Helping Kids Remember Stuff

Four ways to make information sticky

Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

“Memory is the residue of thought.” Daniel T. Willingham, Why Don’t Students Like School?

How do we help kids think about the things we want them to remember?

Reasons stories boost understanding and memory

  1. Our brain is familiar with the pattern of stories and so information presented in that pattern is easier for us to interpret.
  2. Stories are interesting, this may because they require inferences that our brain rewards us for figuring out, stories with an excess of detail are less interesting probably because no work is left for our own brain to do.
  3. They are easy to remember because we have to connect many dots inside of a story forcing our brain to think about meaning the whole time.
  4. Also, because of stories causal structure once we remember one part of the story we can usually remember the whole story.

“My intention here is not to suggest that you simply tell stories, although there’s nothing wrong with doing so.” Daniel T. Willingham

“The story structure applies to the way you organize the material that you encourage your students to think about, not to the methods you use to teach the material.” Daniel T. Willingham

What About Learning Mundane Facts?

Okay, so what about topics that seem meaningless, or lists of facts students actually need to know before they can move into a skill.

What is the best method for rote memory?

Willingham goes over various mnemonic devices, but here I am just going to focus on the ones that research has found the most effective.

The acronym method

This can be helpful if you already know the facts, it can help you remember all of them. Can you name all of the Great Lakes?


The only problem with using a song is that it takes a lot of work to write a song. Another thing about using songs for learning that drives me nuts is the lack of the quality of a song. If the song is painful to listen to, your brain is probably going to try to block it out! Having said that, when you do find good songs that cover material that needs to be memorized, use them. They are very effective memory aids.


Chanting in rhythm is also a great help when trying to memorize information. It is fairly easy to take any set of facts and set them to rhythm.

A mom who writes, in the cracks of time, between educating, chauffeuring and feeding half a dozen kids. Top writer in Parenting.

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