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How Making Connections Helps Your Child’s Memory

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

    open syllable tag
  3. 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.

    letter tiles on white board

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.

download help your child's memory ebook

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
  • What “Simultaneous Multisensory Instruction” is, and why it is such a powerful teaching method
  • Six things you can do today to improve your child’s working memory
making connections pinterest graphic
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adeoye bukunola

says:

hello, have always loved teaching and still do though i did not study an educational course in school. i studied applied chemistry. i live in Lagos, Nigeria and will love to know more about teaching, online courses on teaching also. i need advise… thank you.

Rachael

says:

Hi,
This may seem like a strange request, but I thought I might ask in light of the “making connections” advice in this blog. I was reviewing some phonograms with my daughter today, and we both thought it would be helpful to have the phonogram cards match the tiles on the board, so for example all the vowel team cards be red, the vowels red, the consonants blue and the consonant teams blue, the sounds of “er” be purple etc. I know that would mean a lot of hard work, but when she sees yellow on the current phonogram cards she thinks “jail” or exception, and when we work with the tiles and cards it’s not as “connective” as it could be. Is this something you have thought of before? Would it be possible? The colour coded flash card option?
Just an idea. thanks, Rachael

Merry at AALP

says:

Hi Rachael,

That’s an interesting idea! I’ll be sure to pass this on to Marie. I haven’t heard it shared before, so I don’t know if it’s been considered. Thanks for your suggestion!

Abi

says:

My daughter is 7 and in grade 2 and just diagnosed woth dyslexia, I would like to start using your books, but I don’t know where to start.

Merry at AALP

says:

Hi Abi,

You can use the placement tests for AAR to decide which level would be best: http://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/reading-placement/

Also, we recommend having your child read the sample stories from the previous level online as a further confirmation. You want your child to be reading fluently with good comprehension before going to a higher level. I’m guessing by her age that she would be in one of the first two levels, but let me know if you need additional samples or information on placement.

Level 1 sample story: http://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/reading-placement/
Level 2 sample story: http://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/content/samples/AAR-L2-QueenBee-2ndEd-Sample.pdf

I hope this helps! Please let me know if you have additional questions. We provide lifetime support for all of our programs.

Karen

says:

I’ve read a lot of review for AAR and AAS for dyslexic learners. Is this method appropriate for early readers without developmental issues?

Merry at AALP

says:

Hi Karen,

Yes it is! AAR and AAS are often used by beginning readers and spellers. The lessons are laid out in an orderly form for the teacher too, so that each day you can simply open and go. The programs are easy to do at home without prior training.

AAR and AAS are multisensory. They approach learning through sight, sound, and touch. This helps kids remember what they learn because they take in information in various ways and also interact with it in various ways.

AAR includes research-based instruction in decoding skills, fluency, automaticity, comprehension, vocabulary and lots and lots of reading practice. AAS focuses on encoding skills, spelling rules and other strategies that help children become good spellers.

Each lesson time is simple and explicit, and will include 3 simple steps: review of what was learned the day before, a simple new teaching, and a short practice of that new teaching. The program is designed for you to move at your child’s pace, so you can go as quickly or as slowly as your child needs through each step.

Lessons are logical and incremental. AAR and AAS break every teaching down into its most basic steps and then teaches the lessons in a logical order, carrying the students from one concept or skill to the next. Each step builds on the one the student has already mastered. Our sequence was very carefully tested to reduce confusion for the child.

AAR and AAS use specially color-coded letter tiles. Working with the letter tiles can make the difference between understanding or not understanding a concept.

AAS and AAR are scripted, so you can concentrate on your child. The script is very clear, without excess verbiage.

Both programs have built-in review in every lesson. Some children need lots of review in order to retain concepts, while others don’t need as much–so you are free to adjust this to your child’s need. After a concept has been taught, don’t assume that the child knows it. Quickly revisit that concept again in the next lesson. With AAR and AAS, your child will have a Review Box so you can customize the review. This way, you can concentrate on just the things that your child needs help with, with no time wasted on reviewing things that your child already knows.

