It can be really difficult to support students who have difficulty remembering things. In particular, this happens so frequently with our students who have ADHD and, of course, those with low working memory.
It can be so difficult for these kiddos to focus and then to recall information. Sometimes it seems like nothing we do can help!
Over the years, I’ve worked with a lot of students who struggle with memory. Here are a few tips which I have found can help.
Use tools to enhance memory
If we are just speaking or having students read and expecting things to “stick” in their minds, it’s just not going to work. I mean, this is hard enough for our “regular” students, let alone any who have memory issues.
Providing students with more tactile tools to help them memorize things, they’ll have something more concrete to help them with recall.
Things such as manipulatives can help support kids because they’re using their hands while working. This can help them to make sense of the information. Allowing students to use manipulatives while completing work and on tests can help provide them with physical tools to help recall what they have been learning and working with.
Another tool which may be helpful is recordings. For example, audio recorded books are helpful for students who may not have remembered what happened in the novel being read in class. If they have more time to listen to it and follow along in their own time, that may help them to better understand and remember what happens.
Visual supports can also help support students. Things such as photos, graphs, comics, and so on provide another modality for them to intake the information. Visuals can help them to recall information as they think back to when they first learned it.
Of course, all of these tools depend on the student themselves and how they best learn. Every additional tool which can help them to “stick” information to past knowledge is helpful to support memory.
Teach memory techniques
Many students have never been taught any type of memory strategies which can help them with recall. Therefore, it can be very helpful to teach all your students different types of memorization techniques. This will be helpful for all the kids, but especially those who struggle with memory.
Mnemonics are an excellent tool to help students remember things. For example, I still use “never eat shredded wheat” to remember North, East, South, and West. And I’m in my mid-thirties! Share any of these you know with your class and encourage them to share with one another as well!
Other tools which can help are things like visualization or repeating things orally. Sometimes the best way to remember something is to literally repeat it so many times that you couldn’t forget it if you wanted to, like Call Me Maybe or Never Gonna Give You Up.
Give all your students time during class to practice memorization tactics with one another. They can give each other tips and practice things out loud if they need to. This is a great way to let them know that everyone struggles with memorizing things sometimes and it’s okay to work with peers to support one another.
Provide study guides and models
Sometimes students will require more support about what exactly to study and how. Providing study guides and tips is very useful for this.
You may not provide these to all students, but an accommodation for a student who struggles with memory can be to provide guides, models, and tips.
In some classes I’ll provide all students with an intricate study guide, and in others I’ll provide some students with guides which are more intricate and supportive because I know they need a bit more to be successful.
In classes with a lot of memorization, like biology, you can provide graphs and illustrations kids can study from and complete. For classes like math, you can provide examples of how to solve equations and plenty of practice questions for kids to do at home.
Of course, these guides and models will look different for different classes, ages, kids, and so on. Just use your professional judgement to provide your students with what they need.
Allow use of technical aids
Many kids will need to use other tools during tests and assignments to be successful. There’s nothing wrong with this. I mean, we use Google search all the time in “real life”, and isn’t that what we’re supposed to be preparing our students for?
Providing students with things such as calculators, computers, iPads, voice recorders, and so on, is a helpful way to provide them with an extra aid for recalling information learned in class.
Make sure that the tools you provide for students don’t just give them the answers, but rather allow them to find the answers on their own, but with a bit of support.
For example, calculators are useful for finding answers to long equations, but if you’re allowing one on a test that’s just answering simple addition and subtraction problems, why even have a test?
Allow time to process
Often, students need a bit longer to answer questions than we may think. This can be both in class when we’re asking questions as well as on tests and assignments.
It can be beneficial to give students extra time to complete tests and assignments. They may need this time to use the tools and strategies they’ve learned to recall information.
In class when you’re asking questions and giving work time, keep in mind that many students will need longer to really process what you’ve asked and think about their answers. Don’t jump to the next student too quickly, assuming a child doesn’t know the answer, instead give them some time to think and form a response for you.
To save any type of embarrassment, let the student “pass” if they don’t want to answer, or give them gentle hints.
What do you think about these tips? Do they work in your own classroom? Have you used other strategies that have been successful? Let me know!
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