We all wish to possess good memory, and children, especially, need this gift during exams. But the fact is, and this should be encouraging for teenagers, who are under constant pressure to perform, there is no such thing as being born with good or poor memory. At the most, one can have untrained memory that just needs to be trained. For teens, this memory training can happen by introducing them to specific methods which can sharpen their memory. Also, they should be made aware of the types of memory and the different aids that can be used to improve the process of remembering. These aids can be dropped once the retention of a particular exercise becomes automatic. Some adolescent children may even devise strategies of their own to remember facts and concepts once they become familiar with the basic aids.
Types of memory
The three types of memory are sensory, working or short-term and long-term memory. A brief look at each of them will help you understand memory processing better.
Sensory: The information first goes into your sensory memory, where it is briefly recorded. The colour of a car passing by on a highway, an unusual looking tree, and a picture in a magazine – all these things will be quickly replaced by fresh sensory information if nothing is done with this information in the mind.
Working/short-term memory: If you focus your attention on a specific piece of information such as the colour of a car, it may become a part of your working or short-term memory. Here, it survives longer than in the sensory memory as the information is accessed and used from here.
Long-term memory: Long-term memory, on the other hand, is like a safety deposit box in a bank. Once something is in there, it is locked up tight. You can use it whenever necessary. Your child’s face is information permanently stored in your long-term memory.
The key is to try and take lessons learnt from sensory memory to working memory or even into the long-term memory, depending upon the need.
What causes poor memory?
Teenagers may have poor memory because of various reasons. Let us take a look at some of them.
- Distraction: Teens should eliminate distractions when they are presented with information that they need to recall. For example, when they are revising, ensure that the television is switched off.
- Lack of focus or concentration: It is unlikely that adolescents will remember a person if their focus is not on the person they are being introduced to for the first time. Likewise, if they dream of holidays during study hours, they will take a longer time to finish their lessons.
- Lack of motivation: If teens do not find a lesson interesting, they will not concentrate enough while learning or revising it. It is natural that they will forget a lesson they consider boring or dull. A parent helping with the revision has to package the lesson appropriately and teach them techniques that will make learning fun. This will make it easier for them to remember what they learn.
- Stress: Emotional or physical stress, or even the stress of not having learnt certain lessons, will temporarily affect memory. In fact, a 30-minute nap after studies is also recommended. It is said to make the child ‘sleep’ on it and remember the lessons very well.Therefore, teach your teens to relax so that they do not forget whatever they have learnt.
Tips to improve memory
While learning, your teenager can use aids like Association, Visualization and Organization. He could use any one, or a combination, of these to remember important points.
Let us now look at each of these aids individually and see how they can be used to sharpen your teen's memory.
Association: The ability to link something that you already know with the information that you need to remember is called association. For example, one may use acronyms wherever possible to remember points. Who can forget that VIBGYOR represents the seven colours of the rainbow in order?
You may also use a combination of acronyms and sounds to remember certain information. For example, ‘BHAJan by a Zebra’ works nicely to remember the emperors of the Mughal Dynasty. In ‘BHAJan by a Zebra’, B stands for Babur, H for Humayun, A for Akbar and J for Jahangir. ‘An’ has been taken from Shah Jahan and the zebra is derived from ‘zeb’ in Aurangzeb.
A mnemonic like ‘ShahJ building the Taj’ is unlikely to ever make your teen forget who built the Taj Mahal! Children must use associations that they can remember easily, and these can be humorous or hilarious. The difficult name Arnold Schwarzenegger can be associated with Arnold Swords and Daggers or even Aruvaal Somashekaran! The illogical connection can actually help your child remember the difficult name as he learns to associate it with the funny name.
Visualization: Visualization is the ability to summon up a vivid and colourful picture in your mind's eye; basically, it is the process of forming mental images. Visualizing points in deep red, against a white background, helps to retain those points. Use humour and exaggeration to improve and enhance your teen’s mental imagery. For example, 'Timur the fierce' becomes 'Timur the timorous'. Forget logic. The child could remember the capital city Helsinki by remembering a sole object in Hell – a sink, brimming over with fins (Finland).
Organization: It is the ability to logically and systematically categorize information in the mind's eye. Help your teen follow the 5-step memory technique to read and master a book: Preview, Question, Read, State and Test (easily remembered as PQRST!).
- Preview: The first step involves briefly glancing through the material to get an overview of the subject. Your teen should read the summary, introductory paragraphs, picture headings, tables, charts and so on.
- Question: In the next step, he should ask questions like – What is the lesson trying to convey? What people/objects are involved in the lesson? He should also read the review questions at the end of the lesson to understand what information is necessary and should be retained.
- Read: Your teenager should read the text till the end without taking notes. Then, she should re-read the text, take notes and highlight the main points.
- State: Now, your adolescent should state the information he is learning and say aloud the answers to key questions. He should ask more questions while re-reading a chapter and read aloud the information he has noted.
- Test: In the final step, give your child a test to ensure that she has retained and understood the critical points. Frequent assessments will help her retain concepts effectively.
Organization, in simple terms, refers to a methodical study plan a child follows. This helps not only during regular study throughout the year, but also during revision before the exams.
With these basic memory-enhancing tips, remembering lessons will no longer be a hard task for your teen!
Ilango is a trainer offering unique services to corporate houses, academic institutions through his company, Ace Panacea.