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Saturday, 7 January 2012

Using the Senses to Memorise and Learn

Does your child have difficulties in memorising things? For younger children it could be for remembering letters, numbers, words, colours or shapes. For older children perhaps it is for his or her exams. Whatever the reason, one way to help with memorisation is to use the senses. However, regardless of whether your child has a preferred mode of learning, the more senses you use then the more pathways to recall that the child has. For example, your child could be a visual learner and can recall images easily but if you have taught him in all modes then when the child hears a word or sense a movement this can quickly trigger the image associated with the sound or action.

Below are ways to help your child use his/her senses to help him/her memorise and learn:

1.       Using the visual sense: For this method your child would need to see the word, object or whatever it is he is learning. This is why many teachers use flashcards and charts for letters or words with associated pictures. Better yet, present the object in front of the child so that he can have a 3 dimensional visual. For older children other visual aids such as diagrams and mindmaps would help to memorise things.

However, just seeing these things is not enough. The child would need to commit these images into his memory by creating visual imagery and practice recalling them. For example, if the child is learning to memorise the sight word ‘see’ then show him the word ‘see’ and let him close his eyes and picture the word ‘see’ and a pair of eyes. You could even write the word ‘see’ with a drawing of a pair of eyes and let the child memorise this. Now test your child’s recall by asking him to close his eyes and try to picture the word and image for ‘see’ in his mind then ask him to spell it or write it. The other way to test is to show the flashcard word and ask your child to read it.

Visual imagery can be used to remember anything – to remember to call your mum just picture your mum’s face and a mobile phone and the next time you see a mobile phone insha Allah your mum’s face should pop up. To remember your new spouse’s favourite meal just picture his favourite meal on his shoulder and every time you see his shoulder the image of the meal should appear. Imagery is powerful and the ways to use it is almost limitless.

2.       Using the auditory sense: For this method your child would need to hear it said out loud from you as well as say it out loud himself. Not only can your child say it but he can also rhyme it, rap it or sing it. Using the example for the visual from above, to teach your child to spell and read the word ‘see’ you could make up a rhyme or song. For example, I actually use the ‘see’ song from ’25 Super Sight Word Songs and Mini Books’ by Joan Mancini: S-e-e, s-e-e, I can spell see, I can spell see, I see my friends sitting next to me, I see my teacher smiling at me, I see the letters ABC, s-e-e, s-e-e. This song is sung to the tune of ‘Three Blind Mice’. Subhanallah, my kindergartners remember this song long after we have finished singing it and can all spell it. There are many learning songs that I have taught children and I am constantly amazed by their recall.

Older children would love to make their own rhymes and raps. Or simply, let them find a quiet place to read out loud what it is they are trying to learn so that they can hear the words.

3.       Using the kinaesthetic sense: For this method your child would need to feel it, touch it and move with it. For example, when presenting a 3 dimensional object as a visual let the child touch it and feel it. Writing it is both a visual and a movement. Don’t just talk to the child, let him do something. For the above ‘see’ example, every time they read and say the word, they also point to their eyes to indicate seeing or what my kindergartners like to do is to put their hand above their eyes and move the arm out. They just like this movement and associate it with seeing.

Older children can take notes or summarise in writing. They could also act it out or go through ‘doing’ the set of procedures, instructions or experiments.


Now let me demonstrate how I use all of children’s senses in teaching the letter k and its’ sound to my prekindies:

Visual: I use charts and flashcards so that the children will see the shape of the letter as well as the picture associated with the beginning sound. I write the letter on the board so that they can see how it is formed. They draw pictures of things that start with the sound k especially a kangaroo (I show them how to do a simple one).

Audio: I say it, the children say it. We sing the phonic song for the letter (for example, see ‘Jolly Phonics’). We would also sing a kangaroo song that has movement to it.

Kinaesthetic: If the picture was a kangaroo then we’d jump like a kangaroo. I draw a big k on the ground with chalk and children jump like a kangaroo along the letter. The children air write, they trace and write the letter in their books and they make k with playdough. They also make a kangaroo craft with a k on it.

Smell and taste: If it was the letter p then we would make popcorn and eat it! This is an added bonus as the sense of smell and taste are also used.

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