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Author Topic: Memorization method  (Read 123682 times)
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DadDude
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« on: February 14, 2012, 03:22:52 AM »

This might ramble a bit as I am thinking something through publicly. If I start boring you, please don't read it.

I had an interesting conversation the other day with Dr. Jones and I asked him, as an expert on accelerated learning and memorization methods, for his advice on how we might best remember the things that we are learning in our book-reading. We read a lot of books, and while I'm sure some of it does sink in, most of it becomes implicit memory (the sort of memory that makes you go, "Oh, yeah, I remember that," when someone reminds you of a fact--but which you can't articulate when someone asks you about the fact).

Now, most of us go through our schooling with very little memory work, and we don't think it's pointless to read books just because we'll forget most of them. If we didn't read them, we'd be really ignorant. So if that's how it has to be with my boys, I'm resigned to their fate. They'll still be well-educated.

But what if there is a way to retain more of what we learn?  Obviously, always re-reading books after reading them once will help do the trick. But ultimately, you can't read as much that way and it's not clear that you would learn more that way.

Anyway, Dr. Jones gave me an intriguing answer. He said that you'd review the information one hour, one day, one week, one month, and one year later. Seems this is something that people in the field often say. He recommended that I highlight the info I want H. to retain as we read, then read the highlighted portions into a recorder, then we simply listen to the recording a day, a week, a month, etc., later.

So, never one to pass up trying out some easily testable idea, and since I have a nice handheld recorder and am a fantastic user of it (and I know how to edit sound files and stuff), I decided to give it a try.

The day before yesterday I recorded one thing (a minute long, summarizing a bit from DK Presidents--H. decided he wanted to learn more about the presidents so we're off and running with that). Then yesterday I made five more recordings, covering a True Book about the Declaration of Independence, a poem, a few facts from Children Just Like Me, a bit of What's Physics All About, and a section of The Story of the World Vol. 2. Actually, I don't think we read all that just on Sunday. I think we did some on Saturday and the first one was on Friday. Whatever, added together, the weekend's recordings were 8.5 minutes long. (We continue to read during mealtimes on weekends because it doesn't seem like work and we're used to it.) Weekdays will surely have more recordings, and today, Monday, we have 12.7 minutes of recordings.

Now, to continue on this way might seem admirably ambitious, but it's really just plain crazy.  I mean, it's OK as long as you're reviewing just one of these recordings per day. But suppose we limit the recordings to 10 minutes a day, and each day you are reviewing recordings from a day ago, a week ago, a month ago, a season ago, a year ago, and two years ago. That would be 60 minutes per day of listening to yourself summarize stuff that you read...that long ago.  Have you ever heard of anyone doing such a thing?

Now, H. expressed great enthusiasm after listening to yesterday's recordings. We talked about this and he said basically that it was a lot of fun, because it reminds him of what he knows. His reaction surprised me. I thought it was pretty interesting, most of the time, but maybe not that exciting. I did see two great advantages aside from the long-term memory aspect. First, it immediately reinforces what we just read. That alone might make the practice worth doing. Second, H. (when he pays attention to my summary--he doesn't always) gets a very lively idea of what a good summary "narration" looks like. I flatter myself that I am good at summarizing things I've just read quickly and accurately, and picking out the important points.

But I just can't imagine that we'll want to listen to a full hour of this stuff every day.  Would we? Surely not...would we?

Even if it is somehow conceivable, which I do wonder about, perhaps it would be better, anyway, to go for quality rather than quantity.  Let's suppose that we do the review of the longer recording just once or twice, but otherwise just pick out a minute's worth of the day's recording. That sounds interesting but the time spent editing the recording is prohibitive. Simply making the recordings and uploading and listening to them daily would be a pain. To add on top of that editing a 12-minute recording into a minute, well, the idea is ridiculous. No, the only way to make it practical is to record no more than a few minutes of recordings every day.  Even five minutes a day would mean 30 minutes of review every day.  One or two minutes a day would be much more manageable--that would mean 6 or 12 minutes of review, which sounds downright easy.

So much for what seems practical. But what is really desirable? Well, there are three considerations here. The first is knowledge. Knowledge is good, and we want to maximize it. Second is love of knowledge, or motivation--a different thing. We don't want to burn out kids (or parents) by requiring too much of anything or more than tolerable of what is tedious. Third is pleasure, we want life fun, especially life for children. Fourth (OK, four considerations) is opportunity cost--even if it is in all a benefit to do, would the time we spend on this be better spent on something else?

