Other Memory Strategies
- Visual Elaboration
- Running Concept Lists
- Rehearsal Strategies
- Reciting and Spacing Reviews
- Breaking the Normal Pattern
- RCRC Strategy
- LINC Strategy
- Memory Awareness
- Information Organization
The visual elaboration strategy is a form of mnemonic that targets oral language and addresses vocabulary building skills. It is an adaptation of several strategies that are based on research by Margo Mastropieri, Joel Levin, and Frank Bellezza. The strategy uses mental pictures to cue vocabulary definitions. It is helpful to introduce the strategy to students and guide them through several applications to gain proficiency. Then the students may use the strategy on their own.
Visual elaboration is similar to the visual association (visual imagery) strategy, which is also described in this page.
Directions for the visual elaboration strategy are outlined below.
- Read the vocabulary word and definition.
- Paraphrase the definition because putting the definition into one's own words aids in understanding the meaning and in remembering the definition.
- Develop a picture that represents the definition in some way.
- The picture should be drawn so there is a concrete representation to which the student may refer.
- Evidence suggests that the effectiveness of the strategy is not dependent on the quality of the picture or whether the student or facilitator draws it.
- Model the thinking process while considering how the picture elaborates the definition.
- Repeat the process for remaining vocabulary words.
- Practice recalling the definitions from the pictures for each word. Think of the picture when saying the word. Think of how the picture represents the word. Repeat the definition of the word.
- Practice until you can recall the definition by just hearing or seeing the word, without seeing the picture.
Three examples of visual elaboration are provided below.
- Term: Zenith
- Definition: A point directly overhead
- Elaboration: Draw a person's head with a Zenith TV over it
- Term: Batholith
- Definition: A large body of igneous rock that forms under the earth's surface
- Elaboration: Draw a large bathtub full of rocks under the earth's surface
- Term: Mao Tse-tung
- Definition: Leader of the Chinese Revolution
- Elaboration: Draw a person mowing the lawn, a person saying something, and a tongue
Running Concept Lists
The running concept lists strategy addresses the skill of memory recall of terms. Running concept lists are a versatile strategy that may be used for any subject of study. It is similar to the concept cards strategy, except that all terms are listed on one piece of paper rather than on separate cards. Compared to the concept cards method, running concept lists are more condensed forms of information but they are less manipulable.
To develop running concept lists, follow these directions. There are two formats for running concept lists, front-to-back and two-column.
- Write the term or concept on the front side of a sheet of notebook paper.
- On the reverse side of the paper, directly in line with the corresponding term listed on the front, write in your own words the main information or picture needed to recall the listed term.
- Put related terms or concepts on the same sheet of paper. For example, sheets could be arranged by major topic or by chapter. Color code each sheet according to course subjects for easy recall.
- An alternative to listing terms and memory aids on different sides of the paper is to put both on one side of paper in two columns, with the term in the left-hand column and the memory aids in the right-hand column.
An example of a running concept list for a Geography course is provided below. It is a list of South American countries and their capitals. This example is given in the front-to-back format of running concept lists and includes visual elaborations to aid memory.
||Lima - draw a lima bean
||Bogota - draw a bow and a goat
||Quito - draw a key and a tow truck
||Caracas - draw a car
An example of the two-column format of running concept lists is terms for a Biology course. Terms are written in the left-hand column and cue words are in the right-hand column.
||testable, educated guess
Rehearsal strategies are designed to hold new information in short-term memory long enough so that it may be committed to long-term memory. Remember, without rehearsal information fades from short-term memory in about one minute. The intention of rehearsal strategies is to provide students the skills for "active thinking." Rehearsal strategies help students do something with information to be learned.
When using rehearsal strategies, one must consider the quantity (how much) and quality (what kind) of rehearsal needed. The amount of rehearsal directly affects the amount of information available for storage in short-term memory. The kind of information to be learned directly affects the process and rehearsal strategy to be used.
Practice Makes Perfect ?!
Students should be taught to thoroughly check the accuracy of information to be rehearsed prior to beginning the process. Practice may indeed make perfect, but students may be practicing perfectly information that is inaccurate or incomplete.
Recitation and Review Strategies
The following strategies of recitation and review make rehearsal a more active process. Students should be encouraged to use more than the visual sense (reading) when reviewing information.
