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Improve your memory - for children

memory; remember; mnemonics; acrostics; visualisation; chaining; linking;


What is memory?

memoryDo you have problems remembering facts, dates in history, names of people or how to spell words that you learned the night before for a spelling test?

Your memory is a bit like a computer database. Your memory can only find stuff that is in its database - all of the data has to be entered and saved first.

Your memory can store facts, sounds, tastes, smells, touch sensations, what you see, and even your feelings.

Using your memory is a bit like you storing files in different folders on your computer so that you can find them more easily when you need them. If you don't file things properly or you get them in the wrong folder or you can't remember your password, then you could be in trouble!

The long and the short

Your memory has three parts.

Automatic memory, which you don't even think about. Your brain runs all the body systems, so you breathe, your heart beats and all your organs go on doing their jobs.

Short-term memory is like the files that you are working on or use a lot.

Long-term memory is like the stuff you put into the archives on your computer. You don't need to use it all the time but you know you can find it when you need it - if you can remember where you put it of course!
memory - mnemonics

Improving your memory

You can exercise your memory and label the information in such a way that you can find it when you need it. Your amazing brain does a whole heap of this without you really noticing what it is doing.

memoryRecognising a smell or a sound seems to happen automatically. Sometimes you hear or smell something and another memory floats into your mind of where you heard or smelt that before. It may be a scent of flowers that leads to the memory of one particular time in your life. It may be a song that reminds you of someone or somewhere. The memories flood into your mind without you having to think "where and when did I hear or smell that?"

So, if your mind can produce several memories all at once with just one trigger, then why can't you remember how to spell 'there' or 'they', or 'Government' or any other words you have difficulty in remembering?

Well, the trick is to give your memory more than one way of remembering. You can do this by using more than one sense, (touch, sight, hearing, taste and smell) or by using visualisation (say viz-u-al-eye-zay-shun).

How you can exercise your memory

Here are 5 good techniques (say tek-neeks) for remembering.

1. Visualisation

memoryThis is seeing something in your mind so that you will remember it - like when you take your maths book out of your bag and put it on the floor. Think about maths and floor and make a picture in your mind about something really silly like numbers running round the floor. It will help you to remember where you left it when you are packing your schoolbag later.

2. Chaining

This is like visualisation, but you have to remember several things.

Suppose you had to remember a list of things that mum wanted you to get from the local shop. Maybe she wanted eggs, bread, milk and dog food.

In your mind, 'chain' them together in a funny way so that you can remember. How about "a picture of the dog eating eggs and bread and drinking milk"! Often, the sillier the picture, the easier it is to remember what you need.

3. Link to a place

memoryThis method was used by the Romans in ancient times to remember things in a list. It is called the method of loci (say low-k-eye) because 'loci' is the Roman word for places.

They would think of going from one place to another and picking up things at each place.

For instance, if you were going to the shop for a list of things, think about how you would get there, then imagine picking up one of the list items at each place.

Remembering in a way that is funny helps you to remember. You might say:

    Front door - broken eggs
    Front gate - made of bread
    Street corner - dog food
    Shop door – milk on floor

4. Chunking

This method is where you cut the information up into smaller chunks or pieces. The largest group of numbers that most people can remember is 4, so that is why credit card numbers or phone numbers are grouped in 3 or 4 numbered chunks. How do you remember your phone number?

5. Acrostics (say across-tiks)

memoryDid your teacher help you to remember the order of the planets by teaching you a strange sentence like:

  • My Very Educated Monkey Just Swam Under North Pier

The first letter of each word stands for a planet:

  • Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto

Do you use acrostics to remember things?

Here are some tips for remembering how to spell words:

  • Split the word into small pieces and learn each bit, then join them together.
  • Say it how it looks, eg. beautiful say be-a-u-ti-ful.
  • Write the word in the air or on paper. Remember that using different senses can help you to remember.
  • Sing the letters. Make a little song about them.
  • Look for parts of words that are the same.
  • Here, there, where, all have 'here' in them and they are all about place.
  • Hear has 'ear' in it so that's about something you can hear with your ear.
  • Try drawing around the shape of the word so that you can remember better what it looks like.
  • Look for words inside words, eg. school would be cool without the s and h.
  • Write words in a different way like down the page instead of left to right, or in a different font or on a computer or using a feather and paint or… Well, I'm sure you can think of lots of ways to make writing words and learning them a whole lot more interesting.
  • Practise maths facts: eg tables need a lot of practising for them to stick in your memory. So use lots of different ways to learn them.
  • Use mnemonics (say nem-on-ix) - this big word means 'ways to help you remember'

Here are some that Aussie kids use.
said - small ants in danger
two - tip wombats over
goes - goannas only eat sandwiches
rhythm - rhythm has your two hands moving
mice - Mouse-Is-Cheese-Eater
If you remember "OU Little Devil!" then you can put:
- w in front to make would
- c in front to make could
- sh in front to make should
Silent e
makes a vowel say its name (eg mat - mate)

How some kids remember

Bilbies Eat Apples Under Trees IF U Leave = beautiful.

Big Elephants Can Always Understand Small Elephants = because.

"I remember how to say BOCCE, a game I play with my grandpa, by saying botchy."

N,S,E,W - never eat soggy weetbix N,S,E,W - never eat soggy weetbix

Dr Kate says:

There is so much information around nowadays that it is really difficult to remember it all. The best thing you can do is:

  • Dr Katelearn to be a good reader
  • learn to be a good writer
  • learn your times tables
  • learn the 4 forms of number (add, subtract, multiply and divide)
  • learn the tables for measurement (length, weight, volume)
  • use mnemonics (nem-on-niks) to help with spelling and remembering.

Once you have got these basic skills then you need to learn where to find out any other information you may need.

  1. Learn how to use dictionaries, books, encyclopaedia and maps.
  2. Learn how to find information in the library.
  3. Learn research skills using your computer and the internet.
  4. Using your diary helps you to remember what you have to do for school and can help you with your social life too!
  5. But you still need to exercise your memory. It's important to exercise your body and your brain.

You will soon learn which is the best resource to use for what you want to find.

In the meantime, you can test your memory and help it to improve by looking at this fun site:

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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