Have you ever tried to memorize a list of things only to remember the beginning and the end, forgetting most – if not all – of the middle of that list? Me too, and sadly way too often. That phenomenon is called the Serial Position Effect. Quite simply, that the beginning and end of any list are the easiest for the brain to remember. We seemingly can’t change that fact, but we can make certain we help our students succeed despite it. Instead of giving our students one long list of things to do or remember, we can break that list down into many very short lists, introduced with time between them. In fact, I try to make my lists consist of only two things at a time. If we do end up with longer lists, celebrating those items in the middle of the list with lots of analogies, stories, jokes, physical gestures, or mnemonic devices will help make them memorable. Serial Position Effect is certainly real, but it doesn’t need to derail our students if we are extra careful and creative.
Peter Loel Boonshaft, Director of Education
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