As noted in the previous article of this series, memory expectations and abilities vary based on the age of our students. It is not surprising, then, that the best interventions to help students retain information and overcome memory problems also vary based on the age of the students. At all grade levels, the best interventions are designed to give students aids and strategies to improve their encoding, consolidation, and retrieval processes.
For the youngest students, directions should be given in multiple forms such as images and text. Teachers need to repeat new information frequently through pictures, movements, and songs throughout the day. Teachers and interventionists need to teach concepts slowly and in chunks. Teachers can help students write or draw cues on paper for each concept or fact they learn.
For students in the middle grades, it can help working and long-term memory to give them posters, procedures, graphics organizers, and step-by-step written demonstrations to be kept near them at all times. In addition to giving directions slowly, concisely, and in chunks, it helps at this age for teachers to accompany the information with emotion-charged stories and images.
Teachers, parents, and interventionists can help high school students’ working and long-term memory by asking students to write and think on paper. They can write the facts and steps to solve problems on paper and have them available to complete their assignments or study for their tests. While they write, they organize the information and make sense of what they are reading or learning. Another strategy is to have students read something and immediately close the book and try to repeat what they remember or understand. Teachers need to use stories that can trigger an emotional connection, as well. Teachers can provide students with posters, dictionaries, a list of procedures, step-by-step reminders, graphic organizers, mnemonic devices, and relevance to each lesson or concept. Students who struggle to encode and consolidate information during lectures can receive the information and class materials beforehand so they can read them in advance and process them further while they listen to the teacher.
In addition to the strategies listed by age above, it is likely that tutoring and one-on-one learning are helpful at all ages. Semb, Ellis, and Araujo have found that tutoring and one-on-one learning have positive effects that are maintained over time, possibly because they provide overlearning of the material, which helps develop long term memory.
For true, lasting, and meaningful learning to happen, students need to be able to effectively encode, consolidate, and retrieve information. Once they are able to do this with new information, they can apply the new learning to future information and to complex problems. When teachers are knowledgeable about memory processes and issues and are intentional about aligning their practices with the science of learning, the student can have a meaningful and lasting learning experience.