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Improving Memory and Reading

Handouts and Manual

 

Click the above link to view Word documents for all the handouts and the Instructor Manual for this chapter. 

 

Memory Pre and Post Test

 

To introduce the topic of memory techniques, use the Memory Test handout to do a Memory Pre and Post Test to involve students actively in the topic.  After the memory test, present the information on memory and forgetting. 

 

To begin this exercise, tell students that you will be giving them a memory test with two parts.  For the first part, advise students to relax and to do their best and to look at the exercise as a personal challenge.  Before the second part of the test, you will provide the students with three memory techniques to improve scores on the test. 

 

Part I

Ask students to put paper and pencils away.  Tell them that you will read a list of 15 words, pausing 5 seconds between each word.  After reading the words to the students, they will be asked to write down as many as they can remember. They do not have to write the words down in order.  Keep the environment as non-threatening as possible.  Refer to the exercise as a challenging and fun game. 

 

Read the words clearly, pausing 5 seconds between each word.  The pausing for 5 seconds is important since students will have the opportunity to store the information in long-term memory.  When you finish the last word, ask students to write as many words as they can remember.  When everyone is finished, read the words to check the answers.  Have each student count the number correct.  Ask for a show of hands of those who got all l5 correct.  This rarely happens.  Ask for a show of hands for those who got l4 correct and so on down the line.  It is helpful to tally these results on the board.  Usually you will have several people who get 11, l2 or 13 correct.  Ask these people if they will volunteer to share their techniques for remembering.  Usually you can discuss these techniques: visualization, organization and repetition.  You can make the game even more fun by giving surprise rewards (college pencils, etc.) to those who score high and volunteer to share their memory techniques.

 

Word List for Part I:

dog                 horse

strawberry      carrots

cow                 apple

onion               chicken

orange            corn

squash            grapefruit

rat                    celery

plum

 

Part II

After discussing the memory techniques of visualization, organization and repetition, read this new list asking students to apply the memory techniques discussed.  Provide organization by announcing these three categories to the students: sea creatures, kitchen utensils, and tools.  Ask students to visualize the words as they are read.  For example, visualize the sea creatures in an aquarium.  Set the kitchen utensils on a table.  Put the tools in your toolbox or picture yourself using the tools. Put action and color into the pictures.  Mention that repetition helps.  We need to keep these words in our minds for at least 5 seconds to become part of long-term memory.  Again read these words and pause 5 seconds between the words:

 

Word List Two:

                        Sea Creatures                       Kitchen Utensils                    Tools

                        Shark                                      Plate                                       Drill

                        Starfish                                   Cup                                         Nail

                        Tuna Fish                               Sugar Bowl                            Wrench          

                        Eel                                          Knife                                       Saw

                        Crab                                       Drinking Glass                       Screwdriver

 

Ask students to write down the words they can recall.  When they are finished, read the list again to check the answers.  The list may be out of order, which is OK.  Again tally the results on the board.  Usually there is a big improvement over the first test.  Ask for a show of hands on how many improved their scores over the first test.  Usually a majority of students improve their results on the second test.    

 

Change the word list to match the experience of your students.  If they are not likely to be familiar with sea creatures, invent a new category more likely to be familiar with the students.  Categories can be adjusted to match the different cultures, experiences and geographical areas reflected in your students’ experience.  With students who pay good attention, you can read the second word list out of order (not in categories) and students will still be able to use the categories to improve their scores. 

 

Some video clips can be used to illustrate memory techniques:

·        Visualization and Repetition: Use the scene from “Forrest Gump” on how to play ping-pong.

·        Repetition and Motivation: Use the scene from “Stand and Deliver” with teacher helping students to learn math.

 

Memory Scenarios

 

Use the Memory Scenarios handout for group discussion.  Break students into groups and assign each group one or more of these questions.  Have each group share their best ideas with the entire class. 

