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Memory Activities for Language Learning

Price: £30.50
This book offers a diverse range of activities that can help students improve retention of new language.
Author(s): Nick Bilbrough

This book offers a diverse range of activities that can help students improve retention of new language. The book is based on research on memory and the brain, yet it is extremely practical and useful. In the introduction, the author justifies the need for a book on memory and language learning and explains basic terminology related to memory.

Review from Modern English Teacher 21(3)

" “There is no learning without remembering”, Bilbrough writes in his introduction to this wide-ranging and extremely useful book of activities, aimed to help learners engage directly with what he calls the “fifth skill” of language learning.

The book gives a comprehensive introduction to the theoretical underpinnings of the activities presented in each chapter. The different types of memory and their role in language learning are explained in an accessible fashion.

The first of these is the working memory, which is the ability to hold a certain amount of information for a brief period in order to process it consciously. A student with a strong working memory is clearly at an advantage, and Bilbrough asserts that it is possible to improve this type of memory through focused practice. Some of the activities given in the first chapter, which focus on improving this type of memory, may seem familiar to teachers with a certain level of experience, for example old favourites like “broken telephone”. In addition to the more familiar activities, there are quite a few which I feel could really add to a teacher’s repertoire, particularly as most coursebooks do not explicitly teach memory skills.

Along with a decent working memory, learners need to be able to commit what they have learned to their long-term memory for it to be of any use, and the author gives some useful information about the way the working memory interacts with the long-term memory and includes a chapter of activities and suggestions on how to make language memorable. Some of the activities in this chapter I found to be fun and particularly helpful as they engaged with the learners’ emotions (one of the recommended methods for helping information stick in the mind). Included among these activities are several which make use of our natural propensity to remember stories.

The third type of memory the book deals with is the ability to recall information stored in the long-term memory. The activities and suggestions in this section of the book encourage the recycling and chunking of material in order to aid retrieval. Among the more innovative of activities is one which encourages students to use their sense of smell to help them to recall things. My own students found this activity particularly effective.

The use of mnemonics in teaching has probably gone out of fashion but this book brings it back in a big way with an entire chapter of activities. Other activities include techniques to help students learn by heart as well as memory games. Making students more aware of the role memory plays in their learning and providing techniques they can use to improve their storage of language items is something that I feel is very helpful.

The book contains photocopiable activities that go with most of the tasks but each is also available in a nicer, colour version on the CD-ROM for those teachers with access to a projector or interactive whiteboard.

This book is more than just another bag of tricks to add to a teacher’s repertoire and I strongly recommend that any potential user of this book reads the introduction. Read carefully, it will help you understand how much of what you are teaching will actually stay with the learners. This in turn will help influence the way you teach. At least, this has been the case for me."

Elizabeth Hollis-Watts

ISBN: 9780521132411
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Publication: 31 January 2014