Using Visual-Spatial Strengths to Memorize New Material

By — Visual Spatial Resource Center
Updated on Dec 16, 2008

I talk to a lot of teachers about how they can best reach the visual-spatial learners in their classes, those who think in images and see the whole picture, not in words or step-by-step. Many of these teachers tell me that they try to incorporate visual tricks so their students can master the material that must be memorized. But, there are things you can do, as a parent, to help your visual-spatial student make learning permanent, as well. Here are some examples.

Take the information your children must memorize and have them create a silly story with it. I once met an incredibly dynamic teacher and conference presenter named Jon Pearson ( who taught the 13 colonies by having his audience memorize a ridiculous story-in pictures that participants created in their minds-of a Jersey cow named Georgia, atop the Empire State Building. Can you "see" New Jersey, Georgia and New York here? The tale went on to include all 13 colonies and after each line we were instructed to create an image in our mind's eye while we repeated the line back to him:

    There's a cow named Georgia (Georgia)
    It's a Jersey cow (New Jersey)
    She's sitting on top of the Empire State Building (New York)
    She's singing a couple of Christmas carols (North and South Carolina)
    Under her arm is a Virginia ham (Virginia and New Hampshire)
    The cow is wearing a pair of yellow underwear (Rhymes with Delaware)
    In its hoof is a pencil (Pennsylvania)
    The cow is making a Connect-the-dots drawing (Connecticut)
    Of Marilyn Monroe (Maryland)
    Walking down a road (Rhode Island)
    Going to mass (Massachusetts)

When Jon was done, every member of the audience could accurately recall the ridiculous images each had mentally created and, hence, all 13 colonies. The best part is that your children don't have to be artists to accomplish this. If they want the images drawn, not just imagined, stick figures work just fine. As long as the story is silly and funny and you use color, exaggerated sizes and humor to convey the new material, it will be remembered. They can use this trick to remember so many different types of material, from historical data to science principles, and so much more.

Why do you suppose beginning piano students are taught the notes of the scale as Every Good Boy Does Fine? Because it works to stick in the student's mind. Why did we learn the letters of the alphabet to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star? Because catchy tunes serve as an anchor and they make new information permanent and retrievable.

Or, show your children how to use acronyms for remembering strings of words. Have you seen the trick for memorizing the Great Lakes?

H Huron
O Ontario
M Michigan
E Erie
S Superior

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