Remembering Material Learnt
Talmidim are often disheartened when they find that after a short while, they have forgotten nearly all that they have learnt. Children can enjoy learning material by heart even though they do not understand it, but adults usually can remember material only after it has been completely clarified, understood and organized. Furthermore, much craft and training is required for serious memorization projects.
In the past, memory development played an important part in education and sophisticated systems were developed. Since books and writing materials became freely available, most of those techniques have become forgotten.
The mature talmid should therefore realize that efficient memorization involves far more than simply reading text over several times.
Many books have been written about memory systems and much advice is given by Chazal.
The following points seem to be the main features:
1. Clarity - The material should be completely clear and understood.
2. Organization - The material should be organized into main categories and sub-categories.
3. Relaxed state of mind - The person should be relaxed and enjoy sufficient sleep. He may require special techniques which will enable him to achieve a state of heightened relaxation. He should not feel challenged by the material but should have a childlike affinity to the fun of memorizing the material.
4. Imagination - The imagination plays a crucial role in memorization. The person should be able to make mental pictures of the situations covered by the material. Also, he should be able to make mental summary pictures of entire parts of the material to be memorized. In addition, he should be able to make small pictures which act as "souvenirs" to remind him of the larger pictures.
Learning to Concentrate
A therapist in Jerusalem is offering a course to help children with ADHD (Attention Deficiency). The therapy basically comprises teaching the child to play chess.
There are many games you can play with your children to help develop their patience and powers of concentration.
Classic games, such as checkers and chess, not only help a child to learn how to concentrate but they also teach him how to plan ahead. Board games help teach a child social skills when the players play together peacefully and keep to the rules.
An easy game to play is to ask a group of children to see who can sit for five minutes without moving or laughing. The winners can get a small prize. A variation is to divide the group into two teams and ask one team to remain stolid while the other team tries its hardest to make the opponents laugh -- of course, without touching them or tickling them. They they can graduate to trying for 10 minutes. This game can even be played at the Shabbos table with adults and children joining in together.
Any activity which requires painstaking care will help the child develop his ability to concentrate, persist and look forward to eventual success, as opposed to the immediate success of most modern activities.
Suitable hobbies and crafts include old time favorites such as model plane building, sewing, large stitch yarn embroidery (which goes rapidly and shows results quickly), tapestry (goblein), basket making, bead stringing, crochet, oil painting by number, jigsaw puzzles for framing (from easy ones to difficult 500 piece ones), carpentry etc. Since these are goal oriented in that he will have something to show for his time and effort, as opposed to games, the incentive is high.
In all of these activities, the child will need to invest considerable time and effort before he sees results. And he will see how the quality improves as his skills improve.
It is important for the adult overseeing the child's work not to fuss over him but to allow him to progress at his own speed. The adult should be there for advice, guidance and company, and to teach the child new techniques, but as soon as the child knows how to handle the knife, thread the needle and do the stitches, or whatever skills are involved, the adult should leave the child to make his mistakes and enjoy himself.
Praise of the article as it develops should be guarded. If you are too effusive in your praise, the child might not believe you and there will be no superlatives left for when he does a better job. However, you can show him the good parts and point out the areas which can be improved.