Updated: Mar 7
Students learning humanities in Singapore usually faces three main problems. Firstly, they do not understand what is been taught. Secondly, the have difficulty remembering the heavy content of subjects like geography, history and social studies. Thirdly, students have difficulties applying their learning to examination questions.
Today, we are going to assume that students have understood their humanities topics well,. Now, we want to deal with students who are not doing well, because they have great challenges remembering the heavy content of their humanities subjects.
At my Gummy Humanities tuition classes, the first things I usually teach my students are the memory tools below. The argument is very simple - you will have nothing to write if you cannot even remember the content in the first place. My definition of learning is as follows:
Learning = Understanding + Memorizing + Applying
When I focus firstly on helping my humanities students to memorize their content by topics, I am actually trying to help them gain some small victories in their study of the humanities subjects. Using some of these memory tools in their humanities can really change their opinions about their humanities subject’s abilities. So let us take a look how these tools can be used effectively.
1. Codewords/ Acronyms
One of the simplest tools of effective memory is use of an acronym to help summarized the main points of the topic. As an illustration, I am going to use the topic on factors that cause climate change in Geography. The Geography content teaches us that there are seven main factors that causes climate change, two natural and five human causes. These can be represented by the following acronym or codeword – S.V. B.U.I.L.D. To make it stickier to the mind, I teach my students to remember is a BUILD a Solar Vehicle. And S.V. B.U.I.L.D. essentially means:
S – Solar Radiation or Sun Spots
V – Volcanic Eruptions
B – Burning of Fossil Fuels
U – Urbanization
I - Industrialization
D – Deforestation
My experience with students using this tool to help memorize the causes of global warming, they are able to recall most of the points. This is so even when I quiz them one week after introducing them to the codeword. With more practices, the memory of this topic becomes more permanent. With this form of cognitive success, students suddenly realized that they could learn and do well in their humanities subjects. For other topics, I follow this method of creating my notes for the students to easily memorize for their humanities subjects.
2. Learning Trees
Another great tool I teach my humanities students to use is a learning tree. Below is an example I used for the impacts of Hitler’s Rise in History. The learning tree is a good tool because; it creates links and associations between ideas and key points. It is also visual and when you revise by drawing the tree out, you are harnessing the kinaesthetic memory pathways in your brain to help with memory and retention. In addition, the linear, top-down thinking of points via a learning tree can be a power recall of facts for many students.
3. Learning Matrix
Another valuable memory tool we use is the learning matrix as show. The example shown below is for the topic on Economic Impacts of Globalization from Social Studies. This form of matrix provides good contrast in points between concepts that can be confusing. By stratifying the points into different categories and spectrum, we can create better retention of points in our learning without confusing our minds.
4. Story Telling
A final tool that I often find helpful to my kids is to introduce them to the idea of telling a story when describing formation of things. This is especially powerful in Physical Geography topics. Let’s say if you need to describe the formation of an earthquake in a convergent plate boundary. The key to telling this story is the start point of the story. After that, it is all about the logical sequencing of events, which should be there if the students have understood the content that was taught previously. In this example, the story will sound like this for the formation of an earthquake along a convergent plate boundary:
This earthquake is found along an Oceanic-Oceanic Plate Boundary. When two of these plates converge (the starting point of the story), the denser Oceanic Plate will subduct underneath the less dense plate. This subduction causes a long V-shaped depression to be formed along the subduction zone. At the same time, it also causes the plates to start rubbing against each other as subduction takes place. As the plates surfaces are not smooth, this contact and rubbing of the plate surfaces often causes friction, which may cause the plates to be stuck at certain points. The plates are however still force to move because of the unending convection current in the mantle. As a result, pressure builds up where the plate has stuck to each other (this is now the Focus of the impending earthquake). When the pressure becomes too much, the plates will slip pass each other violent causing the massive release of seismic energy. This is the earthquake.
In this post, I have introduced four simple memory tools like Acronyms, the Learning Tree the Learning Matrix and Story Telling, to help our students remember their humanities content better. There are all useful in different circumstances and I strongly encourage all students to use them especially for heavy content subjects like the humanities.
Our brains have limited capacity. If we do not help our brains to organize the content to remembered, it will ultimately lead to less efficient learning. Memory tools helps and can be easily deployed to increase learning.
I like to end by challenging you to this test. Use the content and tools mentioned in this post to learn and remember the content. One week later, take out a sheet of paper and see if you can write down what is S.V. B.U.I.L.D., what are the Impacts of Hitler’s Rise, what are Economic Impacts of Globalization, and describe how earthquakes are formed. If you have done some memory work with this content, I can guarantee that you will be able to recall the bulk of what you have tried to remember. Try it and let me know.
At Gummy Humanities, we have developed a lot more Codewords, Acronyms, Learning Trees, Learning Matrix, Stories, and many other tools for the different content to our Humanities Subjects in Singapore. We are also here to help you learn your humanities subjects better if you would like to. If you like more notes, tools or help give us call and we will be happy to assist you. Your success in humanities in Singapore is not difficult. Call us now.
See you soon.