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
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
YOUR BRAIN FOR EVER
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
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
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
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
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
To be remembered properly, data must be practised or even
relearned. Putting facts into regular use also strengthens
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
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
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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
|TRICKS FOR EVERYDAY
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
|REINFORCING NAMES AND
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.
|NAVIGATING AND TRAVEL
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.
to the lesson plan