Using as Many senses as we can when learning can help us remember more efficiently and effectively!
‘I’m going to be so annoyed with myself when I hear the answer… I know I have heard this and I should know it!’
At present, during lock down I’m using this phrase several times a week, because of all the online quizzes we are doing!
Have you ever experienced this? When you know you know the answer and when you just can’t find it in your head?
When you see a picture of someone, but it’s out of context and just can’t place them?
When you hear the lines from a song, you can kind of hear the tune in your head but just can’t put it together?
Or when a question is about naming the year events happened, you can remember the events clearly, were probably even at some, but just can’t find the year!
And then of course, there is the whole remembering after it’s too late and the answers are already submitted!
Do any of you feel this pain? Well if you do, this is what it is like in the classroom ALL the time for kids with processing and working memory difficulties!
Another example I noticed was when I was out running! I realised how we rely on seeing and hearing for remembering.
The well known Beach Boys song ‘God only knows,’ started playing, not the beach boys version but the BBC Radio 2 version that has a different star singing every line… as I was running, I set myself the challenge in my head of naming the voices of the people, successfully at first but… then I heard a stars voice that I knew, I knew, but couldn’t place it, couldn’t name it! No time to think as the track obviously kept playing and the next line was sung with a different voice and the moment had passed! I kept naming as the track played and by the end there were several I Knew, I knew, but just couldn’t place! As I kept running and it nagged away at me, who were those voices, well known and I knew I should know who they were but just couldn’t place them! Frantically using strategies in my head, thinking of concerts I’d watched, songs I liked, things I had seen with music in, interviews I’d watched… but No still couldn’t place them!
I was tempted to google the names when I got home as that would be easy but it got me thinking … this is what it feels like for kids ALL the time in the classroom who can’t think quickly! Do we give them time to think, process or work out stuff and experience success before we move on? In fact do we even notice at the time, and if we do notice, do we offer them Google, or reexplain a task, or provide them with the opportunity to listen again?
… and I kept thinking, if I was watching the video of the song and could only see the faces but hear no voice, would I have been more successful? Or if I could hear the song and see the faces at the same time what would my success rate be then? Or if I could have listened to just the voice I didn’t know on repeat would that have helped? If I’d have been in a quiz with an infinite amount of time would I be more successful!?
Information is stored in our heads in hundreds and hundreds of virtual filing cabinets… all linked together in one way or another, but some more efficient than others! Sometimes it’s going to depend on what your previous knowledge and understanding of something is as to where you file and link that information! We learn by linking new information to experiences and knowledge we already know and remember by constantly following the same path to this info? Information in filing cabinets can be anything from an image, a phrase, an experience, picture, a memory a smell, a feeling… but I can guarantee you the most powerful rememberings will be ones where more than one sense was employed!
When information is taken out of context… you need time to try and find it, but you also have to remember where you have filed it!
That’s why quizzes can be frustrating and hard… everything is out of context and not necessarily linked in a way you can get at quickly, or find at all…
Now there is no magic wand and I can’t suddenly solve the quiz question knowing for you, or make your processing quicker but what I can do is encourage you when teaching or working with your kids to use MULTISENSORY learning and experience wherever you can!
It is really important for successful learning and retrieval!
The more senses we can actively use and the more ways we can learn and remember something, the clearer the pathways are to get at and find the information! The more times we hear information and the more chances we have to securely remember and learn something the more successful we will be!
Alongside this we also need to be given the TIME and strategies to file and find this information independently or we will NEVER learn for ourselves and form our own pathways and connections to retrieve the knowledge! Use what you know to work out what you don’t!
Just food for thought!
So the next time you feel that frustrated feeling… when you KNOW you KNOW but just CAN’T remember… spare a thought for the kid with working memory and processing difficulties in a classroom expected to keep up with everyone else!
Realise how resilient they are, but also how fragile their confidence may be because they are rarely experiencing success! If you are supporting your child at home give them the TIME they need to think and process and teach them using as many senses as possible and you will be amazed at how much MORE they remember and how much their confidence and self esteem grows.
author of Don’t Forget To Smile – A Memoir Uncovering the Hidden difficulties of Dyslexia. Available on Amazon