Enhancing Memory and Retrieval

Activities to Enhance Brain Based Learning

Improving Memory Links

There are 5 memory pathways: Semantic, episodic, conditioned response, procedural, and emotional. Emotional is the strongest, semantic is the weakest. Also, younger learners learn best through tactile, kinesthetic processes. Therefore, it makes sense to enhance memory through emotion, movement, and hands-on experiences. Some ways to enhance memory through these avenues are to use a visual or auditory cue to introduce new ideas, repeat main points in a different tone of voice, put content to music or have students write their own songs, allow for discussion, questioning and prediction, and use real-life experiences to cement content to memory.

Rough Draft

What we take in begins as a rough draft as it is based on the accuracy of previous information found in our long-term memory. If material is not delivered through our preferred learning style, it is difficult for it to be cemented to memory. There are three memory stages; immediate, working, and permanent. Immediate memory holds information for small amounts of time. If that memory is something we would then want to retain, it moves to the working memory. The working memory holds information for as long as we need it to complete a task, such as pass a test. To move a memory from working to permanent, we need to use multiple pathways and repetition of the idea. To enhance ability to store information permanently, teachers can use techniques. Some of which are teaching others, changing the form of the learning using a timeline, exploration, defending a viewpoint, and debating.
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After we commit a memory to permanent storage, we then need to elaborate on that memory be able to tie new information to existing memories. Teachers can help their students do this by way of exploration, questioning, hypothesizing, experimenting, making mistakes and modifying, and drawing conclusions. We also use elaboration to classify memories for easier retrieval later. To help students classify memories teacher can help students create similes, analogies, or metaphors, use mind maps, flow charts, or graphic organizers, have students maintain a diary of learning, use test or quizzes to highlight what students know, and use extensions and experimentation both formally and informally in the classroom.
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We store our memories by similarities and retrieve by differences. This is why we may have trouble remembering someones name if they are wearing different clothes or are with a different person. The slightest change can inhibit us from making that connection. As educators, we need to be aware that this phenomena happens in the classroom as well. We need to help students store information using several different memory pathways. Those pathways are semantic, episodic, emotional, conditioned reflex, and procedural. to tap into a strengthen memory pathways teachers can involve emotion through music, stories, or humor, they can foster episodic memory by breaking the subject into parts and making each part of the room a new "episode" of learning, enhance procedural memory with hands-on or role-playing activities, they can help semantic memory by using mind maps or other graphic organizers, and they can improve conditioned response by associating content with smells, music, words, or movement. After a memory is stored using several pathways, retrieval can be aided with trigger questions that tap into the five memory pathways. Some such questions are "How did you feel about it?", "Where were you when you learned this?", and "How can you use this information?".


To link multiple memory processes together, content should be taught in themes. A good example of this would be this newsletter! The theme of the newsletter is enhancing memory. In this theme we talk about the pathways of memory, the types of memory, the best method of storing memories, and how to enhance easy retrieval of these memories. In a theme, we must relate the content back to us as humans, so we can make sense of the learning in relation to our world. This makes the learning meaningful and helps us create a meaning for ourselves in the world around us.
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