 

  1. You just read the assigned chapter in economics and cannot remember what you read.  It went in one ear and out the other.
  2. In your anatomy and physiology class, you are required to remember the scientific name for 100 different muscles in the body. 
  3. You signed up for a philosophy class because it meets general education requirements.  You are not interested in the class at all. 
  4. You have a mid-term in your literature class and have to read 400 pages in one month. 
  5. You must take American history to graduate from SDSU.  You think that history is boring. 
  6. You have been introduced to an important business contact and would like to remember his/her name.
  7. You are enrolled in an algebra class.  You continually remind yourself that you have never been good at math.  You don’t think that you will pass this class. 
  8. You have noticed that your grandmother is becoming very forgetful.  You want to do whatever is possible to keep your mind healthy as you age. 

 

Using a Peg System for Visualization and Association

 

One of the key ideas in the chapter is learning to use visualization to improve memory.  Use the peg system as described in the text to practice visualization as well as association.  Ask the students to suggest 10 items for a grocery list.  Write these items on the board.  Write or display the list of pegs beside the grocery list.  Make a visual association between the first item on the list and the first peg.  Have students suggest these visual associations.  Here is a sample grocery list and the pegs:

 

milk                 bun

eggs               shoe

bread              tree

butter              door

lettuce             hive

tomatoes        sticks

ice cream       heaven

hamburger     gate

mustard          wine

potato chips   hen

 

First, have students make a visual association with milk and bun.  For example, students could picture dipping a bun into milk.  Ask students to remember this picture.  Next, make an association with eggs and shoe.  As a joke, picture breaking eggs into a shoe.  Again ask students to remember the picture.  Unusual or humorous pictures and associations are easier to remember, so ask students to share their creative ideas and encourage these visualizations.   Continue down the list making associations with the grocery list and the pegs.  At the next class meeting, write or display the pegs and ask students to recall the mental picture and the grocery list.  If this activity is done as a class group, all the pictures and items are usually easily recalled the following week. 

 

If you have several classes and grocery lists, you may want to write the list and associations down on paper and review them yourself before class.  The problem with this technique is that you will get confused between the lists for each class.  It is probably easier to write down your grocery list.  However, this exercise is valuable in that it illustrates how to visualize and associate. 

 

Extra Credit Card Trick

 

This card trick takes advantage of short term memory.  See the Card Trick file and Explanation using memory theory.        

 

Mnemonics Exercise

 

Use the Practice with Mnemonics handout as a group exercise.  Here are some possible answers:

 

Planets of the solar system according to distance from the sun:  Man Very Early Made Jars Serve Useful Needs Period (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto)

Also:  My Very Elegant Mother Just Served Us Nine Pickles.

           Molesting Virgins Equals Maximum Jail Sentence Under New Policy.

           My vampire eats marshmallows just sitting under new planets.

           My very eager monster just sat under Nick's Porch.

           Miss Vicki eats many juicy strawberries under Nancy's porch. 

The excretory organs of the body can be represented by the acronym SKILL (skin, kidneys, intestines, liver and lungs). 

 

 

Exercise on Reading Habits

 

In order to illustrate the point that college reading involves learning some new habits, you can have students do some simple exercises.  First ask students to fold their arms across their chests.  Do this exercise with the students. Then ask them to notice which arm is on top.  Survey the class to see how many have the right arm on top and how many have the left arm on top.  Next ask them to reverse the order of their arms.  If the right arm was on top, next time put the left arm on top.  If the left arm was on top, put the right on top.  You will notice your students pausing to concentrate on which arm goes on top. Some students will struggle momentarily and have to think about it.  It feels awkward to change.  Habits are very strong and it takes attention and concentration to change them.  Reading involves learned habits as well.  In this chapter, new and more effective reading habits are suggested.  It takes attention, concentration and practice to start new and better reading habits.

