Saturday, 7 April 2012

Language World 2012: Improving Memory, Wendy Adeniji

Wendy’s workshop included a lot of suggestions and no-nonsense advice to enable students to find “what works for them”.
The first piece of advice was to make it obvious that memory work is hard work. There is no shortcut despite the messages sometimes spread in the media. Memorisation in a foreign language is difficult as you need to memorise the pronunciation of the word, its meaning in English and spelling in the foreign language.
Wendy spends 3-4 lessons on memorisation at the beginning of year 7, a few weeks into September.
Memorisation skills need to be taught explicitly and it helps if students are aware of their preferred learning style. Start with a VAK questionnaire and a talk to parents with suggested strategies to support their child given their preferred learning style: Visual, Auditory or Kinaesthetic.
In addition to our preferred learning style, Wendy pointed out that we all needed to develop a reasonably good visual memory because of the way we are tested.
Word association/ link word system
Crazy and funny phrases and pictures to help you to remember words and their genders.
Spend 10 mins in the lesson to see how they can learn the words: look cover check, work with a partner and test each other. The students are then asked to reflect on the strategies they used and students have to come up with  their own link word ideas.
Humour helps memory
Actions can help you remember the words-students can invent actions too and make them as funny and memorable as possible.
The homework set needs to support the development of memory techniques: either to enable students to learn the meaning of the key vocabulary in both directions-for instance from Frnch into English and English into French, spelling, pronunciation or phonic rules.
Student can use self-assessment and Red Amber Green to evaluate how well they know the words from their look cover check sheet.
Students should be encouraged to go over the key words several times over a period of time as it is a better way to ensure they go into their long-term memory.
Translate in English
Small paragraphs are translated then the text is introduced in the Target Languages odd and even-erasing every other words- in partners with odds and evens being able to help each others.
There is a need for a mix of memorisation and free flow/spontaneous talk for students to be at their most successful.
Give first letter or pictures for memory prompts at KS3.
PLTS can support memorisation strategies through getting students to consider different ways to re-create a map from memory.
For the “Human photocopiers” activity, groups of 3 or 4 work together with each person having a number each to go to the text back and forth. This is similar to the well-known running dictation activity but for a map. For the running dictation, the person who looks is not allowed to write.
Rachel Hawke's memorisation reflection sheet is also a useful tool (see Rachel’s blog or TES)
Using music is a classic way to commit new vocabulary to memory:
Verbs can be put to music e.g ser-to be with “don't stop me now” by Queen.
The avoir verb to the tune of “The pink panther”.  Music is particularly good to memorise high frequency verbs that are also irregular.
Learn with the teach prof mini site -background music to support memorisation
Earworm apps- language-learning enhanced with music (for mobile learning)    
Borrow some strategies from English: sound out syllables separately, looking for letter patterns/ phonics, mnemonics-especially if made up by students to remember spellings or meanings, words within words
Strategies from the world of acting-tips from actors and actresses about how to learn their lines.
Use mp3 to get students to record themselves.
The site is an active way of learning vocabulary and prepare for vocabulary tests.
Powerpoint animations: New words  zooming across the screen with students having to memorise them. More and more words-how many can I memorise
Vocabulary  tests can be done via powerpoint and timed picture slides.
The Memorize now site and cue prompter are also useful tools to support memorisation in the foreign language.
Wendy now runs co-ordinated vocabulary tests at her school. Students can re-sist or get advice for “memorisation intervention” at lunchtime and after school for an hour. It is much easier to just try your best to learn the key words first!


Femme Francophile said...

Hi Isabelle

Do you think that the online application 'Memrise' ( would be consistent with the direction that Wendy proposes? I recently wrote about it:

Isabelle Jones said...

Definitely! Thank you for your comment and the link to your very interesting blog post.

José María said...


what a nice advice. I like the ones given through the link: Strategies from the world of acting, particularly the one which recommend to combine movement and speech. I am sure this has always worked for me!
Gestures and movements help you believe what you are reading or saying, becuase this way you really experience, feel and live the words.

memory improvement tips said...

I particularly like the lists of things you can do to organize information, and even store it conveniently.