Another benefit of the review is that you can practice with your child what to say–you can rehearse as many or as few times as your child needs to help her become fluent in reading the words.

-AAS includes dictation that starts out very short–Level 1 starts out with just words and then progresses to 2-word phrases. Level 2 includes phrases and shorter sentences, while Level 3 moves up to slightly longer sentences. With dictation you will say the phrase or sentence and have your child repeat it. If possible, you want to encourage your child to really focus so that you only say the phrase or sentence once, and they can repeat it and then write it. You are training them to expand their working memory a little at a time. You can always break things down more to meet your child’s needs, too. The dictation is meant to be spread over several days, so you can take as much or as little time on that part as your child needs.

-The programs are independent of each other so students can move as quickly or as slowly as they need to with each skill. Kids generally move ahead more quickly in reading, and we don’t want to hold them back with the spelling. For more information, check out this article on Why We Teach Reading and Spelling Separately: http://blog.allaboutlearningpress.com/why-we-teach-reading-and-spelling-separately/

I hope this helps! Please let me know if you have additional questions

Michele Shea

says:

We love AAR. It works great for our apraxic and dyslexic son. We are beginning AAS also.

Sarah MacKillop

says:

Hi,

My daughter is 12 and in 6 th grade. I am seeing
her spelling skills go backwards. She seems to need two
weeks to get through one list of twenty spelling words.
We need to review phonetic sounds, grammar skills
and have more vocabulary words. Would your program
help achieve these three things?

Merry at AALP

says:

Hi Sarah,

Sometimes older kids will struggle because they really have gaps in their knowledge of phonograms or how our language works. Many programs focus on memorizing a lot of words, but with those gaps in understanding, kids tend to hit a saturation point where they struggle.

AAS’s main focus is on teaching kids effective spelling strategies: http://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/effective-spelling-strategies

Sometimes my kids did learn new vocabulary–we certainly discussed new words along the way. But that is not a focus of the program. Honestly, my kids learned most vocabulary through two means: read-alouds, and our every day speech (we have never watered down our vocabulary for our kids. Instead, we would use a word and restate the meaning as we spoke–similar to the way many books for kids will do to help kids understand new words). You might like this article: http://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/building-your-childs-vocabulary/

Grammar is only taught as it applies to spelling. For example, when the suffix -ed is taught, students do learn what past tense means and how some words change completely instead of simply taking on the suffix. However, the program does not discuss parts of speech, punctuation, and so on. Here’s a final article on planning language arts, which you might find helpful: http://blog.allaboutlearningpress.com/language-arts-in-my-household/

I hope this helps as you decide how to proceed in helping your daughter. Please let me know if you have additional questions.

Carrie Seibert

says:

I really appreciate how visually engaging the colored tiles are, but even more, what they represent and how they are grouped. There is a constant message being sent to the child as they use the tiles that each tile “belongs” to a particular group and I think this really helps them better understand how all the pieces of the large language puzzle begin to fit together!

Lynn Coetzee

says:

So interesting and encouraging!

Laurie

says:

My dd is 12, and is a third of the way through AAS book three. (We’ve been using the program for about 2 years) When we started, she was unable to listen to a single word and write it. I had to dictate it one letter at a time for her to be able to copy it down. Now, she can listen to a sentence of 7-10 words and write the whole thing. I love the step by step learning this program promotes, and we are both delighted in the improvements she is making.

Marie Rippel

says: Customer Service

Your daughter has made great progress, Laurie! I’m so happy for you both!

Lisa

says:

This is very helpful information! Thanks so much!

Lisa Stallings

says:

i love the AAR concept and method. After successfully homeschooling three children, I ran into a brick wall with my fourth child. AAR has helped us scale that wall! It really works-and my son and I are thankful!

Marie Rippel

says: Customer Service

I’m so happy to hear that, Lisa! Stories like that keep me going!

