Beyond Games: Study Methods That Improve Memory

study methods that improve working memory

“I studied for that test for hours and I still couldn’t remember anything!” Sound familiar? Unless you have good reason to believe otherwise, your child is most likely telling the truth.

Many students feel like no matter how many hours or how much effort they put into studying, they just can’t do well on tests. Fortunately, there are a number of study methods that can improve a child’s recall for test-taking and may well be the difference between a failing and passing grade. In this edition of the LearningWorks for Kids Beyond Games series, we’ve gathered up 5 study methods that improve memory.

Break it up. Study something over the course of a week rather than all in one night. Distributed learning is generally better for memorization than cramming. Studies have shown that cramming is not an effective tool for learning, although being tested may help in the acquiring of knowledge. A child might benefit from conducting a short review of what he has studied or read after completing it in order to consolidate his memories of the material.

Teach it.  One of the best strategies for recall is to share information and knowledge.  Sometimes before teaching someone we review the material so that we remember it better than before, especially since we need to explain the information in a very clear fashion to others. Even in an informal setting, like a study group, just trying to explain materials and concepts to others can point out gaps in our knowledge or connections we haven’t quite made. Going back and checking material to properly explain helps reinforce what we already know.

Type it up. Have the child study information they need to remember by writing a summary. Typing may be more useful if they want to edit or add something later. Instead of handwriting as they are reading, take notes on Google Docs or another cloud-based word processing program.  This way they can go back and change what they’ve written or move it around. Typing what they want to remember helps them distill information and figure out what is most important.

Talk it out.  Go beyond typing or writing and use a dictation program like Siri or Dragon Dictation on the phone, tablet, or computer to verbally summarize what needs to be recalled later. By using dication, a child will not only need to verbalize information in a way that makes sense, they will be able to see that information in text as well. Even if they make a mistake in dictation or Siri or Dragon doesn’t understand them, when they go back to check it and review their notes, they will be studying even more just by organizing their notes.

Stick to what works. Use study methods that have been proven to be effective to improve recall. Believe it or not, large studies involving thousands of students have determined that common strategies such as re-reading or underlining notes do not work for most people. But if they do work for a child, there’s no reason to try something else. We suggest proven strategies like asking “why?” and then explaining and connecting new information in relation to what you already know, practice testing, studying over time, and mixing present and past material.


Featured image: Flickr user k4dordy

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