotions attached to them other than maybe intense boredom, rote repetition may be the only way. By repeating the same thing over and over, you are creating a new, specific pathway of the nerves in the brain, a pathway which can become a highway by frequent use. Nerves that fire together, wire together.

So how can we use this knowledge of how memories are made and stored to our advantage when it comes to learning in a school situation?

There are actually lots of fun little tricks you can use. It takes a bit of effort and preparation on the parent's part, but is it not worth it, to see your child succeed?

Checklist for Learning

  • Try to present the information through as many senses as possible

    Tell your child about the information, explain the logic of it. Let the child see it in pictures or words, let the child play with it, construct it, let them try to get their body to look like it. For example with a particular spelling word like 'School': talk about school and what happens there, get your child to write the word and let them draw a picture of it. Cut the word into individual letters and let them make it again, and play with the letters and make new words. Let your child play school, and position their body both like the shapes of the letters in the word and the building itself.

  • Stimulate the other senses while trying to memorise information

    For example try introducing a smell like cinnamon, citrus or vanilla while practicing spelling or time tables. Eat something special and different, or enjoy having a back scratch or a hand massage while working. Each sensory stimulus will make an association that creates an emotion that will make it easier to recall. When the child is at school they can visualise the sensory pattern they were in and access the memory through this visualisation.

  • Another way of creating a memory is making up a story

    My brother and I went for a walk. Our four cute little feet were stepping on the soft grass in the yard. Here they met eight little nasty green ants who were looking for food. 'Look at all this food' yelled the hungry green ants to their friends and they came to look too, so now there were twelve. They scrambled on to the cute little feet and took a big bite or two, sixteen painful bites all together. 'Ouch' my brother and I screamed and ran home and put all twenty little toes in the bath to make them feel better.

  • Make a song

    Use your favourite tune to make a silly song containing what you need to remember. Whether it is the shopping list, the French verbs or the spelling list, this works a treat. And you don't have to sing it out loud, humming in your head will do when you have to remember the facts at school.

  • Write down what you have to remember in a single colour on different coloured palm cards

    Practice the task with your child using the palm cards. You might find your child keeps forgetting the 'h' in 'night'. On a different palm card highlight or write in a bright colour the 'h' in night to trick the brain into paying extra attention to that one while you keep practising.

  • I have mentioned this one before, it is my favourite

    Let your child do an activity while the task is practiced: bouncing a ball, skipping rope, jumping on a trampoline, balancing on one foot or even tapping a foot or a finger while practicing. The activity has to be simple, easy and repetitive enough for the child not to have to concentrate on the task, only what is being memorised.

And most importantly, have FUN, make it enjoyable and light.
No-one will learn anything when they are cranky, upset, defensive or sobbing. So let your creative juices flow making up new games, change them often and just love your child for who they are!

Finally you may wonder what is my role in memory? As a chiropractor I can help the brain and the nervous system function optimally.

If a subluxation (misalignment) is present in the spine, it will affect the flow of information between the brain and the body, as well as the quality of information transmitted in the brain. Natural, safe and gentle chiropractic adjustments will improve the function of the spinal vertebrae and help get the right messages travelling in the nerve system.

More Information

Dorte Bladt
Doctor of Chiropractic
Family Chiropractic Centre Charlestown
2 Lincoln St, Charlestown NSW 2290
P: 02 4942 4842


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