Setting the Table for Thinking and Memory

Is having a poor memory causing you or someone in your life difficulty? If so, this article could be helpful in strengthening memory skills for all. For most people, experiencing an event is memorable because the event was enhanced by the use of some of their five senses: smelling, tasting, hearing, seeing, and touching and an added dimension is the stimulation of emotions. That in mind, no pun intended, experiential learning or multimodal teaching techniques were developed in order to enhance a student's capabilities of remembering what was taught in a lesson. Think of the word "HAVE", the h- stands for the word haptic, the a- stands for the word auditory, v-stands for the word visual and e- stands for the emotion; when you put these thinking processes together you acquire memory. You literally "HAVE" what someone is trying to teach you. But, what about the person in or out of school that simply can't remember conversations, or what they've read? How to help them in every day life events increase their memory?

Let's think back to when you were in nursery school and in kindergarten. You were allowed to move around in the classroom. You played with toys, clay, colorful blocks, paints and markers. You listened to music, sang songs, you played games with your classmates, you ate snacks. You were able to learn through the stimulation of many of your senses. In first grade, the classroom rules restricted you from moving around, you couldn't talk when you felt like it, you had to be a good listener, stay still and be quiet. By fourth grade you are limited to using only 2 ½ of the 5 senses. The sense of seeing- look at your teacher, the book or the blackboard, only, the sense of hearing-listen to your teacher and the sense of touch- holding a pen or pencil for a writing instrument. The experiential learning of the subject matter becomes very limited. Therefore, a student must be on task at all times in order to hear the directives of the teacher. If a student or any individual is in the middle of a conversation and they "zone out" for a few moments, they literally miss important information that is being spoken to them. For a person who has ADHD this is a very common problem and it really impacts their life in every circumstance. It does not go away! This is an auditory processing problem.

It is critical for a student or anyone to be able to image the words that are being spoken to them. It brings to life the expression, "I see what you are saying". The auditory processing of the brain stimulates the right hemisphere of the brain and creates an image of memory. It is just as critical that the print a student or anyone reads makes a picture in their head. The full understanding of grammar impacts the capabilities of person to image a sentence. The noun- a person, place, thing, an event or idea, has to pop out and become three dimensional in the individuals brain. The verb- an action or part of being in the sentence should stimulate some type of motion as in making a movie. The adjective-describes the noun's shape, color, how many, style and gives it depth. The true definition of reading comprehension or math comprehension is that an individual is able to image or movie the passage or symbols that was read. Memory is the picture making ability of the brain. Memory should be seen in the minds' eye in the third dimension, as if one could hold the idea being expressed in their hands.

Directional language of left and right are used commonly in conversation. What happens to an individual who is diagnosed with dyslexia or dysgraphia and is given verbal directions to get to a specific location? Will they be able to see the directions, map it, in their minds' eye? What if they still get right and left confused? This is where comprehension skills, directional skills and strong memory skills are critical for the classroom, work place or just plain old every day conversation. If, an individual does not know their right hand from their left hand, they cannot orient themselves to what was spoken to them, together with not imaging what they read; by fourth grade these students will be struggling greatly in school and perhaps in some sports. For these types of students being taught by using all five of their senses would be necessary for them to be successful in the classroom or classroom accommodations would have to be a must.

In order to concrete the concept of which hand is the students' right hand an explanation is typically used by saying, "you write with your right", however this doesn't fair well with the left handed population. To better assist kinesthetic learning one could say to the student, "My right hand is my polite hand". Then extend your right hand to the student to shake their hand. This truly concretes the imagery and memory of which hand is their right hand. In order to assist an individual to gain directional control of their hands and body, scripting and self awareness skills there is a program called BRAIN GYM you can 'google' this on the web to get more in depth information. Nanci Bell has authored a book entitled, "Visualizing and Verbalizing for Reading Comprehension", she beautifully illustrates how imagery takes place in the brain by a diagram using circles to show the two hemispheres of the brain and dots show how imaging takes place in the certain hemispheres. The program offered, that is connected to this book, truly changed my life for the better, my memory and comprehension has increased tremendously.

