To be used with Lesson Plan: Remembering How to Remember from Learning Abilities Books. (Lesson plan 2000 Betsy B. Lee)

A Breezy Review of Memory Strategies

They've let the cat out of the bag. running kitty

The # 1 secret for having a better memory is this.
Memory strategies work if we remember to use them!

Did you ever retrace your steps to remember something?

Did you ever close your eyes to view your mental image in helping you recall?

These memories were recorded without conscious efforts to place them into your long term memory. Memory strategies work even better with conscious efforts. You could think of it in terms of using your memory more effectively rather than having a better memory.

My first book, Little Lemon, helps children in K-3 learn to apply techniques used by memory experts. Younger children and the rest of us benefit from strategies in the lesson Remember the Cat.

Here's a breezy bit of a look at memory strategies for older children, teens, and adults. Many of the strategies are the same for all ages.


    I really mean it. Sometimes, we send ourselves negative messages like, "I know I'll forget. I can't remember names, or dates, or whatever." When we do that, isn't our attention on forgetting instead of remembering? Did you ever hear of little kids saying they can't remember? Well, I mean this is before they learn that forgetting is a good excuse which adults often buy. No! They let forgetting bounce right off and they keep going. If their memories are all that great, why aren't they making better grades! Some kids do have serious memory problems and it can be hard to determine if the problem is motivation or memory. Both need to be considered.

    Sometimes, we forget a person's name moments after meeting him or her. At other times, we meet someone and Wow" We know we'll remember that special person for a long time.

    Sometimes, we forget new information because other things have our attention - boredom, a bird singing, a summer breeze, the clock? It's time to re-direct.

    Now that our intention really is to pay attention, the question is how.  We can teach kids to use many of these strategies especially if we are adept at using them ourselves. We tell them to pay attention but sometimes they need help in learning how to do it.

    1. Look.
      Really look and think about what we are seeing. Make a mental picture.

    2. Listen.
      Think about what we are hearing rather than just what we plan to say when the other person stops talking. Make a sound track in your mind. When we're reading something which is hard to understand, reading out loud can help.

    3. Link or make associations.
      Link what we need to remember to what we already know. Link to sight, sound, or action.

    4. Act.
      The action can be repeating someone's name when we meet them. It can be remembering that I took off my glasses in order to pull my sweater off over my head. Where did I do that? If I left my sweater where I took it off, maybe I left my glasses there. Without glasses, it is easier to locate a sweater than a pair of glasses! Retracing our steps often helps.

      Do you have trouble finding your glasses? I did. I began to pay attention to my own action as I put them somewhere other than the usual spots by the bed or on the table. For example, my action was saying or just thinking, "I put my glasses (ah, progressive lenses) on the piano." I listened or really paid attention as I said or thought this. I looked or make a quick mental picture of my glasses. I linked or associated piano with my glasses. I know where I left the piano. If I had moved the piano, that's an action I'd have remembered - for days till my back got better.

      Perhaps, I put them by the lamp where I'd been reading. I can associate the glass in glasses with the glass in the lamp.


    No, no. I don't mean a candy reward, necessarily.

    running kitty

    There's that cat again. I hope you'll be as happy as a kitten about your memory when you find success with using memory strategies. Happiness is a good reward. You want to purr like a kitten. The reward can be feeling good about the time you've saved and the frustration you've avoided. Think of it as a reward not just as luck. The glasses activity takes about two seconds or whatever. Anyway, it's a lot quicker than running around the house blindly trying to find them. I used to get my exercise that way. Quite a workout sometimes!


    Once, when I used that term, someone gave me a puzzled look and asked if self-efficacy was something like self-effacement. No, self-effacement is the habit of keeping yourself in the background. Self-efficacy is represented by "the power of thinking positively, or I think I can and I'm determined to find out how I can. Basically, it is the belief that your actions rather than luck will determine what happens. This can include asking the good Lord for help, you know.


    When we get bogged down, it's time for a little relief. If we take a brief, non-stimulating break, our subconscious minds work on the problem and we return refreshed. If the break is too long or too stimulating, forget it. That's also what happens to what we are trying to learn. We forget it. How about a nap? Sometimes, we can have a cat nap. Make it quick like the cat on this page does.


    running kitty
    The SQR3 method is survey, question, read, recite, review.

    1. Survey.
      Warn your mind that you're getting ready to zap some knowledge into it. Skim or survey the info. Notice headings, pictures, and charts.

    2. Question.
      What topics are covered? What are the general ideas? How does this relate to what you already know about the subject? What's new?

    3. Read.
      Notice main ideas. Reread difficult to understand parts. Look up unfamiliar words and jot down their meanings as used in the passage.

    4. Recite.
      Without looking at the info, try to answer the questions you raised.

    5. Review.
      Check on the accuracy of your answers. Go back over the material focusing on parts you found difficult. Review the main ideas, how they relate to each other, and to things you already know.


    Only yesterday, I used an inadequate cue. As I was about to go to the grocery store, my husband asked me to bring him coffee from McDonald's. When I got into the car, I said to myself, "I don't need to put a Post-it note on the dash, I'll use a memory startegy. I'll associate McDonald's with my car."

    Picture this. The grocery store is 2 miles from home. I turn at McDonald's which is less than one mile from home. As I got back in the car at the store, I thought of McDonald's coffee. My strategy worked! However, the next time I thought of the coffee was when I thought of the car again as I turned it off at home.

    I always notice McDonald's at that intersection. I also notice traffic and the stop light! I should have associated my husband or coffee with the sight of McDonald's. That would have triggered the memory at the right time.


    Suppose I had pictured my husband sitting on McDonald's roof with the seagulls which are always there waiting for treats from tourists? Suppose the sea gulls were drinking from his coffee cup?

    We are more likely to remember things which are associated with something funny or at least pleasant. It's true that terrible things stick in our memories as well. However, feelings of embarrassment, fear, sadness, and depression can interfere with memory for new information and with self-efficacy.

    running kitty


    There's that cat. Imagine that!

    In ancient times before anyone could read or write, people preserved information by drawing pictures, singing songs, and by telling stories many of which used rhythm and rhyme.

    Some adults still use the alphabet song to remember the arrangement of the last few letters. Children and adults who have memory problems are helped by making up words to a familiar tune. Someone needs to help usually. The words can be items to learn for a test or they can be things which need to be done before the child is ready to leave for school, etc.


    Small chunks of information are easier to remember. Try giving someone all 10 digits in your phone number without a pause. Even with your own number, you probably need to pause. Even when you give the last 4 digits, it is easier to remember 27-49 than 2749. When teaching a child the months, it helps to pause after each three months.


    I've used the cat to help demonstrate strategies. You saw him (or her) often which helps you remember the cat.

    In summary, there are several reasons you'll probably remember the cat. Why?

    Attention. The cat is noticable.
    A visual image. We can make a mental image of the cat.
    An auditory image. Purr like a kitten.
    Action. That cat does have action.
    Humor. I think it's funny.
    A pleasant feeling. We assume kittens purr because of contentment.
    Rhythm and rhyme. That cat.
    Cat nap.
    Small chunks of info. It's a little cat not a big tiger.
    Repetition, yes repetition.

Well, there's more but that's basically it, and . . .

running kitty

what's that? Remember the cat!

If you want to copy this lesson, please acknowledge the source of the picture which is Grace's Comfort Corner and the text which is Learning Abilities Books at  Lesson plan copyright is by Betsy B. Lee 2000. Return to Lesson Plans or to Remembering How to Remember from Learning Abilities Books.