Well, H. liked reviewing the recordings from yesterday and the day before. As to length, 8.5 minutes didn't seem too long. But I get the sense that it might get old, and when we start doubling the time, it might start getting way too long. Still, there's no need to speculate about that. We'll just keep doing this for a week. For the coming week, we'll see if we can stand ten minutes of review a day. Then, beginning next week, we'll see if we can stand twenty minutes of review. If we can handle that, in a month, we'd start doing thirty minutes of review.

Now, let's suppose that--to my surprise--both H. and I feel we can handle it. We even like listening to my summaries, quotations of main points, facts to recall, etc. Maybe we would like it because we actually do recall what we're hearing, and we derive pleasure from calling to mind what we might have forgotten otherwise. I'm not sure how likely it is, but it's possible that the act of reviving memories, even when it requires close attention for many minutes in a row, will turn out to be pleasurable, or pleasant enough.

Would it be worthwhile, though? I tend to believe Dr. Jones. I've heard his advice before, I don't know where, and it's very plausible that jogging your memory according to that pattern would help you retain information that otherwise would be forgotten. Well, if so, it would be extremely valuable. It might even be worth some unpleasantness, or at least foregoing of more intense pleasures. After all, what we're talking about is remembering a hell of a lot more stuff than you would remember otherwise. Suppose that someone could wave a magic wand and suddenly you'd remember, instead of 20% of what you learned in school, more like 60%. (I'm picking numbers out of the air, but you get the idea.) You know that, right now, you'd be a lot better-informed than you are now. Having a handle on all that information would in turn enable you to draw connections and make insights that are unavailable to you because, well, you've forgotten so much. Reflecting on this makes me wonder if this is something that we should all be doing, even as adults. Should we be spending an hour each day simply reminding ourselves of what we have already learned? I don't know. It sounds like a fascinating idea to consider, though.

I think we'll keep trying, anyway, because after all, supposing that H. and I do like this method, it seems like the time will be very well spent. Besides, I suspect that even if we review some information a couple of times, that will increase the long-term memory retention, and that alone might repay the effort.

Of course, it might end up being an enormous pain, and I'll drop it soon.

Another consideration I've been thinking about, however, is that we might very well achieve a similar effect simply by reading increasingly difficult books on the same subjects that we've already studied. In this way, maybe we don't have to review, and we get a similar effect. But I don't think so. Even someone who revisits the same fact four times in his education, in increasingly difficult contexts, might still forget it because it never, on any of the passes, makes it into long-term memory. But the method Dr. Jones describes is designed specifically to get those facts into long-term memory. Reviewing info a day and a week later, in particular, seems important to getting it into long-term memory. My guess is the month and three-month reviews will set the neural pathways quite well. Then one will likely come across the information later in one's education, and if one is still using the same memory technique, and one has forgotten it, then it will be revived all over again. Of course, that assumes that the technique would be used long-term...

Thoughts?

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duyhoa83
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« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2012, 04:23:48 AM »

Hi DadDude. It's interesting idea to record the hightlight for our review later as i sometimes feel inconvenient to open the book. Additionally, we can use mindmap to draw the summaries and hang on some where in our house.

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seastar
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« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2012, 09:34:32 AM »

I used to use this method when studying but I summarised key points into a mind map which takes less than a minute to review. It also activates both sides of the brain. See Tony Buzan books (I can't remember which one) for an excellent discussion of this memory review method.

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Mandabplus3
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« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2012, 11:29:34 AM »

Personally I think I wouldn't like listening to the recordings. It could work for an auditory learner, but a mind map might be more productive for a visual learner. I would rather reread the book  LOL
My thought on the whole system is....if you read the book the information is already in your subconscious mind so in order to get it you need to strengthen the access to this information. I was thinking rather than improve retention of your selected facts perhaps your time could be better spent improving your ability to access ALL information in your subconscious. Strenghten and improve you left right brain communication. After all isn't that what we are teaching our kids? Strengthening their corpus colluseum. In 8-10 minutes a day an adult could practice right brain games like silly sentences, eye tracking...then their over all ability to both obtain and retain information would increase. I wonder if speed reading and photographic memory would be more useful than remembering what we read a year ago. I suppose both would be great! I understand you are also trying to bring right brain earning into the left brain for your child ( they tell me this is what school does  LOL ) so I don't know this idea is useful, since kids will be tested on what they know under often fairly stressful situations ( stress doesn't build good left right connections). Ok that's enoughnof my out loud musings  wub

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Maquenzie
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« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2012, 05:14:53 PM »

This is very interesting and I want to experiment with it.  Thank you for sharing!

