An important role for teachers is to help learners commit new language to longer-term memory, not just their short-term or working memory. According to Gairns and Redman (Working with Words, Cambridge University Press, 1986), 80% of what we forget is forgotten within the first twenty-four hours of initial learning.
So, what makes learning memorable? The impact of the first encounter with new language is known to be a key factor. Life Second Edition scores strongly in this area because it fulfils what are called the ‘SUCCESS factors’ in memorization (Simplicity, Unexpectedness, Concreteness, Credibility, Emotion and Stories) by engaging learners with interesting, real-life stories and powerful images. Life Second Edition also aims, through motivating speaking activities that resonate with students’ own experiences, to make new language relatable. What is known is that these encounters with language need to be built on thorough consolidation, recycling, repetition and testing. It is said that a new language item needs to be encountered or manipulated between five and fifteen times before it’s successfully committed to longer-term memory. With this in mind, we have incorporated the following elements in Life Second Edition:
- more recycling of new vocabulary and grammar through each unit and level of the series
- activities in the Classroom Presentation Tool (CPT) that start each new lesson with revision and recycling of previous lessons
- progress tests and online end-of-year tests
- activities in the Review lessons at the end of each unit, marked ‘Memory booster’
These ‘Memory booster’ activities are based on the following methodologically proven principles:
- Relatability: learning is most effective when learners apply new language to their own experience.
- A multi-sensory approach: learning is enhanced when more than one sense (hearing, seeing, etc.) is involved in perception and retention. (Language is not an isolated system in memory; it’s linked to the other senses.)
- Repetition and variation: learners need to frequently retrieve items from memory and apply them to different situations or contexts.
- Guessing/Cognitive depth: making guesses at things you are trying to retrieve aids deeper learning.
- Utility: language with a strong utility value, e.g. a function such as stating preferences, is easier to remember.
- No stress: it’s important that the learner does not feel anxious or pressured by the act of remembering.
- Peer teaching: this is an effective tool in memory consolidation (as in the adage, ‘I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand. I teach and I master.’)
- Individuality: we all differ in what we find easy to remember, so co-operation with others helps the process.
You probably already use revision and recycling in your teaching. Our hope is that these exercises will stimulate ideas for other fun and varied ways you can do this, which in turn may lead students to reflect on what learning and memorization strategies work best for them as individuals.