There are many components to attaining and storing memory. I am a tutor for learning disabilities and I needed to come up with a presentation that entails: an explanation of the processing of the brain, attain memory by auditory and visual stimulation, concrete directions of left and right, and linear eye tracking and that all of this information will be stored for the long term. I combined Nanci Bell's concept of picturing with a diagram of a table place setting. I remember when my mother taught me how to set the table for supper and how difficult it was for me to remember which side the utensils should be placed. I learned how to talk my way through to remember the pattern of the place setting; this process is called "internal talk". The presentation and explanation of how an individual thinks and attains memory was born, it is called "Setting the Table for Thinking and Memory". This idea and presentation can help anyone of any age understand how the brain gains and processes information and stores that information of verbal and or written information.

This is how the presentation should be made: I say and repeat, "My right hand is my polite hand", and I shake the students' right hand. I point out on a board the left and right sides and I write down the words 'LEFT' and 'RIGHT' in the corners. I draw an arrow on the top from left to right and explain that this is the direction your eyes should move when you read any material. FYI, never assume anything when explaining directional language to anyone. Then I draw a picture, on a wipe board, of a fork on the left side of the board along with a napkin and a knife and a spoon on the right side of the board, leaving a space in the middle, where you place a large circle for the dinner plate. I take this opportunity to comment that I do not draw very well and that in fact I make many mistakes a day. I state, "I am not perfect". The fear of making mistakes for some people is very deep. Always be aware of the person's feelings and speak gently as you make this presentation.

I write the word 'FORK' under the word 'LEFT' and under the word 'RIGHT' I write the words 'KNIFE' and 'SPOON'. We count the letters together of the words written on the board, and then place a '4' under 'FORK' and '5' under 'KNIFE'. Explain that this is a mnemonic device to help remember this diagram. Ask the student to look at each picture and word, then, I ask them to close their eyes and I say, "Try to see the fork in your mind's eye" and then I say, "Image the word fork, one letter at a time". Then, I continue encouraging the student to image each and every picture and word. This skill really helps individuals who have been diagnosed with Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities. This, also, helps the student to create short term to long term memory of the setting the table diagram.

Then I continue and say, "The napkin is on the left, so the fork is not alone." Draw a large circle, the size of a dinner plate, in the middle of the place setting. While gesturing, touching both sides of your head, ask, "Now what is inside of my head?" The student replies, "Your brain!" "Yes, absolutely your brain is inside of your head, just like this dinner plate drawn on the board, the plate will represent your head and brain, things will go inside of it, too!" Draw a line down the middle of the plate. I comment that the plate has two sides just like your brain has two sides. The left side of the brain is for the 4 letter words of thinking and processing; write the words, 'WORD', 'HEAR', 'TALK' and 'READ' in a column on the left side in the circle. On the right side of the brain is for the 5 letter words of thinking and imaging; write the words 'CLICK', 'IMAGE', 'COLOR', 'SHAPE', 'STYLE', 'COUNT' and 'DEPTH' on the right side of the circle. Draw arrows going back forth from the left side to right side, demonstrating like a camera you click the picture, image, and the image shows the color, shape and style, the number or count of something and how large or small the thing is, by depth. Now, set this image in your head in motion, make a movie; write the word 'MOVIE' below, 'DEPTH'. Tell the person to add sound and actual hear the image, they made a video; write the word 'VIDEO' below 'MOVIE'. Then say, 'This is how you create memory of anything you hear, read or speak. Thus, "Setting the Table for Thinking and Memory" is accomplished.

Tell the student an example of a noun, say a shoe. Tell them to describe the shoe using adjectives that are named in the diagram. Let's say they describe a gym shoe now tell them to put the shoe in motion, may be running and then ask the student if they can hear the shoe make a squeaking sound on a wood gym floor. What the student has created is a strong image of the word 'shoe' and it is now stored from the short term to the long term of memory. This setting the table diagram is a very useful tool to explain to anyone of any age how one processes and stores information. I hope this diagram and explanation increases your memory. PEACE! Martha Silk, e-mail