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3 Reasons Why Schools Don't Teach Memory Skills

Aug 17, 2007
Little Johnny's a first grader who comes home with vocabulary words to study. He has a quiz tomorrow. He tells mom and mom goes over the words with him for a couple of minutes. Once he gets them all right, she gives him a high five.

The next day comes, Johnny sits down for the quiz and remembers half of what he had studied. He brings the quiz home and mom says, "Darn, you knew them so well last night."

What happened?

Nothing surprising really. Johnny took an outdated approach to remembering information (rote memory) and didn't get the results he wanted. Since mom had studied the same way (rote memory), that's what she showed Johnny. When the next quiz comes around, she'll go over the words more times and chances are he'll do better. He won't like using the rote memory technique but, at least in elementary school, he won't complain too much.

Is there a better way? Of course. If Johnny's mother had learned memory strategies in school, she would now be passing them on to him. And, in first grade, he would be developing a set of skills that would have a major impact on his learning for the rest of his life.

But she didn't learn memory skills. So she shows him a way that she knew that "isn't the best" but it's the only way she knows.

What is the school's role in teaching memory skills? Well, on the face of it, it should be a major player. After all, schools give kids more content to remember and produce each year. The least they could do is offer an easy way to file and retrieve it.

why don't schools teach kids strategies so they can remember more easily? Here are three reasons why not.

1 - They never have and they aren't going to start now. You didn't learn memory skills in schools and neither did I. Every kid is expected to take home the information and come back ready to go. The ones that can do it with little fuss, get better grades and feel more confident. The ones that can't get left behind.

2 - It should be the teacher's responsibility, not the school's. From the school's perspective, teachers can use their time in class to show kids ways to remember material. From the teacher's perspective, THEY need to learn the strategies first before they can teach them. And for the moment, most schools don't have the time or the money.

3 - The No Child Left Behind Act is lurking. Teachers are being forced to cover more material, teach to the test and use every waking moment to get good grades on state tests. That leaves little or no time for creativity, exploration and offering skills like memory strategies to kids.

To be fair, some teachers touch on strategies for particular concepts. Yet, no one is showing kids an overall approach to taking in information that fits their learning style.

Imagine if a teacher could take some time during the year to look at the material with the class and present unique, interesting ways to remember it all. They would have a choice according to their likes and dislikes and would take ownership of their learning.

They would pick up on the techniques instantly and begin using them on their own. After awhile, the teacher would only need to mention a strategy and they would know what to do right away.

Well, don't hold your breath.

Schools have other things on their minds. It's up to parents to work with their kids if they want them to have a set of skills that make learning faster and easier.
About the Author
Jim Sarris is a veteran teacher and author of two books on memory Comic Mnemonics for Spanish Verbs and Memory Skills Made Easy, a book/DVD that helps students remember more of what they study. No struggles, no hassles, no headaches. For a free report and more information, visit Improve your memory.
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