As children learn, they add new information to what they already know. Their brains are continually reorganizing, adapting, and restructuring. In this post, we look at several ways you can organize information so your child is more likely to remember it later.
Let’s Start by Looking at Schemas
Knowledge is organized into elaborate networks called schemas. A schema is a model of how knowledge is organized and how new information is added. For example, a child may have the following schema for the alphabet:
Gradually this schema becomes much more complex as the child adds more information to his knowledge base: the sounds of the letters, how to print or write cursive, which letters are vowels, and how to blend letter sounds to read words.
Each letter of the alphabet will have information attached to it. For example, a schema for the letter H might look like this:
The letter H is fairly simple. The schema for vowels will be much more complex because of the wide range of sounds that a vowel can make alone and in conjunction with other letters.
Every bit of information stored in your child’s brain is connected to something else.
As your child’s brain builds a schema, new information is attached to previously stored information. Although we can’t show it through a simple drawing, the number of connections between pieces of information is unlimited since multiple ideas and concepts can be intricately interconnected. Watch this video for a 30-second demonstration.
If there is nothing to relate the new information to, there is no way for it to be stored in long-term memory. Instead, it is dropped from short-term memory and completely forgotten. If someone talks to you in Russian, and you don’t speak Russian, there is nothing for that information to connect to, and the information is dropped.
Help Your Child Build a Schema
All About Reading and All About Spelling help your child build an efficient schema or network of knowledge. Here are three important ways our programs help organize information:
Make connections to things your child already knows. For example, one of the first spelling rules your child will learn is that CK is generally used for the sound of /k/ immediately after a short vowel. Example words include rock, snack, and pick. See how the CK comes right after the short vowel in those words?
It just so happens that there are two more phonograms that come only after a short vowel: DGE and TCH. DGE spells the sound of /j/ only after a short vowel, and TCH spells /ch/ only after a short vowel. So when it comes time to teach the usage of DGE and TCH, it is helpful to make a connection to the rule they previously learned about CK. The rules are so closely related that we should tie them together in your child’s brain instead of treating them as separate ideas to be stored randomly.
Use analogies. An analogy is a comparison between two things that are otherwise dissimilar. For example, when we teach syllable types, we compare an “open syllable” with an open door. An open syllable ends in a vowel; there is no consonant closing it in. The word she is an open syllable because there is no consonant closing in the vowel E. Likewise, the first syllable in the word apron is an open syllable, with no consonant closing in the vowel A. Students label these syllable types with a syllable tag representing an open door. Using analogies (like the “open door” analogy) is a powerful way to make connections in the brain.
Provide content that has unifying themes. For example, our color-coded letter tiles are grouped according to themes. Ways to spell the sound of /er/ are purple, vowel teams are red, consonant teams are blue, and so on.
By helping your child build an organized schema, you’ll be helping her build her long-term memory. Each new bit of information will have a logical place to connect to, and your teaching will be more effective.
Additional Help for Your Child’s Memory
Download my free e-book “Help Your Child’s Memory” to learn more techniques to help strengthen your child’s memory and achieve learning that really sticks.
In this e-book you will discover…
Why information goes right over your child’s head … and what to do about it
How the “Funnel Concept” can improve your teaching and result in long-term learning
Schemas—what they are and how they help improve memory