 

Another similar exercise involves folding your hands with the fingers interlocked so that one thumb is on top.  Some students naturally have the right thumb on top and some put the left thumb on top.  Ask the students with the right thumb on top to raise their hands.  Ask the students with the left thumb on top to raise their hands.  Ask them to fold their hands again, reversing which thumb is on top.  It takes some effort and concentration to do this. 

 

 See the Big Picture Puzzle Exercise

 

In the chapter on reading and memory, students are encouraged to survey or skim the chapter to see the big picture before they start reading.  If students read without surveying, it is like trying to put a puzzle together without the picture.  Purchase about 5 children’s puzzles and put them in plastic bags.  Form small groups to put the puzzles together.  Give a prize or extra credit points to the group that finishes first.  Discuss this question: Would it have been easier if you had a picture to follow before you started to put the puzzle together? 

 

Textbook Skimming Exercise

 

Talking or reading about textbook skimming is not enough to start a new habit of skimming a text.  Describe how to skim a textbook and give the students 10 minutes to skim the text.  It is important to time the process and emphasize speed since this is a new behavior for many students.  You will notice some students trying to read every word.  You can do the Textbook Skimming handout as a classroom exercise. 

 

If you are short on time, give the students 5 minutes to find 3 interesting topics in the book.  Call on students at random to share interesting ideas.  In a short time, your class will give a good overview of ideas they find interesting.  This is a good motivational exercise to do early in the semester.

 

 

Chapter Surveying Exercise

 

After describing the survey and question part of SQ4R, have the students quickly survey a future chapter. It helps to provide a few examples from the text before beginning.  Select some subheadings and ask the students to suggest a question. Time this exercise for 5 to 7 minutes.  Remind students to turn pages quickly if you see some students moving very slowly.  Use the Survey and Question a Chapter handout as a classroom exercise or simply ask the students to look at the bold subheadings and turn them into questions. Again call on students at random to share their questions.  This exercise provides a good overview of a future chapter.

 

Use the Super-Fast Chapter Survey located at the end of the chapter to review this idea and to quickly introduce the topics in a future chapter. 

 

 

Group Activity: Make a Mind Map

 

Demonstrate on the board how to make a mind map.  A good subject for the demonstration mind map is the information on how to mark a textbook.  This demonstration is illustrated in the Power Point presentation that accompanies this chapter.  Put students in a small group and ask them to make a mind map of one section of the book.  Encourage students to use drawings or different colors in their mind maps.   It has worked well for students to make a mind map of the section on how the memory works.  A sample is in the PowerPoint presentation for this chapter.  Walk around the room looking at student's work and ask 2-3 groups to write their mind maps on the board.  Select a variety of styles to be written on the board.  Post the other mind maps on the bulletin board.  This is a great reading technique and reinforces principles of memory.  It is also a way to recognize some of the creative students in your class. 

 

Summarize Your Reading Skills

 

For the printed edition, use the Check Your Textbook Reading Skills and Becoming an Efficient Reader handouts as summary activities on the topic of reading.  These exercises are integrated into the online edition. 

 

For Online Classes:

 

Online Discussion Question

 

Read the following situations and comment on one of them using ideas from the chapter on memory and reading.    

 

  1. You just read the assigned chapter in economics and cannot remember what you read.  It went in one ear and out the other.
  2. In your anatomy and physiology class, you are required to remember the scientific name for 100 different muscles in the body. 
  3. You signed up for a philosophy class because it meets general education requirements.  You are not interested in the class at all. 
  4. You have a mid-term in your literature class and have to read 400 pages in one month. 
  5. You must take American history to graduate from SDSU.  You think that history is boring. 
  6. You have been introduced to an important business contact and would like to remember his/her name.
  7. You are enrolled in an algebra class.  You continually remind yourself that you have never been good at math.  You don’t think that you will pass this class. 
  8. You have noticed that your grandmother is becoming very forgetful.  You want to do whatever is possible to keep your mind healthy as you age.