Helping Children Remember

Helping children remember 

You’ve probably heard this axiom before, that children remember…

  • 10% of what they READ
  • 20% of what they HEAR
  • 30% of what they SEE
  • 50% of what they SEE and HEAR
  • 70% of what they SAY and WRITE
  • 90% of what they DO.

Every brain is unique. Who, what, when, where, why, and how we remember is different for each of us. But there are some actions, practices, and strategies that help all of us to be able to better remember important things.

What do you do when you really want or need to remember something?

When I want to remember something I often write it down, use a memory-trigger, or employ some form of mindful-sensory repetition ‘til it sticks.

What practices do you use to help your children remember important things?

Multi-sensory learning creates stronger memory connections and retention. Depending on what needs to be remembered, we can apply different strategies. Here are some for example:

  • Math Facts:  We pair-up and use flashcards, timed drills (oral and  written), games, fact families, hands-on manipulative grouping, real-life applications, and lots of repetition.
  • Ball-handling/learning to play an instrument: We teach and model the basic techniques and then drill, practice, play, and perform to finesse skills.
  • Reading:  We use sight word drills, teach phonics families, spell, read from texts about things that we want to know about. We listen to stories that we enjoy together. We read stories together. We read words wherever we go. We read, read, read every day.
  • History: We create timelines, use acronyms, feature important people or stories, memorize dates, sing songs, memorize quotations, identify locations on a globe or map, etc.

Here are 12 strategies for remembering important information:

  1. To remember a list of facts, create acronyms or mnemonics.
  • An acronym is a word formed from the initial letters or groups of letters of words in a set phrase or series of words. For instance:

    • U.S.A. stands for The United States of America,

    • G.O.A.T. stands for The Greatest of All Time

    • V.I.P. stands for a very important person

  • A mnemonic is something intended to assist the memory, like a verse or formula. For instance, in order to remember the planets (in order) one mnemonic is the sentence: Mark’s Very Extravagant Mother Just Sent Us Nickels. The first letter in each word stands for a planet: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune.

  1. Make your own flashcards to remember math facts, vocabulary words and their definitions, or events and historical dates. Then quiz with them often until you’ve got it. Using Flash Cards to Remember Information

  2. Use Music, Rhythm, and Rhyme:

  • Write words to go with a new or familiar melody. Example:

    • To the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat” learn your home address and sing it in repetition until you can’t forget it… Ninety-six, eighty-five Park Avenue, St. George, Utah, 8-4-7-9-1!

  • Create your own, or practice a well-known rhyming phrase or poem to help remember: For example

    • Learning about insects:

Insects come from insect eggs.

All adults have six fine legs,

with a thorax, abdomen, and head…

I hope I never find one in my bed!

  • For History, an old favorite is:

“In fourteen hundred and ninety-two,

Columbus sailed the ocean blue…”

  1. Try the Loci Strategy  Loci Strategy

  2. Use pegwords and associations Using Pegwords

  3. Connect learning with movement

  1. Make cross-curricular and experiential learning connections

  2. Be the teacher

  1. Study in partnerships: parent-child, sibling tutor, peers

  2. Apply your study to real-world situations. Make it personally meaningful and applicable in everyday life.

  3.  Draw a dramatic or silly picture of the fact to make it particularly memorable.

  4. In order to remember a larger number of facts, play the game of “Memory”.

  • To play, you need index cards, a pen or pencil, and 2 or more players.

  • Make the first card by putting a question on one side of it such as “Who was the first President of the United States?”

  • Make a second card with the answer to the question on it: “George Washington”.

  • Make enough pairs of cards to keep the game interesting.

  • Shuffle the cards and place them face down on a table or floor.

  • In order to play, each contestant picks up a card and tries to match it with its correct counterpart. If successful, the contestant keeps the pair of cards and continues taking turns until he/she can no longer make any matches.

  • The player that has the most cards in his/her possession at the end of the game wins.

  • This game works well with every subject: science topics, historic events, geographic locations, math applications, language lessons (spelling, parts of speech, vocabulary, etc.), and definitions.

The key to improving memory is to make it fun and to practice, repeat, practice, repeat, practice. For more memory strategies, please see:


~Kim Goates

  Executive Director

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