Educational brain science continues to amaze me. The more researchers learn, the more convinced I become about certain methods. Slowly making changes in the way we teach as we uncover the truths about brain processing can benefit our students so much!
Today’s post is really fascinating and has such impact for our classrooms! A reader passed some of this on to me, knowing that I am digging deeper and deeper into visual methods and creative approaches. Of course, I was hooked right away. Here’s the scoop:
What if I told you drawing improves memory significantly better than other strategies, like writing, reading, or visualization? Would you believe that drawing boosts memory by nearly doubling it?
Well, it’s true! Researchers from the University of Waterloo conducted studies to explore whether drawing to-be-learned information enhanced memory and found it to be a reliable, replicable means of boosting performance.
What is the Research Behind This?
There were three main researchers conducting these studies- Myra A. Fernandes, Jeffrey D. Wammes, and Melissa E. Meade. They conducted a series of studies where they asked both young people and older adults to do a variety of memory-encoding techniques. Then, they tested their recall.
Edutopia explains one of their first experiments. “They asked undergraduate students to study lists of common terms—words like truck and pear—and then either write down or illustrate those words. Shortly afterward, participants recalled 20 percent of words they had written down, but more than twice as many—45 percent—of the terms they had drawn.”
Later, they compared note-taking by writing down words and illustrating concepts with undergraduate students. The researchers found drawing to be “an effective and reliable encoding strategy, far superior to writing.” (Sage Journals)
When they tested older adults, they found similar results. These findings are groundbreaking to developing therapeutic interventions to help people with dementia hold onto memories. (Science Daily)
Why is Drawing Such a Powerful Memory Tool?
The results of these studies have shown us drawing is a powerful memory tool. So, now the question is … why?
The researchers of these studies propose that “drawing improves memory by promoting the integration of elaborative, pictorial, and motor codes, facilitating creation of a context-rich representation.” (Sage Journals)
When you draw a picture, you force your brain to make connections with the term you are drawing. You elaborate on the given concept or term, which helps encode it into your memory.
“At a neural level, the strength of a memory depends largely on how many connections are made to other memories. An isolated piece of information—such as a trivial fact—is soon forgotten in the brain’s constant effort to prune away unused knowledge. The opposite, however, is also true: The more synaptic connections a memory has, the more it resists eventually being forgotten.” (Edutopia)
When a person draws a new piece of information, not only is he or she forming a motor connection with the hand-to-paper connection, but also deep synaptic connections.
Here’s the best part- it doesn’t matter how good you are at drawing! Artistic ability makes no difference in this powerful memory tool.
How Can You Incorporate Drawing in your Lessons?
Now that you know the memory benefits, you’re probably trying to come up with ways you can incorporate drawing seamlessly into your lessons. Luckily, there are plenty of ways!
Whether you’re introducing a new topic, getting some extra practice, or reviewing for a test, divide your class into small groups and have them create and decorate a poster or an infographic on the topic to hang on the wall. Be sure they include plenty of pictures!
Or if you’re strictly working on key terms, have your students create a word wall including pictures!
A favorite game in many households can be adjusted to fit into your classroom! Divide your class into teams of 4 or 5. Write down vocabulary words or phrases on cards. Have each team send up their first artist to you to show the first card. Start a 60 second timer when they are ready to go! Walk around the room and listen for the first team to guess the word. The first team to say it, gets a point on the board.
Warning: Shut your classroom door. It may get noisy!
Visual Vocabulary techniques are great opportunities to make connections with learning material through drawing. These vocabulary visual prompts act as printable doodle note templates where students can create drawings and visual memory triggers to move terms into long-term memory.
The graphic layout of thesestudy guides allows students to mentally organize the information in their minds, understand the relationships and connections between ideas, and remember the lesson material better! There are plenty of opportunities for drawing. Students get bonus brain benefits by blending text and graphics to take advantage of dual coding. Click here for more info on "visual vocabulary" strategies where students develop and sketch graphic memory tools.
Interactive Tasks in Doodle Notes
Whether you choose to create your own or buy premade doodle note sets, there could be plenty of opportunities for drawing learning material. Interactive tasks are an essential component to doodle notes. They are tasks embedded throughout a doodle note sheet that ensures students are interacting with the material, like color-coding or sketching. Go here for examples of how to incorporate interactive tasks into doodle notes.
Interactive Notebooks can be another great way to get your kids drawing. My friend, Brittany, wrote a guide with everything you need to know about Interactive Notebooks you can get if you subscribe to The Colorado Classroom. If the particular task doesn’t include drawing, encourage your students to draw pictures or charts in the margins of their notebooks.
Sketch-Friendly Graphic Organizers
Teach your students how to visually organize relationships between key ideas. Thisfree resource will help them develop graphic organizers.
Also, check out this full card deck that has 100 graphic organizers ready to print and distribute. Kids can add notes, sketches, and color.
Do you have any different suggestions on incorporating drawing in your classroom? Drop your ideas in a comment below! Also, I send lots of info just like this out through email, so if you are interested in updates, more articles, ideas, and printable resources, subscribe here. I'd love to support you in teaching your students with creative, brain-based methods!
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12/22/2019 08:16:41 pm
Our memory will not really stay the same forever, however, medical practitioners are trying to find ways to fight it. I think that these tests that you are trying out are all effective. As long as people are able to remember stuff, then that is a big win for us. The older we get, the more our memory gets weak. I hope that they can find the perfect way for us to counteract the negative effects of our old age.
If you are in a relationship and your significant other does something that your cheating ex used to do - your memories of too much heat come back instantly just like the hot oven. Understand that every person has a different reality and treat everybody with that knowledge.
3/29/2021 11:38:06 am
It's interesting that you mention that drawing can improve your ability to remember things. I've been looking for a way to enhance my memory skills, so I'm thinking about purchasing some art supplies so that I can start drawing. I'm going to search for a good business that can sell me some art supplies.
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