Be Informed by Email

Google Groups
Subscribe to teach-my-child
Visit this group

Friday, March 28, 2008

Improving Memory Skills

Recently heard some mothers discussing their children's memories, or rather, lamenting their lack of memory skills.

I understand the concern of these mothers as memory skill is very important in the children's studies. However, except for a few extreme cases, I think the majority of us (including children) have no problem remembering things of interest to us, be they facts, names, numbers or events etc. So the key issue here is to try to arouse our children's interest in the topics that they have to remember. If a child can concentrate well, it should also benefit his memory as well. I've some suggestions in the earlier article "How to improve on Concentration".

The brain is amazing. The more you "exercise" it, the better it works. To enhance my son's memory skills, one method I tried was to play games with him like reciting & memorizing rhymes, poetry & other interesting literature, starting with short ones (about 20 words), then proceeding to long ones (a few hundred words). I used mostly chinese poems, many of which are written beautifully & rhyme well. When he was just a baby learning to talk, he could give the last word of each line when prompted with the few words before. To-date at 9 years old, he can still recite from memory 满江红 (over 90 words) & 正气歌 (about 300 words).

As for my own experiences, I like numbers and used to memorize all my contacts' phone numbers (when we didn't have the luxury of high-tech gadgets like handphones with the convenience of address books). To me it was almost like a "hobby", memorizing all sorts of numbers. Once we waited in vain at a bus stop while in Hong Kong, and decided to get a cab instead. But we didn't bring out the taxi company's phone number and the trip back to our apartment was really far. Luckily I could recall the phone number as I've used it once :-) How did I manage to do it? Well, I memorized by the "relationship pattern" of a group of numbers. Or by the "sound" of them. Of course like I said, I don't bother to memorize so many phone numbers anymore as they're all conveniently stored in my handphone. So now my ability in this area has kind of gone downhill, haha.

Once a teacher taught us how to remember the year of an event, 1698, which sounded like "first class bar" when said in chinese (一流酒吧). Haha, until now I can still remember this year though I can't remember what event it was!

One relative who stayed in an overseas hostel while studying, told us that he and his group of friends in the choir were the fastest to finish their revisions. How did they mange to do it? While others were slogging it out trying to memorize for the exams, they sing! Everything that has to be remembered, they invented a song for it. Wow!

If we tend to forget certain things, another way to "jolt" our memory is to write it down. I didn't really teach my son to do this. But I was amused when once my son stuck a few reminder notes in his school bag to remind himself to submit a certain piece of paper to the school's general office. I even found notes at his bedside reminding himself to do something the next morning. As for learning of spellings, whether Chinese or English, he usually remembers better if he copies out the words at least once.

For people who are good at "visualizing", forming a picture in their mind may be a good method too. To remember a sequence of events (eg. a to-do list of errands etc), just "play" them in your mind like a movie.

Sometimes for a group of points to be remembered, I use the first alphabet of each keyword as a prompt, so that by just remembering the few alphabets, the key points will follow accordingly. If possible, arrange them in an easy to remember sequence. Many people like to use this method.

Anyway, just make a conscious effort to reduce incidents of forgetfulness, then keep practising, and memories will improve.

Monday, March 3, 2008

How to Improve on Concentration

Many relatives & friends have commented that their children cannot sit still, and on the difficulty in getting them to concentrate for a longer period of time. Though they compliment my son on his ability to sit still & concentrate since a very young age, as his mother I must confess that he's not *always* sitting still, I'd be terrified if he did, hahaha. So the issue is not just whether the children can sit still but whether they can do so when required of them.

I think the first step in approaching this subject is to have a realistic expectation. Every child is born with a different temperament. And age does matter. A young child may be busy learning through exploring his world, and is only able to concentrate on whatever is of enough interest to him. He naturally wanders away if he's not interested.

Next, I do believe a modification in his diet will be able to help to some extent. Try to limit consumption of foods & drinks that are highly processed, and those that contain colourings and chemical additives. As far as possible, give a variety of fresh fruits & vegetables, cooked lightly & simply (limit fried foods and foods with high sugar & salt content). Whether this measure would directly improve his concentration span is an unknown (though I believe it does), but it certainly will help to boost his immune system and general health, which in turn will make it easier for him to concentrate.

Then there is the modern world TV and electronic games which I believe is a culprit of robbing away the kids' ability to concentrate. They may appear to be able to sit still or "concentrate" on a TV program or an electronic game they're playing (whether on the computer, on X***, P**, in games arcade etc), but in actual fact they are highly stimulated. I think this is detrimental to their mental & physical development as well. My son will always end up with a hot head, flushed face, & cold hands & feet after playing electronic games (sometimes even *watching* other people playing would result in similar physical symptoms). I try to limit such "playing" times and encourage other "real" play activities instead.

So can concentration be taught? Well there ARE some games & activities which can enhance his ability to concentrate for a longer period. Tailor these to his age & interests. For example, jigsaw puzzles, board games, chess games & card games would encourage him to concentrate longer. Building blocks, moulding plasticine, making things from scratch, science experiments, , drawing, painting, handicrafts etc are all fun ways to let him learn how to do something for a longer period of time. However, try to do one activity at a time, and tidy up or keep it away after you're done before starting on another one. This encourages him to focus on one thing at a time, & not be distracted unnecessarily.

My favourite "concentration-enhancement" activity is reading & story-telling. If you borrow library books, the only "investment" you need is your love, time & imagination. Almost all children enjoy stories. Choose books that are appropriate for his age, or books that he likes. Read a chapter or for a period of time. While reading, allow him to ask questions, but sometimes tell him the answers later like: "let's see if they say why", "after this paragraph" or "after this page" to create suspense or encourage him to wait. Even when he's old enough to read independently, don't stop reading with him or telling him stories you made up. Telling him "family history" or other topics he's interested in would also keep him captivated and engrossed. Talking about his favourite stories & characters could grab his attention for a long time too. As a bonus you'd see his eyes sparkle & hear his non-stop ramblings. Who say they cannot concentrate? :-) It's a skill & trait that they can improve on.

I hope you find the above sharing beneficial to your kid :-)

Google Site Search