- Self-monitoring, or reading aloud to oneself or another person
- Read or speak into a tape recorder and listen to the tape while reviewing
- Provide rehearsal in a realistic context (e.g. study in the testing room, reduce interference)
- Daily distributed review, or spread sessions throughout the day
For more information on recitation and review, see the Reciting and Spacing Reviews section of this page.
To maintain focus, keep an ongoing checklist of studying: the types of problems to be solved, the skills to be mastered, and the major ideas, terms, theories, formulas, and equations to be memorized. Make the task descriptions as brief as possible.
Effective rehearsal involves doing something with new information. Several of the suggestions listed below may be used both for rehearsal (implanting information in short-term memory) as well as for encoding (implanting information in long-term memory). Some of the strategies are discussed in more detail in the Encoding and Retrieval page of the General-Purpose Learning Strategies main stack as well as elsewhere in this Memory Strategies page.
- Develop flash cards or concept cards
- Transfer notes into alternative note-taking formats
- Rewrite notes or enter them into a computer
- Develop questions on the material
- Use new terms in sentences or in a journal
- Work example problems
- Tutor or lecture another student
- Develop summaries or outlines of the material
According to Herrman, Raybeck and Gutman (1993, p. 91-92), "rehearsal is particularly useful for two kinds of situations: when you want to keep information in consciousness, but are not concerned about establishing a long-term memory; or when you are not motivated to use a more challenging or elaborate manipulation to establish a long-term memory." They suggest several rehearsal strategies for improving memory performance:
- Act out the information to be remembered. For example, when studying by yourself pretend to be a historical figure, or when studying with a group pretend to be atoms diffusing from an area of high concentration to an area of lower concentration.
- Articulary rehearsal involves repeating information syllable by syllable, noting the placement of the tongue at each stage.
- Rhythmic rehearsal entails repeating an item in a rhythmic manner, by syllables or with a beat.
- Spaced rehearsal involves repeating information aloud or mentally with increasing intervals of time between each repetition. For example, say "property depreciation," wait 1 second, repeat "property depreciation," wait 2 seconds, repeat "property depreciation," wait 4 seconds, repeat "property depreciation," wait 8 seconds, etc.
- Cumulative rehearsal involves repeating items in a list in successively larger groups, starting with the first item each time. For example, say "cell," then say "cell, tissue," then say "cell, tissue, organ," then say "cell, tissue, organ, system."
Reciting and Spacing Reviews
Frequent reciting and reviewing are powerful tools for fighting forgetting. The fact that most forgetting occurs within 24 hours of initial learning is a compelling reason to review and, thereby, to check such an "evaporation" of knowledge (Spitzer, 1993). In fact, only one minute of review after learning can double retention of information (Pauk, 1962).
Psychologists report that self-recitation, or reading aloud, is the most powerful defense against forgetting. There are several reasons why this is the case (Baron, Byrne and Kantowitz, 1977):
- Students are more purposeful and more intent on understanding the content when they hold themselves accountable immediately after reading.
- Recitation is multi-modal. In addition to seeing the material to be learned, the student also hears it while reciting aloud. The more senses involved in learning, the greater the chance of remembering. Similarly, writing while one recites is a judicious activity.
- Checking one's recitation against the material to be learned reveals any gaps or inaccuracies in knowledge at an early stage of learning when they can be easily remedied. Accurate initial learning is paramount.
- As one's mind actively "works over" the new material, the original neural trace (the brain's record of an experience) becomes more deeply etched in the brain. Thinking about and involving oneself with the learning results in ideas moving from short- to long-term memory.
- Since self-recitation is so effective, students will have a richer knowledge base to which even more new information may be linked. Memory, therefore, is a self-reinforcing process.
Recitation and review should only be done after the student has decided how ideas are related and has recorded these relationships. In other words, one must understand the material and the relationships within the material before committing it to memory.
To make recitation and review more effective, schedule study sessions for short periods of time. This helps to avoid boredom and loss of attention. These short reviews should be spread out throughout the day to maximize remembering. In sum, short and frequent reviews are the key to remembering!
For more information on reciting and spacing reviews, see the Spacing Reviews in the Encoding and Retrieval page.
Breaking the Normal Pattern
This is the old "tie a string around your finger" approach to remembering. With this strategy, one creates an abnormal circumstance that is mentally linked to some information and that serves to jog one's memory.
Breaking the normal pattern often involves actually doing something. However, if it is not possible to perform an action, thinking of something outlandish in connection with the information to be remembered may be effective.
Breaking the normal pattern is used for remembering one item or task, particularly when a written reminder will not be sufficient or memory must span a long period of time. Encourage students to try the strategy by asking them to share their own experiences about some things they missed or forgot because there was nothing to remind them.
