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Lesson #16 - Improving Memory, Part 1

Everyone can improve memory. Building a strong memory is much like building strong muscles. It takes the right techniques and practice. There really is no such thing as a bad memory. There are, however, plenty of people who use their memory abilities poorly. As a result, people think they have "bad" memories. In this lesson you will learn how to use your memory abilities to develop a good memory.

Q: How do you use your memory well?

Action is the key to good memory. People who have good memories are very active mentally. They use many skills to make memory work. We will begin with a brief explanation of how your memory works so you can make your memory work better for you.

Memory comes from actions you take to store, remember, and use information you have learned. Like a computer, information must be entered through your eyes, ears, touch, taste, smell and then acted on to store it. Once stored, you must take some action to retrieve it. So, memory includes two kinds of action - action to store and action to remember or recall.

Q: What actions can you use to store information?

It is well known that some actions are very effective to store information in memory.
  1. Practice:  Practice is an effective action to store information. There are several ways to practice. The most frequently used practice is repeating. That is, saying the material again and again.

    Many people do this with phone numbers, names, dates, and other facts. Practice also works for main ideas and supporting details. Practicing main ideas can be done by restating many times, by reviewing regularly, by repeating verbatim, and by discussing ideas with others.

  2. Organizing:  Memory experts have demonstrated that organization is very important for memory. Organization means that you can relate ideas to each other rather than just knowing them as separate facts. For example, you will remember better when Columbus sailed from Spain (1492), if you can also relate Columbus and the date to other events and issues from the same period in history. It is like creating a file folder in which you put similar items.

    You organize your memory by paying attention to main ideas and active reading. As you know, three good skills to organize are writing outlines, idea skeletons, and writing summaries.

  3. Attention:  You will remember much more if you focus your attention only on the information you are studying. Memory can only accept one source of information at a time. If you have several "things" on your mind, you will have trouble getting them into your memory.

    You can focus your attention by using Systematic Study; Prepare, Act, Test.

    You can also make sure you understand well. It is very difficult to remember something you don't understand. Regularly ask yourself,

    • "What does this mean?"
    • "How is this like something else I know?" and
    • "How can I be sure to remember these ideas?"

If you find that you have trouble remembering what you study, you should try the actions described above.

Q: How can you make sure you can recall?

Recalling is getting information out of memory. Most students have, at least one or two times, been taking a test and not been able to recall an answer to a question. When told the answer later, many say something like, "I knew that! Why couldn't I remember!" This is pretty frustrating; but, fortunately, there are ways to reduce this kind of forgetting.

  1. Practice:  This practice is different from the practice to get information in memory. You want to practice recalling information. You can do this by answering test questions from old tests and other questions that you or others make up. You can also discuss the material with others by asking and answering questions.

    Finally, you can practice recalling by mentally asking yourself questions about the material. You can do this while studying at home and while going to school, riding in a car, or walking alone.

  2. Regular review:  One very effective way to improve memory is to review regularly. Review will also help you recall and learn the material well. You should review by reading your textbook and notes, asking yourself questions, checking to see if your memory is accurate and complete, and by reading and writing summaries. Regular review means that you review in some way all material at least once a week.

As you can see, memory improves through action you take to remember. The more action you take, the better your memory will be. In the next lesson, you will learn some memory "tricks" that you also can use to improve memory.

Q: How can you get started?

Make a memory plan by identifying the material you must know for a test. Plan to review all material at least once a week. You can use Form 16.1 to help organize this review plan.

Next, identify some things you have had difficulty remembering. This could be dates, names, main points, places, etc. For this information, use all the memory strategies described in this lesson. You can use Form 16.2 for this memory development plan.

Lesson #17
Lesson #15

ECC [] ©Copyright 1991, Thomas M. Sherman. Further distribution without the written consent of, Inc. is prohibited.


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