5 Steps To Better Memory And Understanding
Practice makes permanent. This is what we've become conditioned to say in recent years. It's a true statement no doubt, but what kind of practice are we talking about? And, how do we teach our students to practice to attain better memory, understanding, and ultimately deeper learning?
Here's the method I use:
1. Get Good Sleep
The brain uses a lot of energy, which produces a lot of waste products. This waste is made up of toxins that can destroy brain cells unless they are removed. The buildup of toxins makes it hard to focus. The toxins are flushed out during sleep when the brain relaxes. If you don't sleep enough, toxins build up. A tired brain and a toxic brain doesn’t work very well, so learning is harder.
Check out this Sleep Infographic.
2. Use The KISS Method
When you multitask, you split your attention between different tasks and end up being less productive. You have the illusion of accomplishing several things at once, but in reality (and this is proven by many scientific studies) each time you switch to a new task additional mental energy is burned, you are more stressed, and less efficient.
So Keep It Simple Stupid! Complete one task, take a break, and start the next thing on the list.
Keys to staying focused:
- Stick to one task at a time - multitasking slows you down.
- Prioritize - make a list of 3-6 things to accomplish and rank them in order of importance.
- Use the Pomodoro Technique - use 25 minute chunks to completely focus on only one objective.
Check out this Beat Procrastination Infographic.
4. Space It Out
This one is all about deciding how much time you want to devote to studying for the upcoming quiz or test and distributing it over several days (or weeks if you know that far in advance).
Say you have a test on Friday. Normally, you might study for 3 hours the night before. But what if you studied for 1 hour each on Monday and Tuesday, and 30 minutes each on Wednesday and Thursday? You still get 3 hours of learning in, but now you’ve given your brain more time to absorb, process, and link information.
5. Mix It Up
Changing up WHAT you study, WHERE you study, and HOW you study helps your brain form stronger connections. When you mix it up, the information is stored in different parts of your brain. As a result you remember, understand, and use information better. This may surprise you as we often rely on routines to get things done. Mixing it up when learning leads to more neural connections forming between different brain parts, which in turn leads to improved memory and understanding.
Check out this Mix It Up Infographic.
I write about these 5 strategies in more detail in my book "Crush School". I wrote it so parents and teachers help students learn. It's a book that doesn't suck: it's easy to read and the chapters are short and to the point.
Grab a copy and use it to teach students how to learn.
You have the power to change the world. Use it often.