I’m enjoying a wee smug moment just now.
Before Xmas, I went on a course to train as an Adult Literacies volunteer tutor, which means I’m now able to help adults to improve their reading and writing skills.
Having said that, I’ve been helping my first learner (I’ll refer to him as ‘J’) with his memory for the past 3 months or so. We weren’t given any training for that, but the principles are the same and teaching isn’t new to me.
The first thing J wanted to work on was how to remember people’s names. I had to stifle a groan as this is one of those things that I’ve never been that great with. However, I read books, used the internet, made use of my kids game of “Guess Who” and over a few weeks we both made remarkable progress.
Shopping lists followed using the journey method, where you visualise the items on a well-known route. To recall the list, you just picture the route in your head and you’ll see the items. The stronger you create the image, the easier it is to recall
Next up J wanted to remember telephone numbers. I’m usually pretty good with numbers, but the techniques I use personally were no good for him, so I had to come up with a different strategy. Firstly he created visual associations with numbers (in his case they were items that were shaped like the numbers: so a soccer ball for 0, a swan for 2, a snowman for 8 etc), then we placed the items around a person’s body, starting from one foot, going up to the head and down the other side. So if the number starts with, say, 01812, then J pictures the person with a football at the foot, a walking stick hanging off the belt loop, a snowman in the hand, another walking stick hooked over the arm and a swan crapping on the shoulder. When it comes to recalling the number, you pull up the image of the person and follow the images around the body. Amazingly it seems to work very well for him.
Anyway, the latest thing I’ve been trying to figure out for J is directions. At his work he’s often given them when it’s impossible to write them down, and this causes all sorts of difficulties. Over the past few months I’ve found numerous techniques for remembering names, numbers and grocery lists, but none on how to remember directions.
So what we did this evening was combine a couple of techniques again. A few weeks back, we set up the association of the colour red to represent left and blue for right, as a primer (and delaying tactic) while I tried to figure out what to do next. By combining it with the number sequence he already has in place and a planned pathway through his house I think we’ve conquered it.
For example, suppose he’s got a sequence such as 1st right, 3rd left, 2nd exit at the roundabout, 1st left. He now pictures a blue walking stick at the door, a pair of red handcuffs (open handcuffs look like the number 3, ok? - don’t question this too closely) in the dining room, then a swan standing on a football (the roundabout) in the kitchen, followed by a red walking stick in the living room.
It might sound strange, but it worked a treat. We’ve plotted out a simple 10-stage journey through his house and with a combination of red swans, blue walking sticks and footballs J can now recall quite complex sets of directions.
So despite the fact that I couldn’t get any help from the usual sources, I’ve still managed to create a system that works for J. Therefore this evening I’m allowing myself a wee smug moment.