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Text to accompany the May 2001 lesson plan

To go directly to the end for the 'Tricks for Everday Experiences'

A note on the text. The text comes from the Daily Mail, a tabloid British newspaper. The text appears below as it is in the newspaper with lots of one sentence paragraphs.

For a Word version

The following article is from the Daily Mail - Tuesday 17th April 2001 - who in turn extracted it from The Sharper Mind by Fred B. Chernow (Souvenir Press, £9.99)

Your 21b brain can store more than the average computer. But humans, unlike computers, also forget - birthdays, phone numbers, names and appointments. So how can we make sure we remember? Here, FRED B. CHERNOW, an academic who has devoted his life to memory improvement, presents an invaluable guide to strengthening your memory power.

Do you walk into the kitchen and suddenly wonder why you went there? Perhaps you can never remember where you've parked your car, have trouble recalling telephone numbers or cannot put a name to a face.
If this sounds familiar, it's time to sharpen up your mind.
People can learn a variety of different things: We can learn to tie our shoes, ride a bike, swim, type, play the piano, programme a video and master foreign languages. The list is endless.
Yet none of this is useful unless we can remember what we have learned. Without memory, we would have to re-learn each skill or fact as if we had never experienced it before.
Modern research has identified three kinds of memory. One declines with age, one remains fairly constant and one can actually improve throughout life.
Semantic memory refers to the general knowledge and factual material you store in your head. The information you use at work, as well as bits of information you use to respond to TVquiz shows or crossword puzzles, are good examples of semantic memory.
This kind of memory actually improves - especially if you make a point of keeping your mind active - as we go through life and acquire more general knowledge.
Implicit memory does not decline with age, it stays fairly constant. Its skills include activities such as typing, playing the piano, swimming and riding a bike.
After a 20-year break, you can still ride a bike If you had this skill as a child. The balance and co-ordination that took so long to master when you were eight years old will come back with a little practice.
The only kind of memory that seems to decline with age is episodic memory.
This refers to personal, autobiographical incidents, such as what you ate for lunch yesterday or your neighbour's phone number. So try following for an instant memory boost.

I'm sorry, what was your name?
The first step in remembering anything is to register it.
For example, a cheerful waitress approaches your table and introduces herself as Diane. You are engrossed in the menu. A few minutes later, when she brings the wrong order, you begin with: 'I'm sorry; I've forgotten your name.'
Wrong. You didn't forget her name. You never registered her name. Registration is a form of input. If you skip input and don't put the fact into your memory because you weren't paying attention, there will be nothing to remember.
Our inability to remember names, in most cases, is due to not attending in the first place.

Thursday night is football night
If you do register a name, fact or efficiently for future reference. This is called retention. When placing items in our memory bank for retention, we can't just toss them in - we need 'pegs' or other devices to help us store them all.
Well-organised people retain information better than their more disorganised colleagues.
If your doctor has evening hours on Thursdays, file that away in your mental filing cabinet in the appropriate drawer and in the correct folder. Thursday is also your partner's football night,
So you say to yourself: 'I can go to the doctor after he or she leaves for the match.' By doing this, you have taken the first step to remembering the doctor's late office hours - you have made associations.
Retention, or the storage phase of memory, is strengthened by interest, observation, association and repetition.
The mere act of learning a term, price-list or name so that it can be recalled once or twice is not sufficient for good retention.
To be remembered properly, data must be practised or even relearned. Putting facts into regular use also strengthens retention.
The juggler who can toss three balls at once does not stop practising the trick as soon as he acquires it. He continues to improve his skill. So it is with retention of information. Once information is registered, you must continue to review it if you want to retain it.

Cracking the code
Retrieval is the process of calling up an item from memory when we need it. When we remember something, we have retrieved it from the retention or storage phase of memory.
This becomes easier if we classify or categorise the item at the time we place It in our memory bank. Then we have a variety of cues to help us access the information.
A good way of calling up a memory is to recall all or part of the code that was used to file it away.
For example, you and your friend enjoyed seeing The Phantom Of The Opera at the theatre. In your mind you classified it under Andrew Lloyd Webber, musical, or even your friend's name.
Any one of these are memory retrieval cues.
Retrieval is the 'pay-off'. If you have registered and retained the information properly, you will not have a problem calling up the memory item when you need it.

