Sometimes students need to take notes. There is no getting away from this if we want them to have something they can look back at, for example, for revision. For some students, and indeed some teachers, this can be excruciatingly boring. There are ways of making this more exciting for everyone. One way is to introduce ‘memory diagrams’. This is a useful and entertaining activity that can be used to provide pace, competition, strategic development and teamwork. It also fulfils the needs of visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learners and provides an appreciation of the limits of working memory. They can be completed at any point during a lesson; as a quick 10 minute activity or a longer activity depending on the complexity of the memory diagram.
Start by arranging students into groups of about four, allocating each student in the group a number. Give each group a sheet of A3 paper and some coloured pens/pencils. Explain that you have a diagram that they have to reproduce as accurately as possible. Ask team member number 1 to look at the diagram for 30 seconds, then return to their team and spend the next minute giving as much information as possible to reproduce the diagram. At the same time the students should develop a strategy for how the rest of the team will acquire the information from the diagram. Team members 2, 3 and 4 will then come out in turn, again for 30 seconds, to obtain some more information, then return for 1 minute to share this with the group. After a set period of time the winning team will be the one with the most accurate reproduction of the diagram, including accuracy of diagrams, text and colours.
Here’s an example of a memory diagram that you could try with your class.
Debbie Barton is a teacher, examiner and maths consultant with over 20 years’ experience. She’s written a number of books including Complete Mathematics for Cambridge Secondary 1. She also worked as a Gifted and Talented trainer and is passionate about ensuring able students are challenged with exciting mathematical stimulus.