The Three R's, Part 2
Aim for comprehension before memorization. If your child needs to remember arithmetic facts, let him first manipulate blocks or buttons to represent the numbers involved, and draw the equation in pictures. If he needs to understand evaporation, have him measure the level of water in a glass over the course of several days.
Teach your child to engage her senses. If she's learning to read, for example, have her trace letters with her finger while saying the sounds and looking at the symbols. A student viewing a map can describe it verbally and point to features of interest; students in a foreign language class can be taught to visualize the things they're learning to say.
Practice an activity to engrave it in memory. Instead of expecting your child to remember what he's told, do a run-through. Before the first day of class, for instance, have him practice copying homework assignments into a notebook. If an important test is coming up, create a mock exam for him to practice on.
Use humor. Encourage your child to associate the material with a funny or outlandish image. If "skittish" is one of his vocabulary words, have him imagine he's watching a school skit and sees that some of his classmates are nervous on stage.
Help your child create chants, rhymes, and raps to remember spelling rules, multiplication tables, and history facts. Rhythm makes information memorable.
Use acronyms and crazy phrases to remember a list of items. The acronym HOMES is often used to remember the Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior. And how could you forget the names of the planets (and their relative distances from the sun) once you've learned that "My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas"?
Keep "cheat sheets" on hand for reference. If the teacher gives her permission, help your child put together pages of grammar guidelines, math formulas, and foreign-language conjugation rules that he can use in class when needed.
Teach your child to highlight or underline important facts as he reads, and to re-read the underlined material.
Review test material early and often. Have your child focus on small amounts at a time, and periodically review what she's already mastered. Above all, don't cram.
Here's one approach that puts your child in charge: Copy material onto index cards, with a question on one side and the answer on the other. Your child reads each question and tries to answer it. If she can't, she reads the information on the other side, and places the card at the back of the deck. If she can, the card goes into the "I know it" pile. By starting with just a few cards, she'll cycle through them fast enough that she'll soon remember some, then all, of each answer.
Provide reminders to keep your child organized and ready to learn. Post a checklist by the front door - and have her keep a copy in her locker - to remind her of which day to bring sneakers and when her science project is due. Teach her to use a daily planner or electronic calendar, and help her develop a routine for checking it.
Explore memory techniques your child already uses. Does he form pictures in his mind as he reads, or whisper the text under his breath? Encourage him to build on whatever seems to work.
Be creative in using these memory strategies to help your child learn new information and retain it over time. With encouragement and practice, you may find him using them on his own.