Kinesthetic Memory: Remember with your Body

This assumes that you have gotten through the steps of reading your book and listening to lectures. Your way of remembering might not be the same as your learning style. You should try many of the different pathways of memory. At the same time, people whose best learning style is not kinesthetic might also find this helpful, especially in combination with other pathways of memory.

As with the other pathways of memory, we have a picture of a pathway. This pathway crosses a bridge, perhaps metaphorically, the bridge from high school into college, from dependence to independence.

The pathway soon disappears into the woods. We might ask where we are going.  Similarly, a kinesthetic learner might wonder how he will find his way with teachers who expect him to learn from long lectures and difficult textbooks.

The page on Kinesthetic Learning suggests strategies to help him down the path. This page on Kinesthetic Memory, can help him use kinesthetic skills to remember… perhaps to remember his journey down this path.

1. Role-playing is one of the best forms of Kinesthetic memory.Imagine that someone gives you complex directions to their house. You got through two traffic lights and turn left. At the end of the block turn right. Two blocks further take a right and ours is the third house on the left.  Are you lost? I would be. I’d ask for a map. But another way to remember is to act it out.

Walk forward two steps pointing at imaginary traffic lights.  Then actually turn left. At the end of the block,(take a long step), turn right.  Two blocks further (two long steps), turn right again. Now count house on the left side: one, two, three.  Repeat this two or three times, and you’ll have it in your kinesthetic memory.

You have read a novel, or perhaps a play. To remember the plot, you might act it out, either with friends or by yourself. You could play first one character and then another. This will store your memory of the plot in a different part of your brain.

Imagine that you are studying chemistry. I once asked pairs of students – a boy and a girl in each pair  just it make it funnier – and asked them to act out the difference between a covalent bond, an ionic bond, and a hydrogen bond. I won’t go into the chemistry, but the covalent bond is the strongest. Students showed it with arms around each other’s shoulder or holding hands tightly.  The ionic bond is not as strong. They might have looped a few fingers together. The hydrogen bond is the weakest of the three. They might have touched fingers or just stayed close to each other.

I also used a kinesthetic method to teach the kinetic theory (the explanation of states of matter). Everyone stood. We were molecules. At absolute zero we tried not to move at all. As we warmed up, we moved slowly and then a little faster always keeping our feet in position. When we got to the melting point… 0 degrees Celsius, we melted. We now walked around slowly but staying in the students part of the room. As we approached the boiling point, we moved faster and faster. And then we began to evaporate – with molecules going fast enough to leave the liquid and float into the front part of the room. We couldn’t continue to for plasma – the stage when molecules crash together that they are broken into tiny pieces, but they enjoyed the idea.  We called this  The Molecule Dance.

2. Build a model. If you are studying the brain in biology, get some clay or play-dough in different colors and create a model of the brain. This is hard to do. I needed to use a plastic model to help me. But creating a model yourself will be help you remember more. re-built models are also helpful, especially when you can take them apart and put them together again.

You can also make simple models. Use cardboard or stiff paper and other objects and create models of different kinds of cells. This shouldn’t be too hard, working from a diagram, but you’d want to make your parts look more 3 dimensional. You might make labels separately and then practice by placing labels correctly.

Using food is also fun. Your plate is plant cell.A tightly closed  ziplock bag might be the central vacuole. An egg is your nucleus. The yolk inside the egg is your nucleolus. You could use raisins or almonds for mitochondria, small pieces of lettuce or thin slices of cucumber for the chloroplasts. thin strips of carrots could form the Golgi apparatus. Long noodles would be nice for the endoplasmic reticulum. You might dip one end in bread crumbs. The smooth end, close to the nucleus is smooth er. The outer part with the crumbs is rough er. Depending on the parts you are learning in class, you can improvise  with what’s available for other parts of the cell.