I was also trying to add some visual elements into this, but that's primarily because *I'm* not a particularly strong auditory learner (though, of course this could help strengthen it!).  My oldest (5) is able to assimilate information acquired only aurally though so perhaps I should not dismiss it.

I've also just heard about Tony Buzan/Mind Mapping so it's interesting to hear that brought up as well.  I don't know very much about it (have not read any of his books), but I'd think it'd be more beneficial for the child who could read really well (neither of mine can read at the levels I read to them)...so if I'm reading the mind maps to them anyway...it wouldn't seem much different than just an audio only recording.  But, again, I know very little about Mind Mapping.

I do think this idea is really interesting and I want to play around with it.  I would think the skill of summarizing afterwards and/or just reviewing the most important facts would be a highly useful skill to refine. If one was in the habit of distilling and consciously assimilating all (or realistically, just more) of the information one hears, then of course that person would be much more informed! (it seems like you have a strength with this skill DadDude)

So, I'm viewing the first summary/distillation as potentially VERY useful.  But, yes, where's the tipping point? Where in this sequence (1 hour, 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, 1 year) does the level of benefit drop below the benefit of doing some other activity in its place? This is interesting.

I want to play around this idea both with only voice recordings and some with pictures as well. I'm thinking of using a (free) iPad app, educreations to make recordings with pictures and/or written words or drawings. We frequently look up pictures when we are reading on my iPad anyway, of I just saved each one--when we finish, I could pull them into that app to be viewed as we make a recording. (it's for making khan academy like presentations, but you can also import pictures).

I'm excited to try this out, and thanks for telling us about the idea and the interesting discussion. smile

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DadDude
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« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2012, 05:26:37 PM »

The difficulty with taking notes of any sort is that it's very time-consuming if you want to do it with everything that you read to your child, and you read as much to him as I do mine. I assume that Dr. Jones recommended a voice recorder because, well, it's the most efficient way.

Another option would be quite simply to highlight the text and not record it, but simply write down precisely from where to where you read. Then you re-read the highlighted text according to the 1 day, 1 week, etc. schedule. That might really be more efficient...

We've used Educreations (it's one of H's favorite apps; he is making apps for the BBC, he says). Again, the trouble is that it's impractical to do that unless you do it once or twice a day at most. Doing it for everything you read, if you read 3-4 or more non-fiction selections, is just too much trouble, over the long haul.

« Last Edit: February 14, 2012, 05:28:45 PM by DadDude » Logged

Larry Sanger - http://www.readingbear.org/
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DadDude
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« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2012, 05:31:25 PM »

Personally I think I wouldn't like listening to the recordings. It could work for an auditory learner, but a mind map might be more productive for a visual learner. I would rather reread the book  LOL
My thought on the whole system is....if you read the book the information is already in your subconscious mind so in order to get it you need to strengthen the access to this information. I was thinking rather than improve retention of your selected facts perhaps your time could be better spent improving your ability to access ALL information in your subconscious. Strenghten and improve you left right brain communication. After all isn't that what we are teaching our kids? Strengthening their corpus colluseum. In 8-10 minutes a day an adult could practice right brain games like silly sentences, eye tracking...then their over all ability to both obtain and retain information would increase. I wonder if speed reading and photographic memory would be more useful than remembering what we read a year ago. I suppose both would be great! I understand you are also trying to bring right brain earning into the left brain for your child ( they tell me this is what school does  LOL ) so I don't know this idea is useful, since kids will be tested on what they know under often fairly stressful situations ( stress doesn't build good left right connections). Ok that's enoughnof my out loud musings  wub
I don't think there's significant scientific support for the idea of "auditory learners." If you or your child doesn't like listening to them, then yeah--big problem, no matter how you want to describe the cause.

If I thought there were a sure-fire way to give my son Super Memory, so that he remembered everything he read, I'd do that. But I don't think there is such a method. There are techniques to make memorizing easier, but they take time. And I'm "right-brain" training as a baby might help, but I want to see data on that before I start spending a lot of time.

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seastar
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« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2012, 05:34:24 PM »

Buzan says that with subsequent reviews, it takes less and less time to review the mind map, so in theory it would only take a few seconds. When I was doing this frequently, it took very little time to distill the information to be remembered down into key points. In exams, I then found it very easy to remember information as I could 'see' the mind map in my mind's eye.

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« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2012, 06:05:13 PM »

Quote from: DadDude link=topic=13608.msg81507#msg81507 date
We've used Educreations (it's one of H's favorite apps; he is making apps for the BBC, he says). Again, the trouble is that it's impractical to do that unless you do it once or twice a day at most. Doing it for everything you read, if you read 3-4 or more non-fiction selections, is just too much trouble, over the long haul.

