If you are like me, you may find it difficult to remember what you had for dinner a week ago today? (That is unless you have a menu that you repeat every week). For a short period of time after that meal, you may have been able to recall what it was you had and maybe in great detail. But what is it that happens in our memory where in time it slowly fades, or in fact vanishes all together?
What is Visual Memory?
Our memories of visual images (eg. someones face) are stored in our visual memory. We use this constantly every day to allow us to perform really simple tasks like simple addition, or remembering faces. If we were poor in our ability to use our visual memory, we would have trouble storing and then later retrieving the things we have seen. I sort of liken it to iCloud. Well, it has a certain amount of storage space which you can use. When this data storage reaches its capacity it will not hold any new data unless you: wipe the old data, or upgrade to a higher memory storage.
Why is it so important for our children to have good visual memory.
Well, it appears that our storage space of visual memory is linked with essential skills like: the ability to perform higher order thinking abilities, the ability to solve new problems and general comprehension.
It can be likened to temporary storage where all your visual images are placed, while you have the ability to work on other tasks. Another example of this is when your child is copying work from the board in class, to their books. They are relying on visual memory to remember things over brief intervals, like what was written on the board and then to write it in their book.
So, when do we reach our capacity, why do we remember some things, and not others? Hmmmmmm…interesting isn’t it? Does it gradually get wiped away, or are parts of it still there?
I don’t want to go into any indepth research as it can be quite extensive. But here is a little run down..
Our memories can behave like that of computers. They can be filed, and retrieved, or wiped. But here is the most essential finding, the critical aspect in retaining memories is how meaningful the remembered images are. So if it connects with the pre-existing knowledge you have about them, the better it is retained. Therefore, when something is meaningless, or boring, there is no connection, then there is no connection with your stored knowledge about them. It goes in one ear, and out the other. However, if you are involved in recognising pictures or content from something you have meaningful knowledge about. Well this powerful prior knowledge changes the way it is processed in our brains and stored.
I believe this is where early years educators are extremely powerful in their learning endeavours with very young children. More importantly, I also believe this is where educators in other sectors may need to reconsider their approach to teaching. Early Years educators, base their goals or daily tasks on the child’s interests and they then builds from them. Children are emerged in kinaesthetic learning activities (which is also a powerful tool for memory and engagement of learners) Meaning is often made from prior knowledge and slowly built on from there. Learning is a continuous hive of activity, ranging from active short bursts of instructed and directed learning to the more exploratorive self directed learning and play. Visual stimulation is embraced and encouraged and is centered around the child’s perspective and interest. There is a lot of observations, annotation, reflection to improve this learning of discovery.
So how do we improve our Visual Memory? What activities can we do, and what is it educators could do to tap into this resource?
Activities to do at home:
1. Play Memory or Concentration (cards or iPad apps)
2. Sequencing Memory game
- Get a tray and a series of objects (pencil, ruler, toy car, leaf, lego cube, etc)
- Without your child seeing, place 4 or 5 objects on the tray and cover with a towel.
- Have your child look at the objects and give 10 -15 seconds to remember them all. Ensure they don’t say the names of the objects out loud as then this starts to work their auditory memory)
- Cover the objects and take one item away.
- Have your child look at the tray an try to remember what item was missing.
- There are so many variations to this game.
3. Ask your child to remember what they had for lunch that day, or what game they played at lunchtime.
4. Have your child follow directions to discriminate pictures on a page.
Other activities to help at home:
I encourage you to try some of these games if you can, and to explore the connection between linking pre existing knowledge with new knowledge to improve your child’s ability to improve their visual memory.