Since memory is essential for learning, it is important to use techniques in the classroom that help students use their memories effectively. Luckily, there are many helpful techniques available for working towards this goal.
Improving Working Memory
Teachers can help students improve their working memory by giving directions using both text and images, which is called dual coding. Teachers can repeat the directions a few times and go over the material more than once to make sure students understand it and encode it in their working memory in a way that makes sense. Providing students with lecture notes when the lecture is covering new material also helps students encode the information in an effective way. This allows students to read and listen actively, which makes them more active learners.
Before students store information in their long-term memory, they need to use their working memory to help them encode and consolidate the knowledge. Tools such as acronyms, mnemonics, songs, and movement help students to understand the material and develop cues for later retrieval. Fynes-Clinton, Marstaller, and Burianová note that students also need to have a fair level of contextual detail involved for information to be taken to students’ long-term memory. Adding in contextual detail and retrieval cues while students are using their working memory can prepare students to move the information to their long-term memory.
Improving Long Term Memory
Teachers can improve long-term memory by providing repeated review and retrieval of material. Students need to retrieve the information frequently: right after learning, the next day, the next week, the next month, and even the next school year. This constant retrieval ensures that students are keeping the knowledge they need in their long-term memory. Some of the ways to enhance this repeated review include spaced review, loop review, brain dumps, songs, movement, novelty, action, mnemonics, graphic organizers, and peer teaching.
Other things teachers can do in the classroom to boost working and long-term memory, according to Wintes, Saksidaab and Bussey, are repetitions, organized space, frequent breaks, review sessions, object recognition, and songs for remembering facts. Low-stake quizzes can also help students by allowing them to get the information out of their brains to think on paper.
Factors that Affect Memory
There are also many factors outside of the classroom that can impede students’ working and long-term memory, such as lack of sleep, stress, anxiety, trauma, depression, thyroid problems, vitamin B-12 deficiency, alcohol and drug abuse, certain types of medication, head injuries, brain diseases, physical illness, mental issues, and lack of oxygen. Teachers can help their students’ memories by watching for these issues in their students and by encouraging students to take healthy steps at home such as sleeping well, eating healthy meals, and taking care of their mental and spiritual health.