Memorization experts suggest that the more outlandish the picture, the easier it is for the brain to picture and remember. The process becomes even more engaging if the students themselves create their own images.
Conjuring up vivid images (right brain) while reading a book (left brain) encourages hemispheric integration and leads to improved memory and more efficient learning. If you think of engaging both sides of the brain, no matter what you are teaching, the learner builds up more hooks and cues to ensure long-term memory. The brain can keep on making connections and, therefore, grow throughout life. Learning builds learning because, as we continue to learn, the neural networks of the brain augment, creating ever-abundant connections.
We can even improve reading comprehension by encouraging students to make mental pictures as they read and use their own experiences. For example, students can mentally see the entrance to their residence—the first room they enter, then the kitchen, and then other rooms. This imaging encourages focusing and generates additional richness of detail. A person can mentally stop in any room and visualize the furniture and decor. Using this technique, students can visualize and “peg” information to any location.
Here is a simple experiment you can do with your students. Find two similar reading selections. Have students read the first selection and then ask questions about the reading. Then take your students through a visualizing exercise. Use their bedroom as an example. Say, “As you read something that is important or that you wish to remember, make an image of it or describe it in two or three words and then place it on the bed. Place the next item in a different location. Continue the procedure until the end of the reading selection.” Have the students answer similar questions as they did before the imaging exercise. Explain to your students the reason for their improvement: The brain remembers experiences and images better than words.
In learning information, any image can be created to enhance recall. For example, to learn Stephen Covey’s seven habits of highly effective people correctly and in proper order, I conjured up the following image.
Habit > Mental placement on my body
1. Be Proactive > head
2. Begin with the End in Mind > shoulders
3. Put First Things First > chest
4. Think Win/Win > belly
5. First Seek to Understand, then be Understood > hips
6. Synergize > back
7. Sharpen the Saw > thighs
By creating this visualization, I have immediate recall. In addition, it took less time to create the image than if I had attempted to memorize the list through repetition. And reinforcement takes but a matter of moments.