Primary Inspired About Me Freebies Guided Math I Spy Classroom Image Map

RIP Memory Toolbox - Strategies for Learning

That's not Rest In Peace, Memory Toolbox...Ha! What were you thinking?! The same thing I was when I first read about the RIP Memory Toolbox on Reading Rockets: Great name! Right? Well - if RIP doesn't stand for Rest In Peace, what does it stand for?

Repetition, Imagery, Patterns

Those are fundamental strategies for getting things into long-term memory. That's where we want math facts, basic spelling patterns, and lots of other information to land. Wow! If we know the keys to getting that kind of stuff to land solidly in students' long-term memory, how happy we would be, right? I mean just imagine what we could do with THAT knowledge!

I'm not sure I would go as far as Pediatrician, Mel Levine would hope: 
"I thought that before a test, kids ought to be asked to hand in a memory plan. The same way a pilot would hand in a flight plan. In other words, how are you going to go about getting stuff into and out of your memory? (Levine and Meltzer, 1998).
I mean....they're elementary students. I'm not gonna get a memory plan from them. Yet. What I CAN do, though is create a memory plan for my lesson activities.


Great! We can just have students repeat over and over! Not so fast. That is pretty boring. Just think...
"9 times 2 is eighteen...9 times 2 is eighteen...9 times 2 is eighteen.."
Bleh. So boring. You know what happens? Even if you continue repeating and repeating, the brain goes into sleep mode. Nothing is gonna stick if the brain is in sleep mode. So how can we make repetition work?

Add Some Movement, Songs, and Other Silliness

I bet you remember some songs YOU used to learn some concepts. That's how well this works! We use songs ALL.THE.TIME in our classroom! (Remember Schoolhouse Rock?) Sometimes I create a song in the moment, but there are SO many songs available on YouTube, Flocabulary, and on GoNoodle. My good friend Mr. Elementary Mathman has a great article with more information about teaching with songs.

Add movement to chants or songs. It can be as easy as just adding hand motions. We use Phonics Dance in our room. The movement and chants really help get that info into long term memory. I have actually noticed children whispering or mouthing the chants when they are working independently.

And 'other silliness'? How about adding a little art to repetition? One of the opportunities I give my students during the week is to create a little modern art with their spelling words. They love using the markers, and the art does come out looking pretty cool. 


Visual images are so important to the memory process. According to Stanford University's Robert E. Horn , When words and visual elements are entwined...the potential for increasing 'human bandwidth'. That's why we use anchor charts. A picture can cue a strategy or represent a concept. When I display visuals for word skills, I go a little further and have an animal or character with which they can attach the memory. That gives the visual just a bit more strength....there's the image of the anchor chart, but also the visual of the animal/character.

 Phonics Chart - Imagery

Graphic organizers are another good way to take advantage of that imagery part of the memory toolbox. Venn diagrams, Beginning Middle End Organizers, Frayer Models, Concept Wheels and Webs all create wonderful visual imagery. They also have an added benefit because brains LOVE patterns and categorizing!

Did you know that imagery can also be a motor image? An example that's given is to think about when you're trying to remember a phone might move your fingers as if dialing the number. That's motor imagery. We use motor imagery in the classroom when students:

  • 'Tap out a word' - using two fingers on one hand, and tapping on the other forearm. Children tap once for each sound in a word. 
  • 'Clap out' syllables - children clap with each syllable of a word.
  • 'Chin tap' syllables - placing fingers just under the chin, students say a word. Their chins tap their fingers on each syllable.
  • 'Air writing' - Spelling words or writing out math fact equations in the air while imagining seeing the letters or numbers. Not only is this a motor image, but the imagining also makes it a visual image. (And...BONUS! If they say it aloud while air writing, they are also creating an audible image!)


We already know that the brain loves, loves, loves, patterns. That is the the brain's favorite way of learning. It actively looks for patterns and categorizes. Any time you can have children notice patterns in words, or patterns in math, you are helping them move that information over to long term memory. 
 Sorting Word Patterns

Sorting is an excellent example of  offering the opportunity for children's brains to see patterns.  We do this weekly in my classroom. We do a word sort for each word skill or letter team pattern we are working on. 
Have you noticed that a lot of these strategies overlap? Both Repetition and Imagery help to create patterns.
Knowing how the brain learns is so powerful. Once you have that information, as a teacher you can develop a 'memory plan' for your students. I've built a memory plan into our weekly phonics/word skill activities. You can click the pic or click HERE to take a closer look. Every one of the  print & go activities in the pack, gives students an opportunity to use their RIP memory toolbox:

  • Repetition - Word Scribble Art activity, 'Cinnamon Roll' activity, Swirl-a-Word bracelets 
  • Imagery - Anchor charts and posters with a character attached
  • Patterns - Word Sorts, Search & Sort activity, Read the Room, Color by Code activity, and Build-a-Word activity

Do you have a memory plan for your students?How do you plan opportunities for your students to use the repetition, imagery, and pattern strategies to get concepts into their long term memory? Please share your ideas! 

No comments:

Post a Comment