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Teach Your Students to Remember English

By: Jonty Yamisha

Breaking Down Steps for Efficient Memorization

Memorization isn’t a mysterious practice. One student who can memorize a poem doesn’t necessarily have a better memory than the others. Rather, they use better techniques. Many people get frustrated with memorization because they’re doing it wrong. But it isn’t something to be avoided. When taught properly, your students will be able to memorize what they need to reach fluency in English.

This is an article that will give you specific strategies you can use with your students to help them remember their lessons. Using the tactics laid out here, your class will effortlessly commit words and grammar to memory. In the end, they’ll spend more time learning and less time feeling frustrated over why they can’t remember.

Chunks and Categorization

The best way to memorize something is to break it up into smaller chunks and categorize them. For example, at some point, you memorized your phone number. Most people commit their phone number to memory by breaking it up into three numbers, three numbers, and four numbers.

This is a great natural response because scientists and researchers have found that chunks in 3 or 4 units are the easiest to memorize.

With a phone number, you tend to categorize without thinking about it. The first three numbers are the area code, the last four numbers you will need to know to identify your number. The middle three numbers are just the middle three numbers.

Teach Your Students to Remember English

Categorization goes a bit further, though. If you have a list of 15 different countries that you have to memorize, you will probably start to group those countries into something you can easily identify. This might be the first letter of their names, the continent they are on, the language is spoken there, or how familiar you are with them. It is completely up to you how you want to group them.

Once you categorize the information, you have more manageable chunks that you may find easier to memorize. And you can take the first category and memorize those few countries. Once you know them, you memorize the second category.

When it comes to memorizing a language, the best way to do so is to memorize things that are related at one time. By building the words around each other, your students will be able to have the context to reinforce what you’re teaching them.

Spaced Repetition”>Cramming doesn’t work. Studies have shown that human memory works better when you memorize over time instead of trying to do it all at one time.

There are many apps that work based on this principle, giving you a deck of flashcards that changes with what you learn. If you demonstrate that you are familiar with a word, it will appear less often in the deck than words that you are having trouble learning. That is because the app is spacing out the learning of that particular word.

By seeing words you know less often, you spend more time working on memorizing the words you don’t know. But the deck does not entirely drop the words you know either. It simply brings them up less often, making sure that you still remember them.

There are a number of benefits for using spaced repetition flashcards. Usually, your students can tailor them to their particular interests. Afterward, the platform will make additional suggestions. It tracks the words in a way that is easy for your students to see their progress.

Of course, the biggest benefit to these apps is that your students don’t have to haul hardcopies of cards around to keep up with their studies. When they have a moment, they can just pull out their phone and start studying. It’s easy.

Working with Your Memory

Teach Your Students to Remember English

One of the hardest things for people to understand about memory is that everyone’s memory is different. The method that works for one person can be an utter failure for someone else. Your students must work with their memory, focusing on the things that they find difficult and making them easier to remember.

11 Properties that determine Memory Difficulty Level:

  1. Familiarity is the amount of exposure you have to something.
  2. Size indicates how much or many of something you must remember.
  3. Order refers to the structure of what you are memorizing.
  4. Immediacy is when you need to know something.
  5. Salience is how much interest you have.
  6. Complexity is how difficult a concept is to grasp.
  7. Relevance indicates how useful something is to you.
  8. Importance indicates what kind of impact it has on your life.
  9. Sensuous is how you perceive something with your senses.
  10. Humanness is how well you can relate it to other experiences.
  11. Abstractness indicates how conceptual something is.

Best Practices for Memorizing English

  1. Familiarity is most successful when reviewing frequently.
  2. Size is most successful when done in chunks.
  3. Order is successful when you structure something in a way that is logical to you.
  4. Immediacy is best learning through deadlines.
  5. Salience is best remembered when you make the memorization interesting, like through a funny story.
  6. Complexity is best done by breaking down the lesson into simple steps.
  7. Relevance is best learned by figuring out how it relates to your life.
  8. Importance requires you to set goals.
  9. Sensuous is best learned through association with your senses.
  10. Humanness is best learned through association with your own experiences.
  11. Abstractness is best learned through relating it to something around you.

Some people’s memory may work better with memory order than with familiarity. Many students should use salience because the more interesting something is, the more likely most they are to remember it later. Figure out which method best describes how your students remember stuff. Afterward, have them use that method memorize the newest words or grammatical concepts.

Preparing Before You Begin

Teach Your Students to Remember English

Everyone’s brain requires preparation to really commit stuff to memory. To ensure that your students are maximizing their memory’s ability to connect, here’s how to optimize study time

  • Turn off music: Yes, this one is a hard one. However, if your students listen to music while learning, they’ll be distracted. As a result, their memory will be less reliable.
  • Put away devices: Of course, if your students use a device for flashcards, this can be difficult. Have them disable notifications and set their status to Do Not Disturb so that their entire session is distraction-free.
  • Use optimal times: Some people learn better at certain parts of the day. Your students should be honest with themselves to figure out when is the best time for them to learn. Make sure to tell them not to try and memorize anything when they are tired or distracted because it will only waste their time.
  • Move around: Remind your students to walk around while they study. As they move, their bodies will pump more blood. This will not only keep them more awake, but it will also move more oxygen to their brains.

Preview Lessons Before Memorizing

Before your students attempt to memorize any lessons, they should preview the material first. This helps “up warm the brain” by pulling that information to the surface and helping them focus. Once they’ve sufficiently reviewed, they can begin memorizing using any of the previously selected strategies. The process shouldn’t feel forced. And if they’re using the right strategy for their needs, they’ll start to see rapid results on their path to learning English.

The Power of a Language Learning-Strategy

While it’s great to be enthusiastic about learning English and want to jump right in, your students need a strategy. Taking the time to get an overview of what you are about to memorize so that you can map it out in your mind. With a clear strategy in place and by understanding how memory works, your students will see better results from their lesson and develop an appreciation for memorization as an effective language-learning strategy. 

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