When teaching children, the optimal desired objective is for them to be able to retain the information you are giving them in their long term memory until it becomes part of the quick and effortless knowledge base that they are able to retrieve, use and apply competently. This applies to Quranic verses, Dua lines, Hadeeth or Arabic.
There are certain things that the teacher needs to bear in mind in order to ensure that they are facilitating memorisation for their students:
Allow students to pay attention
Paying attention is crucial for any learning to take place. Without it information cannot be encoded in the brain and will not even register in short-term memory. Teachers and their Madrassah can do two major things to increase attentiveness in their students:
1. Behaviour Management
Apply effective behaviour management strategies and ensure they are simple to understand and yet binding and consistent. One effective strategy is called PIRM (Prevent, Identify, Respond, Monitor).
Many acts of disruption can be prevented from occurring using measures that are based on forethought, such as having seating plans in place, parental agreements and modelling of good conduct at the start of the year or term.
Identify different acts of disruption or misbehaviour under Minor, Serious or Very Serious. And respond with predetermined disciplinary and logical consequences that can be grouped under Minor, Serious or Very Serious. Dealing with misbehaviour cannot be a one-off occasion, it has to be monitored, followed through and checked with parents or guardians depending on its seriousness.
2. Make learning Engaging
Engaging is what captures the children’s attention. Basic things can make a huge difference, such as:
- Varied tone of voice
- Varied volume, but should never be too loud
- Body language and facial expressions that signal alertness, assertiveness, confidence and enthusiasm.
- Eye contact
As for the content, ensure that you present the information you want children to memorise in ways that appeal to:
- Auditory learners: are stimulated by more than just their teacher’s voice. They could listen to their own voices in a presentation, their classmate’s answers, a short and stimulating recording of a Surah or a group repetition etc.
- Visual learners: are stimulated by being shown images, videos, objects, role-plays, etc.
- Kinaesthetic learners: are stimulated by tasks which involve hands on activities, such as arts and crafts, moving around the class, using cards, writing, drawing, outdoor activities.
The number of activities that fall under those learning styles are endless, but the effective ones are the ones that are linked to the learning objectives which the teacher should establish for him/herself and their students from the outset of the lesson.
Another way to make learning engaging is to eliminate boredom. Do not leave students with nothing to do, even if it’s waiting for another student’s turn. Make sure they are constantly engaged in tasks that reinforce the learning objectives.
Connect New Knowledge with Prior Knowledge
Make information more memorable by connecting it to prior knowledge. This can be achieved by starting your lesson with a ‘warmer’ that sets the context. This is important because it uses familiar information for the students to trigger and introduce new information.
Plenaries help learners connect the information they learnt throughout the lesson by summarising and reviewing key points and identifying any gaps in their learning.
Additionally, to connect new knowledge with prior knowledge, elaborate on the information you are giving and relate it to different contexts, such as to students’ lives and interests.
Quiz and Test Students Regularly
Initially, practice encouraging an ‘Inductive’ way of learning, where you allow students to generate answers themselves rather than easily giving it to them. This video explains how to do this very well.
Testing tells you what your students really know. So incorporate it in every lesson as a form of a quiz and after presenting complex ideas.
Robert Bjork, professor of psychology at University of California, Los Angeles advises that their should be ‘desirable difficulties’ across the syllabus. This can be achieved by ‘spacing out tests and interleaving topics’. For example, after completing chapters 1,2 and 3, test students on chapter 1. ‘The attempt to recall the information signals its importance and relevance’ to the brain and ‘makes it easier to retrieve each time’.
Adapted from Tes: ‘Uncovering the Truth about Memory’ by Joseph Lee, March 2016 (//www.tes.com/news/tes-magazine/tes-magazine/truth-about-memory)