Learning and Memory: The Brain in Action

By Marilee Sprenger | Go to book overview

6
The Path Most Traveled:
Semantic Memory Instructional
Strategies

The students hurry into the classroom. They take their seats quickly
and appear impatient for me to begin. As I take attendance, I notice
some students grabbing their notebooks and studying their vocabulary
lists. Their eyes dart from the lists to the clock and then back to me.

Finally, a brave student says, “Mrs. Sprenger, please hurry before I
forget!” I smile at him as I begin passing out the vocabulary tests. The
students put their notebooks away, snatch the tests from my hands,
and begin writing as fast as they can.

Are my students showing me their love of learning? No. They are simply giving me every indication that they have not learned their vocabulary words. They have simply been trying to repeat the information over and over in their minds for several minutes before the test. They are desperately trying to retain the words in their short-term and working memories long enough to pass the test.

Students commonly try to hold information in short-term memory for tests.

This is a problem of epidemic proportion when students confront semantic information. When their brains do not process this type of information in different ways to make the neural connections in the semantic lane, many students try desperately to use the temporary storage processes to get by. In most cases, they are unsuccessful.

Using what you know about the five memory lanes makes it easier to plan lessons that access the lanes you desire. The most powerful learning comes from using all five lanes in your teaching and learning situations.

When semantic information is not processed in several ways, the brain has a hard time making neural connections in the semantic memory lane.

Let’s look at strategies that are useful for accessing the semantic memory lane. Because the semantic lane calls on working memory, it requires

Semantic memory operates word by word, and it uses working memory.

-64-

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