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Memory Tools


Last week, we began to discuss working memory. We discussed writing things down and creating checklists.


There are many great resources for assisting with working memory. We will discuss a few of them today. These options are called mnemonics. The definition of a mnemonic is a device such as a pattern of letters, ideas, or associations that assist in remembering something. In general, people are able to remember seven (plus or minus two) units of information at a time. By using different tools to group information together, we can remember more information at a time. That is what a mnemonic does for us.



The first mnemonic that I remember learning was Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally or PEMDAS which is a mnemonic device used to remember the order of operations in math: Parentesis, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction. If you need to remember three items, you can assign each item to one of your fingers to help you remember. There are people that will assign a task to each house on their block or to each family member to help them remember.



Another great memory tool is to get physical with the information. I just heard of someone stamping out syllables to learn how to spell hard words with a physical kick in between. So, picture Jason, a seven year old boy studying for his spelling test. He needs to spell the word spelling he would stamp s, then t, then e, then l, then l. Give a kick in the air. Stamp i, stamp n, stamp g, give a kick in the air. It helped him recall the word by grouping the letters together in syllables and by involving a physical action. Acting things out can help with memory. Many people report that they may not have a clue how they got somewhere when they were escorted or driven, but as soon as they have to drive or walk alone one time, they now can get to their destination without help every time.



One of my favorite mnemonics is to make a song out of what you need to remember. Song is a powerful medium not only for memory but for mood as well. Making up silly or not so silly songs to help you recall information is a great tool. Songs can bring out powerful memories of smells, places, and emotion. Songs are easy to recall because they automatically group information into chunks. Have you ever walked into a store for a few minutes and heard a song playing, then found yourself singing or humming that tune hours later?


I invite you to choose one of these tools to try out today. What worked or didn't work for you?

Let me know!

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