Every school day, students have to memorize mountains of information. At times, this can become overwhelming especially for those who have not trained their memory. Since memory directly affects every other intellectual process, it is an extremely important skill to develop as early as possible. Below are ten suggestions students can use to help them remember information.
1. Study actively. You are more likely to remember material if you write it down or say it out loud than if you merely read it or hear it.
2. Associate new information with the old. When learning something new, try to compare it with something similar that you are already familiar with.
3. Make up examples. When learning general principles, try to make up examples of your own. In addition to helping you remember the principle better, this will also help you check your understanding. If you are not sure that your example is correct, check it with your teacher.
4. Visualize what you are trying to learn. This can involve creating a mental image or drawing a graph such as a time line to help with time sequences or a hierarchical chart for organizations or family trees.
5. Group items into categories. If you have to learn a long list of things, try to group similar items together. For example, to memorize a shopping list you would want to group vegetables together, meats together, dairy products and so on.
6. Be selective. Most of the time you will not be able to memorize every detail, and if you try you may end up learning nothing. Concentrate on general concepts and a few examples to go with each. Pay particular attention to the information your teacher indicates is important. Teachers frequently send signals to help you identify what is important such as information written on the board, or repeated several times orally, or prefaced by statements such as “You should know this.”
7. Use key words. To learn this list of suggestions for improving your memory, pick out a key word for each suggestion, and then learn just the key words. To learn items 1-7, you might choose the following key word: activate, associate, examples, visualize, group, selective and key words.
8. Use alliteration. Repeating initial sounds can be helpful in remembering information. For example, to remind sailors entering a harbor to keep the red harbor light on their right, they learn: Red to right returning.
9. Try acrostics. Some times you can use the first letter of a list of words to form another word or sentence. These are similar to acronyms. For example, “ROY G. BIV’ can help you remember the colors of the spectrum: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.
10. Use a mnemonic device. Mnemonics are techniques for remembering information that is otherwise difficult to recall. A very simple example is the '30 days hath September' rhyme for remembering the number of days in each calendar month.
Although memory is the most important intellectual skill we have, it is the easiest mental process to train. Knowing how to memorize effectively will help students perform better in school at all grade levels.
Elizabeth Hamilton, M.Ed, MA, is a teacher with 31 years of professional experience. You can write to her at email@example.com with your questions or comments.