4. For history, create a long timeline. see the section on Timelines if you don’t understand. Extend the timeline in your imagination. Divide your room into as many centuries as on your timeline. Then, as you walk across the room, say aloud, The year is …. This is when ….. took place. Continue walking and reviewing the events in order. When you get to the test, and need to know when something happened in history, you will be able to think where you were in your room when you mentioned that event. You will remember what happened before it and afterwards. You will be using physical space to remember events in time. I call it the Human Timeline.

5. For a science experience, act out the steps.  You often have to collect material first, then follow a series of steps.  So collect some objects in your room and pretend these are your science equipment. Speak aloud as you go. “First I need to collect 4 pieces of equipment, the …., the  …. , the …. and the ….. ”  As you say this you are collecting your four objects.  You continue reciting the procedure step by step, and acting out the process.

Saying the steps aloud helps your auditory memory. Acting out the steps, activates your kinesthetic memory.

6. For learning a foreign language, focus on terms you can see or do. You all during your day, I can say in your new language. Here is a cat. I see three cars over there. I am walking slowly.Now I am walking a little faster. It is common knowledge that the more you use your language the more you will remember. But talking about walking and seeing a cat while sitting in a classroom or your dorm room isn’t nearly as effective as saying these things when you are actually walking and you see a real cat.  You can also act out situations in your book, saying what you are doing as you do them.

7. Create and play a game.  For chemistry, make an outline of the periodic table and put the elements on small pieces of paper or card stock. Start by placing the elements you know in their proper places. Then you can refer to your book to find where the others fit. After several efforts you will be remembering more and more of them. Now, begin to explain as you put the elements into place, why they are there.

You might say that chlorine is in the third period (the third row across because the line of elements return to the left side periodically). You can count across the third period and see only 8 elements. This tells you that those elements and those in the second period can have no more than 8 electrons in their outer orbit. But since chlorine is the seventh element in that period, it has only 7 electrons in its outer orbit. This tells us that it is a highly reactive element because it needs only one electron to complete its orbit. The elements in the last column are inactive because their outer orbit is complete. After telling this story ten or fifteen times for various elements, you will have it clearly into your memory and will be able to say something similar for each element, at least for the common elements.

When you think you know where the elements fit, time yourself. Keep a chart of your times. You might want to challenge a classmate to beat your time.

8. Study while walking or exercising. Make a list of questions that might be on the test. You can use flash cards or simply a list of questions. As you walk you can look at a question and then answer it either mentally or aloud. Include some long questions that require a detailed answer such as “compare plant and animal cells.”

If you choose to study at your desk, then concentrate hard for ten to fifteen minutes and then take a short exercise break.

9. Take a Practice Test. Taking a test is a skill that can be learned.  Write a practice test that is similar to the kind of test you expect and make several copies. Allow yourself the same about of time that you’ll have for the actual test. Be sure that you won’t be interrupted and take the test as if this was the real test.

Take a good break after the test and then use your study notes to “grade yourself”. What terms did you forget?  What could you have done to write answer for the essay questions. Grading yourself is also improving your memory. If you have time, study further and repeat the test a few days letter. Hopefully, you will do much better on your next try.

A variation on this idea is to work with a classmate and, after doing your own tests, try the test written by your classmate.

10. Create a chart or diagram. This method is designed for visual learners, but the action of creating the chart or diagram is both spatial and kinesthetic. Try all the different suggestions under visual processing strategies. I also recommend this as a learning strategy and suggest creating very large images (more active). You could also do a collage of colored paper cut into shapes and attached to your poster.

You might the use this poster to move information into your long-term memory and prepare for exams. Follow the practice used by   Edward Hughes   of regularly re-creating (creating again) the concept map or chart (without referring to the original). For this to be helpful, your original chart needs to include all the important details you will need to learn for the test.

If you will need this information for a more advanced class, for your future career, or just because you want to remember it, Do a copy of each of these charts and save them in a binder or in a file folder. You will want to review and try to re-create the charts regularly… perhaps weekly for a month, then twice a month, once a month, every 2 or 3 months, every 6 months, and then once a year. You can decide if this schedule of reviews works for you, if you need to review more often or can do it less often. This will partly depend on the difficulty of the material.