Memory Strategies and Their Place in the Primary Classroom

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As a teacher, it is important to equip our students with strategies and knowledge to help them become functioning citizens once they leave the schooling system. Understanding memory, how it works, and different strategies for remembering information are extremely useful tools, not just for the classroom, but also for out in the real world too. There are many ways teachers can help their students retain and remember facts by presenting material in different ways. There are a number of memory strategies teachers can employ, mnemonic strategies, chunking, rhyming are all useful tools for both the classroom and the outside world. To successful use these strategies and teach them, one must first understand how our memories work, how to transfer working memory into our long-term memory and how and why exactly these memory strategies are helpful in storing our memories.

Memory:

The process of building memory involves three components: the senses, short-term memory and long-term memory. Information is received through and briefly held for a few seconds in the senses. This information is quickly lost if it’s not attended to. Attention is a mentally demanding process that chooses between relevant and irrelevant information. Sensory memory is information received by our senses, visual sensory and auditory sensory memories. Short-term or working memory is a mental storage space, which can store five to nine pieces of information at any one time. Long-term memory is the part of the memory system containing large amounts of data.

Working Memory:

The working memory can be described as our ‘mental workspace’. We receive information through sensory stimuli; the information is processed in the working memory, and then stored in the long-term memory. The ‘mental workspace’ has a limited capacity, and is used for cognitive tasks such as comprehension, learning and reasoning. In order for students to actively engage in learning connections between prior knowledge and new content must be explicit. Content must also be relevant and appeal to students’ interests otherwise it will not reach our ‘mental workspace’.

Long-Term Memory:

There are three main parts that encompass our Long-Term Memory, Episodic Memory, Semantic Memory and Procedural Memory. Episodic Memory stores memories for the past relating to personal experiences; these are specific to each individual’s life. Semantic Memory stores facts and generalised information in the form of plans, concepts, principles and rules. Episodic Memory stores information as images where Semantic Memory stores information as ‘mental files’ such as problem-solving skills. Procedural Memory refers to, ‘know how’, the ability to remember how to perform a task or employ a strategy. The primary strategy for transferring information from Working Memory to Long-Term Memory is referred to as encoding or elaboration. The key ingredient that facilitates long-term storage is meaningfulness. This term refers not to the inherent interest or worthiness of information, but rather to the degree to which it can be related to information already stored in our Long-Term Memory. We also have Implicit and Explicit Memories; Implicit Memory is defined as information that was encoded during a particular episode and Explicit Memory is used when recalling specific events.

Teaching Memory Strategies:

Teachers can help students to remember facts by presenting the material in different ways, breaking up lessons and providing engaging activities. Breaking activities into smaller segments helps students since students are known to have quite short attention spans. By breaking up lessons you only require their attention for smaller periods of time, they are more likely to stay engaged and we know that memories can only be stored when we are engaged, passive memories cannot be stored. Alternating among various types of class activities keep the students focused and also allowing opportunities for movement...
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