I was thinking of doing it very simply.  The only addition would usually be just having the pictures there to flip through while I'm recording the voice anyway (so, maybe 1 extra minute to import the puctures if I save them to the gallery as we look them up, which would only take an extra 5 seconds max).  IF I did any writing, it'd take place *while* I was talking-so no extra time. Who knows, I haven't tried yet. I'll fool around with different ideas to see what we like. I'm just assuming it wouldn't take much extra time (but I'm often wrong in my assumptions Wink.

And yes, I do read less than you, I think. My son attends school 5 hours everyday.  We read for over an hour most everyday (cummulatively), sometimes over 2, but almost never over 3.  And we usually have only 2 or 3 books going on at a time max, and I get the idea you have more going on at one time.

Also, I'm assuming you do the summaries after each reading from each book, correct? Or would you, say if you read from the same book multiple times in one day, do a summary only after the last reading of that book? Or, might you even stop and make a summary while reading the book because a particular section had concluded?  For instance, we're reading Usborne's "What's Chemistry all About?" right now (I find we go much slower with this book because it's a lot of information...also I think his retention is very low, despite really enjoying it, so I'm particularly interested in trying this idea out with this book).  There are quite a few breaks in the information. We just read about the different types of bonding, but that topic only lasted for a few pages.

I suppose that may be a silly question, and I'd need to just jump in and find our groove.  But, I am curious if there are different approaches to the way you summarize different types of books (non-fiction versus fiction, books with lots of different topics versus ones that explore a concept longer, etc.)

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DadDude
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« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2012, 07:21:15 PM »

@seastar, I'm sure you're right, but my concern is about the amount of time it takes to make the mind-maps. My guess is 2-3 times as long as it would take to speak into a recorder. And would the child be able to grasp what he needs to from the mind-map?

@Maquenzie--I'm just starting out too, so I don't have many insights on how to summarize different kinds of material. Maybe Dr. Jones will weigh in!

We're reading a poetry book and instead of trying to summarize poems, which seems silly, I just pick our favorite out of the 8-10 that we read, and I record that one. I don't notice any differences between the way I summarize history, geography, or science. I don't summarize fiction at all, although I was thinking of having H. do this himself as part of his homeschooling "narration" work. I told him that if he gets very good at narration, I'll buy him his own recorder.

By coincidence, we're reading the Usborne "What's Physics All About?" right now, which I'm guessing is similar to the chemistry book. I agree, it's extremely dense information--rather too much. I would have preferred that they cover the same amount of info and use 50% more words to make it more intuitive. I find myself explaining as much as I read, so during a 15-25 minute meal we end up going through only two pages.  That's fine, because we're using this as a spine for physics work and we have another set of physics books in rotation for mealtime reading. See, we have seven books in rotation for mealtime reading. Two of the books are physics-related. One is "What's Physics All About?" and another is DK Universe--we're reading the section about cosmology in the latter to complement the first chapter of the former, which is about both cosmology and particle physics.

While we have more books going than you do, it appears, I'm not sure that I read more to him than you do yours. There's about an hour of reading at mealtimes, another 15-25 of geography after lunch, and then 45-60 minutes at bedtime (a bit of history, every day, and chapter books). I also work with him from 60 to 90 minutes in the mornings doing math and writing, and he reads to himself for an hour in the afternoons (he's doing that even as I write this--he's re-reading the entire Henry Huggins series, which he finished last week). And he doesn't go to school. :-) But I think this is plenty (some people say too much) for five years old, turning six soonish.

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« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2012, 09:03:49 PM »

I guess I'm a visual learner so I prefer mindmaps. The goal would be to teach the child how to do their own mindmaps, thus teaching them how to pick out key points etc as in theory they would be far more likely to retain the info if they summarised themselves. Buzan has a mind map book for kids. I should say that never did mindmaps as he intended, mine were much quicker, just a concept map really. But I can definitely vouch for their effectiveness for visual learners like myself.

