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Strategies for Improving Memory

Test success often relies on a good memory. While it's very important to help your child find the right structure for his test review, you can also help him improve his memory. The key to memory retention is to get the mind and the senses highly involved in order to help move information from the short-term memory into the long-term memory. As you work with your child on memorizing and retaining information, integrate color, touch, sound, and verbal processing. Here's how:

1. Integrate color. Use colored flash cards, colored pencils, or a rainbow of highlighters. Before you start reviewing, have your child identify specific colors for themes, details, concepts, and arguments.

2. Integrate visuals. Children should be given a visual representation of the information they are learning as often as possible -- it can even be as simple as a circle drawing. When working with an outline or a map structure, have your child use shapes rather than numerals to highlight information.

3. Integrate verbal processing. Let the kid talk! There is far too much emphasis on the necessity of a quiet learning environment. Many kids feel the need to "talk it out" when learning new information. Give your child a tape recorder, so that she may record herself as she studies. Talk with her about what will be on the test before the review begins, then talk it out again halfway through the review, and once again at the end of the review. Let her talk to herself if she needs to when studying. Quiet time is overrated!

4. Integrate touch. Yes, there is such a thing as tactile or kinesthetic memory. Touch and movement can help stimulate memory. Encourage your child to work at a big table so that he can lay out the material, group flash cards, or build models. Most importantly, let your child move around while studying. Have him trace concepts with his hands, draw concept maps on a white-board, walk around when reciting information, and lastly, let him chew gum or drink liquids. Believe it or not, all of these activities can engage his physical memory system.

5. Integrate application. One of the biggest misconceptions for many kids is that they think simply reading over the information will be adequate preparation for a test. But reading information is not what will be tested - they'll have to apply that information. Encourage your child to create tests for herself, and most importantly, when working with a math concept or a formula, create problems for her to solve.

6. Integrate visualization. I know this one may sound a little New Age-y (trust me, I think so too!), but for some minds, visualization is the key to memory. For every piece of information that your child is attempting to memorize, have him think of a picture for it -- whatever comes to mind. It takes 30 seconds, but it's often the key to long-term memory.

7. Integrate mnemonics. This is the opposite of visualization, but it's great for kids who are linguistic. When working with a linguistic learner, have her think of a rhyme or a catchy wordplay to associate with a set of terms or ideas. This allows kids to store the information through a mnemonic device -- an age-old strategy for retention. This memory technique is very effective for some kids, but not so great for a kid like me who can't hear rhyme as result of a deficit of phonetic awareness (i.e., dyslexia).

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