Today was the first of the summer season of lessons, and it was a pleasure to be with year 5 and 6 in Brindle school for an afternoon of magic and memory.
The basic idea is to teach the children some simple magic tricks, and use this as a vehicle for demonstrating to them how powerful their brains actually are.
From my own experiences many children, and myself included, struggle when they reach high school dealing with the amount of information that they are expected to remember. Until this time all their learning has been in the context of doing. In high school there are tests, information to memorise, and it can seem very daunting.
I remember, for example, 10 words of latin that I had to learn in my second day at school. I went to pieces not believing that I could ever do it.
And throughout my school-life I continued to learn in a way that was inappropriate for me. It wasn’t until later in life I discovered memory skills, and a lifelong love of our fascinating amazing brains, and the clever things that they can do.
Whilst there are some children out there who can remember things by just the words, the majority of the population does so in terms of pictures that we then put words over the top of. I would suggest that even those people who remember by words alone actually have developed in such a way that they are subconsciously using imagery.
It is by tapping into the knowlege developed since Greek and Roman times, and more recent scientific research, that we can make the whole business of learning and memory more fun and interesting for children.
The magic and memory lessons are about empowerment, and helping children to discover this for themselves. Whilst I am not able to cover every aspect of learning in a couple of hours, I can at least show them they have the capacity. I then invite the teacher to contact me if they want any further resources or tips along the way. One of the key points is that they shouldn’t be learning things by rote as it is a very ineffective method that takes alot of time, and they are quite likely to forget!
The magic tricks act as a kind of hook for the kids. Using memory skills has always been a part of magic, it seems magical to be able to recall in order up to a 50 word list which has only been just read out to you. This is something I do with the kids, and I am blindfolded at the time, which adds to the magicality of it, even though it is not necessary.
What does the afternoon program look like?
- Sponge ball magic demonstration, including mis-counts, mis-direction and interaction
- A knot that is pulled off of a piece of rope and mysteriously melts back on
- A demonstration of my own memory (I have the children come up with a long list of words which I memorize as they say it, and then recall it faster than they can identify the words from a number called out)
- I then teach some of the sponge ball magic tricks
- Teach the basics of how brains work and the simplest of memory hooks techniques
- We learn a basic set of objects in list form to show how the system works
- I demonstrate some more rope magic – cut and restored
- We learn the second memory system, apply it to another set of words (now they have remembered 20) and I talk them through using mindmaps and timing to remember things with the least effort
- I finish with a book test – I predict what random word will be chosen from, appropriately, a Harry Potter novel. This is a magic trick, but it fits nicely with the whole idea that we have talked about and it secures in the children’s heads an experience of the day which they can refer back to positively.
I am inviting teachers who have witnessed the magic and memory mornings or afternoons to leave a comment on this blog post that that other teachers can take advantage. If you would like me to come into your school then check my diary and book me up. It takes a whole morning, or afternoon, in a classroom, and is ideally suited for year 5 and 6.
I can work with up to 50 children at one time. If the numbers are over 20 I do suggest that there are other pupil support people available as it is quite interactive.