Games to help with memory by Ruth Coppard
In a school context, memory is what helps you to store shapes and sounds so that you can use them when you need to. We need to recognise letter shapes and the shapes of words – without thinking. We need to recognise number shapes, and to know instantly how numbers fit together: 2+2=4, we have 5 fingers on each hand, 100 cents make one Euro etc. We need to remember where letters are on a keyboard.
Most parents claim that their small children have a fantastic memory, but this usually refers to a memory of a room, or a journey, or a conversation. Many children have trouble remembering their letter and word shapes for spelling and reading, others just can’t hold on to more than, say, twenty words at a time and when they learn more seem to forget some they already knew. Auditory memory – that is a memory for things that are heard – seems to come before visual memory. Both are essential for good literacy and numeracy.
There are different techniques that people find useful for remembering:
Make a connection between the things you are trying to remember, either in sounds or pictures. We tend to do this naturally with passwords Put them into groups – we tend to do this with telephone numbers etc. It was said that adults could remember about 6 things easily and, obviously, if the 6 things are each groups of three, that improves things enormously.
Make a visual pattern of them. The more you help the child to practise memory skills, the more he will learn to use the techniques he finds most useful.
Games to help develop auditory memory:
I went to the moon and I took a …….. : each person repeats the list and adds one item.
Each player says a number, and the next player adds a number. Variations on the above might be to learn important telephone numbers, and then the car registration plates of family or friends’ cars.
Similarly, give the child a list of 2 numbers to repeat, then 3, then 4 and so on. If this proves too easy, ask the children to say the numbers backwards.
Instructions: give the children a list of instructions to follow: these should start at two instructions and increase, and should start with a sensible sequence and move on to silly things. So you might start with: put the book on the table, then put the pencil on top of the book, take the book and pencil and put it on the chair, now shut the door. When the child is able to do a series of instructions, move on to put the book under the table, put the pencil behind your ear, turn the cushion upside down, cough, spin round, put your elbow on the table.
Limericks: limericks are those funny poems where the last word on three of the lines rhyme. By teaching them, you can help the child to remember/guess the last words:
There once was a young man called Fred
Who wouldn’t get out of bed
When he got up at two
To go the loo
His mum smacked him round his head.
Read a short story and ask questions about it. Choose a story that is appropriate both in length and content for your child.
Games to help develop visual memory:
Pairs. All the cards in the pack are placed upside down on a table or floor. The first player turns over two cards. If these are a pair, he keeps them and turns over another pair, and again until he fails. When he turns over two cards that do not match, he turns them back exactly where they were and the next player takes a turn.
Choose a segment from a DVD that lasts about three minutes and show it to the children. Then ask a series of prepared questions about the piece – what colour shirt was the hero wearing? how many people were in the room? was it raining outside? Etc.
Kim’s game. Put twenty small objects on a tray. Allow people to look at them for a short while – 2-3 minutes – and then cover them up. Ask the players to list the objects on the tray. Variation: After time is up, secretly take eight objects from the tray, show the tray again to the players and ask the players to list what is missing.
Snap is initially random, but once you have turned the pack over, the child may start to remember what comes next.
Lists: turn over a small pack of picture cards, then ask the child to repeat the list in order either in words, or by drawing the pictures. An alternative would be to shuffle the cards and then ask the child to put them back in order, or remove three cards and ask which are missing.
Memory is critical to all sorts of learning. We need to recall ideas, sounds, pictures, smells. Everyone can remember a smell that instantly takes you back to your grandmother’s kitchen, the smell of your father, the smell of arriving at your favourite holiday place.