Kathryn

says:

It is so rewarding as our son’s teacher when he makes a comment that demonstrates that he has made the connections as described here. He is excited and more confident in his new knowledge.

Linda

says:

Thank you. I have always been a good speller, but it is so fun for me to be learning the “whys” along with my children! Really enjoying your program and seeing such progress. You are helping me be a better teacher.

Marla

says:

This is very interesting. I have always thought learning should flow from the know into the unknown, and this post explains why that is. It is only from the know to the unknown that we can build the connections.

Marie Rippel

says: Customer Service

Exactly, Marla! You explained that very well!

Brenda

says:

I have a daughter adopted from foster care. And I don’t think things in her brain work the same way. She just doesn’t make connections. It will be interesting to see if this helps.

Marie Rippel

says: Customer Service

Brenda, here’s another article may be helpful to you as you figure out the best way to reach your daughter: http://blog.allaboutlearningpress.com/spelling-multisensory/. Multisensory instruction really helps children who learn differently.

And here’s a post on how to individualize your child’s instruction: http://blog.allaboutlearningpress.com/spelling-individualized/.

Jason

says:

This is an interesting post. My son struggled with another reading curriculum during his first year (and he struggles with memorizing things in general too). My wife found AAR and AAS and switched this year and he has excelled at reading with AAR. I think the incorporation of memory techniques as pointed out in this post within the AAR material probably explains some of why he’s done well and why it seems like his overall memory has improved over the past few months too. I’ve worked with him on other memory tricks lately and they seem to help him as well. One memory “trick” we’ve taught him for lists and facts are the number pictures from 1-20. Candle, swan, clover, sailboat, star, elephant trunk, ax, hourglass, tennis racket, fingers, goal posts, dozen eggs, american flag, lightning bolts, elevator, car, harp, soldier, golf clubs, and shotgun. After he learned the 20 pictures, we use memory association to attach new facts/items to these 20 number pictures.

Marie Rippel

says: Customer Service

Thanks for sharing your experience with AAR, Jason! That’s wonderful that you are working with your son with various memory techniques.

Bartek

says:

Great post. I’m huge fan of mind mapping and a schema theory. You share with us very valuable knowledge and information. Thank you.

Marie Rippel

says: Customer Service

Thanks for your kind words, Bartek!

Nancy

says:

I’d love to try your program! It is so well rounded!

Stephenie

says:

Thank you for the helpful articles!

Whitney

says:

Such a great program

tammy cordery

says:

Sounds like a great program. I like the letters on the board. I wish there were more colors instead of just red and blue but I understand the why.

Marie Rippel

says: Customer Service

Hi Tammy,

The photo in the post doesn’t show it clearly, but we do have more than just red and blue letter tiles. Here’s the breakdown:

– Consonants and consonant teams are blue.
– Vowels and vowel teams are red.
– Tiles representing the sound of /er/ are purple.
– The remaining r-controlled vowels are yellow.
– Tiles representing the sound of /sh/ are green.
– The apostrophe, hyphen, and ed are orange.

In addition, we have color-coded suffix and prefix tiles. Let me know if you have any questions!

Alison Hurst

says:

Thanks. This is helpful!

Rachel

says:

Thanks for the great info! We love AAR and AAS!

Tracey

says:

This is great information -!thank you! I would love to try the curriculum!

Wendy

says:

Thanks for a great article.

Would love to try your programs. Is there a way to “sample” them before committing to the entire set?

Marie Rippel

says: Customer Service

Hi Lisa,

You can download All About Reading samples here: http://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/reading-lesson-samples/ . The All About Spelling samples are here: http://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/spelling-lesson-samples

If you have any questions, please let us know!

Mary Hoskins

says:

I love AAR & AAS! Looking forward to starting AAR 3 soon.

Jamie

says:

I really appreciate the concepts you share about things like dge/tch. Thanks!

Rachel

says:

I love the concepts behind AAR!

Jana

says:

Love AAS and AAR!!

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