Boost your memory by 'chunking'
Short-term memory is made up of the small amount of material you can hold in your head at any one time. It is your 'attention span'. It also has a rapid forgetting rate.
We combat this rapid forgetting rate by repetition, as in repeating a phone number, a person's name, a travel direction and so on.
Such repetition serves two functions: it keeps the information in short-term memory for longer, and it can help you encode and transfer it into long-term memory;
In addition to a rapid forgetting rate, short-term memory has a very limited capacity - about seven items for most of us.
The best way to improve it is to learn to 'chunk'- the ability to group long lists of data into smaller chunks.
For example it would be difficult to remember 109244153. But if we break it up into three chunks, we get a more manageable 109-244-153 to store away.

Use it or lose it
Many people confuse long-term memory with events which happened a long time ago. Although long-term memory holds data that was learned 30 years ago, it also holds material learned 30 minutes ago. Its basic difference from short-term memory is that it is permanent.
It holds items as varied as your birthday, what a now-deceased relative looked like, which keys on your key ring fit which locks, how to operate your microwave oven and your husband's new phone number at work.
Short-term memory is like the in-basket on an office desk. Permanent memory is like the filing cabinets lining the wall. The in-basket has a limited capacity. It can hold only so much and than the contents are dumped to make room for more.
Some of it is discarded. Nothing goes into the filing cabinet until it has been sorted in the in-basket.
There are five ways you can avoid forgetting what you have stored:

  1. Use it or lose it. Memories leave a trace in the brain that gradually fades with time. The basis of forgetting is lack of use. You can combat this by repeating, rehearsing, using or practising whatever you want to remember.
  2. Maintain interest. People with excellent memories have varied interests. There is a natural tendency to remember what we are interested in. We remember what we want to remember. Make the material more interesting or of greater value to you and your recollection of it will improve greatly.
  3. Make it meaningful. If it doesn't make sense, it will be hard to learn, just as learning your times table by rote at school was tedious.
  4. Think 'around' it. You know that word or name is stored in your permanent memory, but you're having trouble pulling It out, Think of everything you can that might be associated in any way with the subject.
  5. Relax and take a deep breath. Any kind of stressful situation can interfere with memory. The antidote is to relax.

So why did you go into the kitchen?
Our permanent memory is a huge and virtually limitless storage space. The process of storing information in it is called encoding. We all have a variety of encoding skills we choose from when we want to 'learn' a name, number or fact.
Paying attention, making associations, applying reasoning, analysing or elaborating are just a few.
You strengthen your chances of remembering something in your short-term memory and transferring it to your permanent memory if you are interested in the fact, you pay attention when the information is presented, you elaborate the details, or you associate the new data with something you already know.
If you want to remember an errand, an unfamiliar name or a number, you must first consciously create a picture and visualise It in your mind.
For example, you are sitting in the lounge watching television when you get the urge to eat an apple. You get out of your favourite chair switch off the TV walk into the kitchen then... you don't remember why you came into the kitchen!
One way to remedy this is to retrace your steps and hope the thought will re-enter your mind. But this does not always happen. A better technique is to visualise the apple when the thought of eating one first comes to mind.
See the apple in your mind's eye. Is it green or red? How big is it? Where in the kitchen will you look for it?
By creating a strong picture, you will know precisely why you came Into the kitchen and just what to do when you get there. Your mind has a strong, vivid picture that will you until your mission is accomplished.

Also from the article & used in stage 4 of thelesson plan, the mingle information exchange activity.
Shopping lists are invaluable, but for just B few items you may not bother to write a list, or you may leave your long list at home.
You may want to pick up milk, rolls, a newspaper, get petrol for the car and buy a birthday card tar your niece.
When you use imagery, you see yourself at the petrol pump reading the birthday card and glancing at the first page of the newspaper. On the eat next to you is the grocery bag containing the milk and rolls. Visualise the number five so that you'll know you're finished when you've accomplished five tasks.
When you meet someone for the first time, use an imaginary pen to write their same on their forehead. As you speak to your new friend, look at them and see their name superimposed. it will force you to make eye contact, which I always a plus in making an impression. And by looking at the 'name', you are checking spelling and pronunciation.
Visualise the route from start to finish as you would see it from the air in a helicopter. This aerial view will vividly show you the main roads and streets where you make turns. A pattern will emerge of lefts and rights that will make the verbal travel directions more relevant. Picture the landmarks you will see from your car: a left at the church; a right at the bank; past two sets of lights beyond the theatre and turn left.

Pretend you are the director of a Hollywood movie. Cast the anecdote-with your favourite film or TV stars. Feed them their lines. Have them exaggerate their movements. We remember action scenes better than static ones.
Visualise their scripts with the key words of the punchline in bold type or highlighted in yellow. Reduce your punchline to four or five key words. Review these words in your mind before you tell the joke.

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