An Argument for Memory Aids

This weekend my four-year-old daughter and I were learning about the solar system and she wanted to learn all the names of the planets in order from closest to farthest from the sun. Sometimes, there is information that just needs to be memorized.

When we develop training, we often neglect to think of easy ways to help people memorize. Usually, we try to incorporate any information that needs to be remembered into a job aid or other resource. But we can also create easy ways to help our learners learn.

Take a look at this activity from the 2nd Edition of Telling Ain't Training by Stolovich and Keeps.

Stolovich and Keeps argue that instead of just presenting information (e.g., a sequence of numbers) for learners to memorize, give them clues to part of a code to the sequence and allow them to figure out the rest of the clues themselves. Try it again:

The struggle to figure out the clues solidifies the information in your mind. Back to the planets. My daughter and I could have sat and recited the names a million times until they stuck, or written them over and over again, but there was an easier way. We made up a jingle that outlined the order of the planets.

I think that's the key. Whether we use clues or a jingle or a funny rhyme, the process of developing the memory aid is what will help solidify the information for our learners. So, encourage your learners to make up a song, a riddle or rhyme, or associate each chunk of information with a clue to a puzzle. It will work a lot better than repetition—and is a lot more fun!