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Review: Mighty Memory Tricks

Susan O'Connor, who is Learning Support Coordinator and teacher with thirty years' experience has given me a copy of her book called Mighty Memory Tricks - Easy Ways to Remember Your Classwork. It is an A4 spiral-bound book of 78 pages aimed at children aged between 7 and 13 and published by TTS Group in Abingdon.

Although not specifically aimed at language learners, it does contain memory tricks which would be mainly useful to learners of below average attainment. Now, this is not really my area of expertise, but having looked through each side of A4 it looks to be a book a considerable practical use to its target audience.

Susan's "Mighty Memory Tricks" are a selection of tricks and games which aim to help children think independently, persevere and take the initiative for their learning. She starts from the sound principle that memory is reinforced when various elements are involved in the process: taste, touch, hearing, reading, feelings and so on.

I think it is a slight pity that Susan invokes that familiar claim, attributed to Rose and Nicholl, 1998,* that we recall 20% of what we read, 30% of what we hear etc etc, but the general principle for exploiting various senses is sound. It is also right to help pupils who are not blessed with brilliant memories to use all kinds of strategies to help them recall their classwork.

In the pages that follow her introduction pupils get advice and practical tasks to do on self-organisation, the use of drawing and colour, using posters, "sensory pictures" (visualisation or imagining pictures), ways to recall awkward spellings, tapping technique to recall how syllables make up words, various mnemonics, wordwebs, wordsearches, connection arrows, acting out and presenting, using song, using fingers to recall times tables, dancing and chanting games, note taking and a good deal more.

For the language teacher working with low-attaining pupils, the most fruitful areas in the book relate, I think, to mnemonics, the use of pictures and the whole body sensory activities such as singing. There are a few activities very specifically related to second language learning. Some pages lend themselves to photocopying and handing out, others are just a good source of ideas for the teacher to implement, with practical examples from various subject areas.

So this publication looks to be of particular use to the general teacher working with low-attaining pupils or those with special educational needs. It may be of some use to the secondary languages teacher working with these groups.

* Rose, C., and Nicholl, M.J. 1998, Accelerated learning for the 21st Century: The Six-Step plan to Unlock your Mastermind. Dell Publishing.

Image: my own


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