Directions for breaking the normal pattern in order to remember things are as follows.
- Identify the task or information to be remembered.
- Pick an action or mental picture that will help to remember the task or information. Make the mental picture as vivid as possible to ensure remembering.
- Rehearse the action or mental picture a few times.
Three examples of breaking the normal pattern in order to remember are given below.
- Remember to take a certain book to school the next day by turning the sleeve of a coat inside out.
- For students who always forget to write their names on their papers, they could tell themselves, "When I get my test paper, my pen will not write until I've put my name on each page of the test." Then they make a mental picture of this.
- A student may tell him/herself, "When I put on my tennis shoes in the morning, I will remember to sign up for gym class."
The RCRC strategy (Read, Cover, Recite, Check) is used for studying information carefully or memorizing information (REFERENCE). It helps to study definitions, factual information, math facts like multiplication tables, and foreign language translations.
The steps in the RCRC strategy are listed below.
- Read: Read and reread a portion of the information.
- Cover: Cover the material with a piece of paper.
- Recite: Recite what you have read in your own words.
- Check: Check the accuracy of recitation against the written material.
The LINC strategy (Label, Indicate, Note, Cue) is an instructional routine teachers use to facilitate students' memory of concepts and associated facts (REFERENCE). It aids in content-area instruction for a variety of subjects.
The four steps of the LINC strategy are summarized below.
- Label the critical features of the new information.
- "Here's what you need to remember ... "
- Indicate the remembering device.
- "Here's a way to remember it ... "
- Note how the device can be used to facilitate memory.
- "Here's how I use the device ... "
- Cue students to elaborate on the device. Later, provide cues on tests and assignments.
- "How will you use the device?"
An example of the LINC strategy involves helping students remember nine systems of the human body.
- "You need to remember the nine systems of the human body."
- "One way to remember them is to alphabetize and group the systems."
- "The way to do this is to arrange the systems in alphabetical order and then look for patterns in the ordered list. The alphabetical list is: circulatory, digestive, endocrine, excretory, lymphatic, musculoskeletal, nervous, respiratory, and reproductive. Cluster these items into three groups: one group starts with c-d-e, one group starts with l-m-n, and the rest start with r."
- "You can use this memory device on the test by dumping the c-d-e, l-m-n, and r memory cues on the paper as soon as you get it. Then fill in the rest of the words. You can remember that there are nine systems because you are in the ninth grade."
Poor memory performance sometimes may be linked to lack of awareness or attention to the memorization process. Memory awareness activities attempt to increase awareness of the encoding, storage, and retrieval components of remembering.
Increasing memory awareness involves several steps.
- The learner should be introduced to the basic process of memory and the causes of memory failure (see the Background Information on Memory section of this page).
- The learner should evaluate his/her memory performance for a variety of tasks in order to assess where strengths and deficits exist.
- The learner tries specific strategies to address memory deficits.
The following exercises are designed to improve one's awareness of short-term and long-term memory.
- Short-term Memory Awareness Exercise
- Phone Numbers: Give the student a phone book and ask him/her to look up a certain number. Wait 15 seconds and have the student dial the number on a child's play phone. Ask the student how he/she remembered the number.
- Long-term Memory Awareness Exercise
- Pushbutton Phone: Hand out a blank pushbutton phone configuration. Ask the student to fill in the numbers (0-9) on the appropriate buttons. Ask the student to locate the * and # buttons. Ask the student to fill in the alphabet letters on the appropriate buttons. This strategy is very helpful in reinforcing the fact that repetition alone does not necessarily result in remembering, but that one needs to intend to remember in order to do so.
Organizational skills are essential to most learning processes, and memory is no exception. The ability to effectively organize information is one of the critical skills needed for remembering.
There are two essential ways of organizing information.
- These learners tend to prefer logical, orderly, linear, and sequential organizational tools.
- Examples of organizational tools that may be effective for left-brain learners include running concept lists, concept cards, and outlines.
- These learners tend to prefer creative, pattern-making, visual, and intuitive organizational tools.
- Examples of organizational tools that may be effective for right-brain learners include visual association, chaining, and rhymes.
It is important to note that the left:right dichotomy is not always as "cut and dry" as it seems. Some students are combinations of the two, while other students use one or the other for different situations.
For more information on organization strategies, see other strategy descriptions in this page as well as the Organization Strategies page.