Sunday, 20 January 2008

Memory techniques being taught

The Times reports that a man with one of the best memories in the world is planning to teach schoolchildren across Britain his technique for remembering everything from French grammar to lists of dates. And he also hopes to find a junior memory champion in a national competition.

Jonathan Hancock, a primary school teacher from Brighton, has twice entered the Guinness World Records book for correctly reciting the order of packs of playing cards and also won the World Memory Championship in 1994. He said: “I have got As in everything I’ve ever done and I put it down to this memory technique.”

Hancock, who is backed by the Learning Skills Foundation, hopes that the winner of the competition for 10 and 11-year-olds will be able to rival his own feats. He says that children’s memories are becoming ever more loaded with information. “There is a huge potential for memory if you start learning the techniques early,” he said. “I don’t want children to grow up to become the kind of adults who say they have a bad memory. Those people just have a lack of confidence.”

Hancock’s project entails introducing his memory methods into school teaching over the next 12 months before beginning the first rounds of the memory challenge. Schools signing up to the idea will be given details of Hancock’s technique. He says that children can learn to recall anything - even lists of unrelated names. “One example is that in my class the children do a quick mental warm-up and call out 20 random words which they then have five minutes to memorise in order,” he said. “They each do this by creating a surreal story in their minds, linking the items together in the most memorable ways. They use colour, movement, humour and adventure, activating their imaginative skills and preparing their brains to absorb all the information of the coming lesson. As well as their memory skills, this is having a great impact on their ability to write memorable stories, poems and plays, and in their overall confidence to express their ideas.”

Daniel Tammet, who is the British champion at remembering the number pi, having successfully recalled 22,514 digits in the correct order, praised Hancock’s concept. “Memory is a vital skill that can be stimulated and enhanced by imagination and creativity,” he said.

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