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Tips to support an SEN student with poor memory skills

Tips to support an SEN student with poor memory skills

If you’re a tutor wondering how to plan your forthcoming lessons with an SEN student take a look at Sarah’s tips:

Multi-sensory teaching

As I’m sure you all know, teaching in a multi-sensory way is good for all pupils. Students often respond well to visual teaching aids, in the form of pictures, colour and creating mind maps. Be as creative as possible. Help them extrapolate key information by making clear, concise notes. Use coloured cards, underline or highlight keywords in colour, draw pictures in the margin when reading through a comprehension (or add a key topic word for each paragraph so they can easily go back to the right section of text to find the information).

Other students may benefit from a ‘hands-on’ approach, so incorporating movement and action into a lesson may be helpful to the learning process. Sometimes an SEN student may learn better using audiobooks.

Incorporate positive emotion into your teaching

To fine tune our teaching even more, if an emotion can also be attached to a learning experience, such as happiness, love, excitement and so on (preferably not a negative emotion!), then the more powerful the learning experience is. So where possible, try injecting humour, storytelling, role play and a touch of drama to your lessons.

Engage students in the lesson from the outset by avoiding any personal barriers to learning. If they struggle with reading, don’t start your lesson by asking them to read. Be creative about introducing topics: use open questions, make use of pictorial representations of ideas, asking which is the odd one out or how the images are connected for example.

Give students the ‘big picture’

When introducing a new topic, have students generate questions about it before providing them with much information. Give the ‘big picture’ as to why the learning is useful. Explaining why they need to learn the content of the lesson in the context of the world and their life, will validate the effort they are about to put in.

Help them get organised

What methods are you using to help your SEN student plan? Do they suit their learning style? Do they like using graphic organisers to get their ideas down? There’s a whole host of printable ones online you could try.

Being organised can really help, make sure students study space is clear of clutter and help them to organise their worksheets into folders with dividers to reduce stress and allow them to focus on the actual learning.

Help to maintain their focus by dividing work into manageable chunks and allow for short breaks. Encourage students to stand up and move around for a couple of moments during a break and to drink water.

Mix different types of learning strategies together

The brain tends to remember information better if the information is different, unusual, colourful, creative, and absurd, to fire off more neurons and make as many connections in the brain as possible. A mixture of visual, auditory and kinesthetic strategies would work the best and there may need to be a bit of trial and error to see which ones they prefer:

Examples of Visual Strategies: 

  • Flash cards/memory joggers – The student draws pictures to explain ideas and remember information (e.g. mind mapping)
  • Display posters/keywords etc around the room
  • Colour coding also helps

Examples of Auditory Strategies:

  • Discussion, reading aloud, student ‘teaching’ you
  • Audio recording and playback
  • Mnemonics: e.g. Order of planets in Solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Pluto Sentence = My Very Easy Method Just Speeds Up Naming Planets
  • Music: playing certain music can create a highly focussed learning state in which vocabulary and reading material can be absorbed at a great rate 
  • Rhyme/rhythm: powerful memory ‘hook’ for recall. e.g. To aid the learning of historical dates: “In fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”

Examples of Kinesthetic strategies:

  • Acting out processes and concepts: Role play
  • Doing practical tasks
  • Touching and handling things that explain concepts you are teaching (cutting up an apple for fractions etc)

Sarah Cox is Osborne Cawkwell Tuition’s Special Educational Needs Consultant. If Sarah can be of any help, please contact her here.

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