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« Reply #11 on: February 15, 2012, 03:00:26 AM »

I havnt actually looked for scientific proof of auditory learning but I don't need it! I have seen it in action many many times. People favor one type over another. This is not to suggest that I or others can't learn in a less favored style, just that I remember more from pictures.
Seastar, your comment intrigues me  yes Was that the proof? If you practiced the mind maps regularly are you saying that you started to visualize them more accurately? More quickly? More details? This is the precursor to photographic memory. Perhaps if you continued you would be now at the point of just memorizing the picture of the text on the page! How much time each week do you think you spent on it?
The linking memory games and eye tracking and visual discrimination games obviously work, it would be great if some of the mums on the forum who have done some excersizes Along with their children ( or the right brain kids people or memory magic!) would chime in and let us know whether they help with ALL areas of life in memory, or if it is a bit selective to those study areas. If it works it is bound to be more efficient to remember potentially everything...
We sumerize after each section. I do it that way to ensure full understanding of the topic and explain key words. Since we are often reading books above their reading comprehension level ( as it sounds like your physics books are) I also do a full book summary at the end of the book by running down the index and discussing each topic. Revisiting a month later would add greatly to the retention...I doubt my kids need the review the next day as they tend to discuss what they have read with their peers and incorporate it into their imaginary play times ( yes barbie went on holidays to a volcanic sea cave this week!)
Finally we would be able to fit in ALOT more reading if they didn't go to school...I am quite jealous of the time you have available for reading! At the moment with the ridiculous amount of homework they have, piano, gymnastics, taekwondo and plain old play time we get about an hour a day per kid. Sometimes together sometimes separately. When I kept my daughter home for a week ( school dramas) she learnt so much! We read so much. But she missed her friends too much to consider home schooling Sad since we do less reading it is possible they have more chance of remembering what they read, which is less overall that what you are trying to achieve.
Let us know how the recording works in a months time.

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« Reply #12 on: February 15, 2012, 03:14:52 AM »

I've heard something similar and I've seen it in practice for fact memorization with good results. There is a file card system (with tabs that say daily, odds, evens, Monday-Friday, and then dates 1-31) for memorization where you take an index card holder and you write a quote or date or whatever on it  and put it on the daily section then you review it daily until you memorize it. Then you move it to the odds and put a new fact in the daily, once you memorize the new daily fact you move it to odds and the other one to evens (referring to whether the date is even or odd) and you keep moving the facts back so that you review them less frequently and eventually once a month. You can then  keep them in a file to review occasionally, but they really should be solidified by that time.

For me personally I think this is a good technique for "facts" but for concepts I endorse the reading of increasingly complex works on a subject to deepen and broaden your scope of knowledge. Plus I think it is more interesting that may.

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« Reply #13 on: February 15, 2012, 02:21:36 PM »


Seastar, your comment intrigues me  yes Was that the proof? If you practiced the mind maps regularly are you saying that you started to visualize them more accurately? More quickly? More details? This is the precursor to photographic memory. Perhaps if you continued you would be now at the point of just memorizing the picture of the text on the page! How much time each week do you think you spent on it?


I found it very easy to visualise my mindmaps in exams. The more I used them, the quicker I became. It got to the point where I stopped taking notes, I simply highlighted my textbooks using 6 different coloured highlighters (green for names & dates, yellow for quotes, orange for key points, etc). At the end of the study session (approx 40 mins) I used to sketch a very quick mindmap. Before exams I would flick through the highlighted text & look at all my mindmaps in turn, a few mins per map. If I was stuck in an exam, I would close my eyes to visualise it or else draw the map again & the answer generally came to me. I suppose it worked as I did very little study and generally got top marks.

With regard to the amount of time I practiced, it was only ever in the run up to exams or if I needed to plan an essay, so very little really. I did spent quite some time researching memory & study techniques, mainly in an effort to become more efficient & reduce the time needed to study. I also used to make up mneumonics & silly rhymes to help me remember lists for exams.

I still use them occasionally if I am planning lectures or researching a topic as I like to have all the information on one page. As an experiment last year I decided to give some of my students (Masters level) a mindmap of each lecture instead of traditional notes (powerpoint) to see how they would react. From my point of view, the lectures were much more organic leading to far greater discussion & student participation. From their point of view, around half LOVED the mindmaps, and the other half HATED them, so I guess it really only appeals to certain people, probably visual learners. Whenever I see teenagers for educational assessments, I assess their learning style in addition to their current performance on ability tests etc & if they have visual strengths, I always recommend mindmaps & other visual strategies given my own experience with reducing time needed to study.

This thread has inspired me to try to develop these skills further.

« Last Edit: February 15, 2012, 02:23:14 PM by seastar » Logged
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« Reply #14 on: February 15, 2012, 03:29:09 PM »

I also have a photographic memory. I majored in English (literature and civilization) and had tons to read and remember so I would sum up my notes on mini cards with key words and essential dates. And I would read/look at them again and again. Numerous times, I would close my eyes during the exam trying to picture that famous card and re-read the info. And it worked most of the times !

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