More likely than not, your kids are going to be doing a lot of learning from home this school year. What better time to have your children learn some super simply and effective memory techniques to help them remember more of what they learn, right?
About ten years ago, my grandmother passed away from Alzheimer's disease and it inspired me to dive head-first into the world of memory––what it was, how it works, and how to effectively use it in all facets of life. It ultimately led me to win the USA Memory Championship four times and as a result, transition my career to one where I now teach life-changing memory techniques to others––business professionals, athletes, college students, and yes, even grade-school kids.
To keep things simple, here is the three-step memorizing process that I teach kids ("Mind Tools", I call them––taken as an excerpt from my latest book targeted to school kids who want to remember more: Memory Superpowers!: An Adventurous Guide to Remembering What You Don't Want to Forget):
Nelson's three mind tools, See—Link—Go
This first tool is all about SEEing the thing you want to memorize as a picture in your mind. We have the amazing power of somehow being able to see things using our imagination. For example, if I asked you to imagine a slice of pizza, you could see a picture of that slice in your mind, right? Maybe you're picturing it on a plate in the kitchen, waiting to be eaten, or maybe you're imagining a rotten, stinky slice you've thrown against the school bus window because you're angry at your mom or dad for packing the wrong lunch. Well, what if I asked you to give this pizza slice a pair of roller skates to wear? Now the slice is doing pirouettes in the kitchen (or down the aisle of the bus). How about now giving the slice a pair of sunglasses, a crazy green, and blue Mohawk, and making it whistle "Jingle Bells"? Bizarre, right?
What's great about SEEing is the fact that we can SEE anything we want in our minds. No matter how outrageous it is, our mind's imagination can always bend backward and see the impossible. That's what makes this so fun, too! So no matter what you have to memorize, try to SEE it as a picture in your mind.
Once you've found a way to SEE what you are memorizing, the next step is to LINK it to something that you already know. The problem with most people's memories is that they don't put the things they want to remember in places that are easy to find later on when they need to recall them.
Think of it like this: You've saved a file on your computer before, haven't you? What usually happens? You click the save button, right? And then what happens? A little box pops up and asks you to give your newly created file a name, and then you need to tell the computer in which folder you want it be stored ("Documents" or "Nelson's Awesome Memory Techniques," for example). We do this because the clever folks who invented computers wanted you to have an easy way to find that file later on. (You know it's a document, so it's probably stored in your "Documents" folder, under the filename you gave it — voilà, you've found it!) Now imagine that computers didn't work like that — that instead, when you clicked save, no box popped up at all and the file you saved is in some random place inside the computer. Yikes! How would you ever find it again? Probably never! And your computer would be a downright mess.
I hate to say it, but that messy computer is what your brain is like, too. When you try to memorize things, you're not "saving" them correctly. That's what the LINK tool is all about. Taking your mental picture from SEE and saving it correctly to your brain's mental hard drive. Thinking about how to do that exactly may seem a bit weird or might even sound impossible, but it's actually quite easy to master with just a bit of practice.
Now, what does LINKing actually mean? And how do we do it?
Think of something you know. What's the name of the street you live on? Or what's the third letter of the alphabet? Or when is your birthday? There are things you know like the back of your hand, which can be used to LINK new information. Actually, your brain does this a lot already. Whenever your teacher is teaching you something new, they might compare it to something else you already know to help you understand it. For example, let's pretend that the only animal you know of is a dog and your teacher is trying to explain to you what a bird is. (I know you know what a bird is, but let's just pretend!)
Your teacher might say, "A bird is like a dog, only smaller, with wings and feathers, with a beak instead of teeth, and can fly." BAM! Now you know what a bird is. You've managed to use that super powerful spiderweb of brain neurons to LINK a "bird" to that familiar "dog."
There are many different ways to use the LINK tool for storing pictures in our head, but the important thing is to first understand this process. This is actually how we learn and integrate new knowledge into our memories.
Okay, at this point you've taken what you wanted to memorize and found a way to SEE it and LINK it — now you need to take that final tool, the GO! tool, and get all of it spinning together. Let me explain what that means.
If you need to memorize something quickly, coming up with pictures (SEEing) and placing them in a location (LINKing) will do the trick for a little bit, but if you really want to make something unforgettable you need to GO! Think of the GO! tool as the final step in which you mesh and glue everything all together and add that extra magic bizarre sauce that makes a memory stick like the strongest superglue you've ever used!
Here's how you use it: Take what you have from SEE and take what you have from LINK and smash them together as one. In other words, take the mental picture you have in your head for what you're memorizing and LINK it to the thing you already know. Imagine them connected somehow. Things don't stick unless you add glue or tape or gum, right? So that's what the GO! tool does. And the way to make that glue really sticky in our brain is by using at least two (or more) of the following things:
· Senses — Use sight, touch, smell, hearing, and/or taste.
· Laugh out loud — Have it make you laugh out loud!
· Exaggeration — Make it bigger, longer, smaller, smellier, uglier.
· Weirdness — Make it so ridiculously weird.
· Opposite — Flip it around. If it's forward, make it backward. If it's big, make it small.
· Movement — Give it an action. Have it do something.
· Grossness — Have it make you go, Ewwww!
Let's go back to that slice of pizza from before. To make that slice super sticky in your head, you're going to have to turn all the dials up to 11 and imagine the most insane pizza-related scene possible. We already made it pretty weird by giving the slice some roller skates, a Mohawk, and a tune to whistle, but let's go even further. Let's try using our senses more. That means the cheese on the pizza is bubbling and sizzling and it's making crazy gurgling noises (there's your sound). The grease is dripping off of it and scalding your hands (there's the touch/feel). Better yet, your hands are on fire because it's so hot. ARGHHH! Or maybe it doesn't smell and taste like pizza — maybe it's more like dog poop (smell). YUCK!
In the end, the important thing is to make it MEMORABLE. The more you build your mental picture into something with all your senses and that weirdness overload, the more those mind tools will kick into gear and the more your memories will start to stick!
So basically, all I'm asking you to do with this third tool is just think of the weirdest, silliest thing you can come up with that moves, uses your senses, and makes you laugh. Not too hard, right?
To learn more about these techniques, and to help your children dive deeper into the fun world of memory techniques, make sure to grab a copy of my book: Memory Superpowers!: An Adventurous Guide to Remembering What You Don't Want to Forget. You'll never forget it!