How to Remember

October 21st, 2014

blooms-taxonomy-2The first and most important skill in learning is the ability to remember. If you can’t remember the information you certainly cannot use it for problem solving, creative thinking or critical thinking. The graphic on the left is a representation of the “revised” Bloom’s Taxonomy. The lower green section used to be called “knowledge” when this first came out in the 1950’s. It was revised in the 1990’s and all the nouns were changed to verbs to show that learning is more action oriented. It progresses from the bottom and most basic of skills (remembering) to the top showing the most advanced or higher level thinking skill of creating (called synthesis on the earlier version).

The ability to remember is dependent on a number of factors.  Have you ever forgotten why you entered a room or the name of a person you just met? It could have been due to attention, motivation, emotion or relevancy. These are the same things that affect your son or daughter’s ability to remember also.


  • Get ready to pay attention – this tells the brain to focus on the important and disregard the unimportant.
  • Make sure basic needs are met (food, water, sleep, safety, belonging, etc.)
  • Make sure emotions are in check (emotions control the brain’s ability to remember)
  • What motivates? (intrinsic vs extrinsic)
  • Make learning personal (connect it in a meaningful way to your or your child’s life)


  • Manage the distractions – write down anything that interrupts your thinking and deal with it later
  • Visualize what you need to remember (often the crazier the easier to remember)
  • Use color, shape, placement, words and numbers to help the brain recall details (mindmaps)
  • Create mnemonics (riddles, acronyms, acrostics, loci, stories, etc.) for chunks of information
  • Take periodic, non-electronic breaks to allow the brain to process the new information
  • Use your learning style – it’s your preference for a reason
  • Take an interest – read ahead, research on your own, find other sources, make connections
  • Use your own words, rehearse, reflect and review to remember
  • Maintain a growth mindset – believe you can remember/learn anything. It’s effort not IQ.

Whether it is in the classroom, boardroom or living room, your ability to remember starts when you are first presented with new/different information – be ready.

Attention 101

October 3rd, 2014

attentionOctober is ADHD Awareness Month, so let’s talk about attention. Does your child take a long time to complete their homework? Have you heard things from the teacher like, “your child needs to pay more attention in class,” or “he/she is distracted and needs to focus more?”  Well, it turns out that it is not as simple as “paying more attention.” There are actually three different kinds of attention (according to the all kinds of minds website). I’ve summarized the three types below and added some strategies that might be helpful below that. (I used the pronoun, “they” rather than “he/she” to simplify.)

1. Mental Energy is really about how awake the brain is and how consistent the energy level stays.

  • Alertness –can they concentrate when necessary?
  • Sleep habits – do they get a good night’s sleep and wake rested?
  • Mental effort- do they have enough energy to finish what they start
  • Performance consistency-is their work of the same quality from day to day?

2. Processing Energy is about how well your child can put the pieces together.

  • Can they separate important from unimportant?
  • Do they connect new information to what they already know?
  • How deep do they concentrate?
  • Can they concentrate until they get through the task?
  • Can they put the pieces together even when not interested in the topic?

3. Production Energy is about the consistency and quality of their work.

  • Do they think ahead to what the end result should be?
  • Do they consider different options before proceeding?
  • Is the quality of their work consistent?
  • Do they work fast, slow or just right?
  • Do they learn from previous mistakes?

Mental Strategies:

  • Clear their working memory (use our “brain dump” technique)
  • Get some exercise
  • Create a sleep routine
  • Have them do their homework at the same time daily
  • Help them find what is interesting about their work
  • Let them get creative

Processing Strategies:

  • Use different colored highlighters to separate multistep directions or to highlight important details
  • Use graphic organizers with topic headings so facts can be written in easily
  • Actively preview before getting started and ask why is this important?
  • Work in short blocks of time
  • Discuss what they already know about a topic before beginning (Use kwl charts)

Production Strategies:

  • Start with the end in mind. Have them sketch out what the finished product will look like and work backwards (consider at least two approaches)
  • Design a rubric for homework together and use it to review (students should rate and then explain their scores)
  • Create “strategy sheets” that show the steps of the process to free up working memory space
  • Use graphic organizers to plan
  • Review all work for errors and omissions (work from top down, don’t skip around)

If you’ve had success at using a different strategy and would like to help others struggling with the same challenges, please let me know below so we can learn from each other.