Does it ever feel like your child’s memory is lacking when it comes to lesson time?
This is a really important question. After all, you are devoting your entire day to your child’s education, and you want to make sure that you’re being as effective as possible.
- No learning—When your child remembers nothing from the lesson.
- Fragmented learning—When your child remembers some information, but just bits and pieces of the lesson.
- Meaningful learning—When your child remembers and is able to use or apply the information that you taught.
Obviously, your goal is meaningful learning, but if your child struggles with reading or spelling, this type of learning is probably not occurring as often as you would like. You may find that your child is only remembering portions of what you teach, or—worse yet—nothing at all.
Learning is affected by three types of memory.
Research shows that there are three types of memory:
- Sensory memory—This is where we store our first impressions of sights, sounds, and touch. Sensory memory is unlimited, and we can store vast amounts of sensory input.
- Long-term memory—This is where we store information for longer periods of time, anywhere from thirty seconds to a lifetime. Long-term memory is unlimited in capacity. When you teach, you want your child to store the information you introduce in her long-term memory.
- Short-term memory—This can be divided into immediate memory and working memory. It is a temporary holding place for new information that comes in through sensory memory. Short-term memory then pays attention to some of that input and integrates it into long-term memory. But short-term memory is limited in capacity.
It’s easy to assume that there is an unobstructed pipeline between you and your child.
You teach something, and you expect that your child will automatically file that information away and remember it in the future. You assume that since you taught it, your child will “get it” and your work will be done.
For many parents, this picture is as far from reality as it can be. As nice as such a scenario sounds, it simply isn’t always the case in real life. You may often feel that your child just isn’t “getting it,” or that the lesson went right over your child’s head.
It’s more accurate to visualize a funnel.
Instead of picturing information passing from you to your child through an unobstructed pipeline, picture the information passing through a funnel.
If you’ve ever used a funnel, you know that you can pour a lot into the top of it, but only a small amount can make it through the small opening at the bottom of the funnel. If you pour too much or too fast, most of what you pour in spills out the top and doesn’t make it all the way through the funnel.
Just like a funnel, your child’s memory can only attend to a certain amount of the new information. If you teach too much at a time, your child’s memory becomes overloaded and either dumps the new information entirely, or is only able to store fragmented pieces of the information. At this point, you lose control over what actually makes it through the funnel.
The funnel concept explains why a child may retain nothing from a lesson, or may achieve only fragmented learning. With so much information to share with your child, it’s tempting to teach too many things at once—but the limits of short-term memory can prevent this information from being permanently retained.
Since only a small amount of new information can make it through the funnel at a time, it’s important to be selective. Research has shown that when short-term memory isn’t overloaded, increased learning can occur.
Respect your child’s funnel!
Your child will achieve a higher percentage of permanent learning when the limits of short-term memory are respected. If you avoid presenting your child with more information than he or she can process at one time, the concepts and skills are more likely to be stored in long-term memory. And that means that significant amounts of meaningful learning can occur. From now on when you’re teaching your child, think about teaching through a funnel and consider introducing one main concept at a time. The benefits are limitless!
For more ways to help your child’s memory, download my free report!
Marie Rippel, curriculum developer of the award-winning All About Reading and All About Spelling programs, is known for taking the struggle out of both teaching and learning. You can connect with Marie on her Website, Facebook, or Twitter. Achieve learning that sticks with her free report, “Help Your Child’s Memory.”