I remember the debate whether teachers should teach kids to pass exams or teach them to gain knowledge. As a parent, you are probably debating this question. Do I send my kids to school to gain knowledge or to pass exams? There are two sides to the dilemma. One theory says that if our kids are measured by their ability to pass the exams, and we should do all that we can to allow them to pass the exams. The other theory says we should tell our kids that exams do not matter that much and they should focus on getting relevant, applicable knowledge and skills at school.
Why do we need exams?
There are different uses for exams. We can use them
- to test the average knowledge of the class,
- to decide when to move to the next level, or
- to examine the teacher's performance…
Teachers are also divided into different categories:
- The teachers who want the kids to learn,
- The teachers who think the results are a reflection of them and do everything in their power to teach the kids to pass the exams (even if they have to take them 50 times), and
- The teachers who make the tests so hard that only God can get an A
In my opinion, most exams miss the most important part - the practical part. If we teach kids to pass the exam, we know that next time someone presents them with questions or numbers on a piece of paper, they will be able to answer them but they may not be able to take the learning into the real world and apply it.
Unfortunately, many exams are just memory tests. The sad thing is that the older the students, the more memory and less application they are required for them to perform. Tell me how many times during high school you have learned real-life applications for Sine and Cosine? Tell me how many times during high school you have had to manage money, even the little money you earned or even virtual money?
As a mother and a teacher, I am not happy at all with the way the school system uses exams to find out how well my kids remember what they have read or heard from the teacher. Like me, every parent who is unhappy like me has two choices:
- Declare that you do not like exams and that success does not depend on people's ability to remember things and keep telling your kids that exams are not that important.
- Help your kids pass the exams.
I am going to leave you the choice regarding the options you have. I myself chose the option that is somewhere between the two. I tell them what I think about exams but I ask them to be the best they can be and I help them at home to improve their memory to make it easier for them to excel in their schooling.
If you want to help your kids improve their scores too, use the ideas below.
Tips to improve memory
Contrary to what most people think, memory is something you can improve with practice. It is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets.
- Aerobic fitness was found to impact aspects of memory. Make sure your kids are physically active. You can encourage them to play outside, have a sporty hobby and if you have a time limit and they are too busy, jumping on a trampoline or jumping rope for 10 minutes a day can do the job.
- It is easier to remember something if you connect it to something you already store in your memory. For example, if you have to teach kids to remember how to write a word, link it with another word they already know. "Sight" and "might" are like "night" - easy.
- Many kids fail their exams because of stress, and not because they do not know the answer. Stress is a serious obstacle to good memory. Teach kids relaxation techniques to reduce stress. Explain to kids the importance of quiet time to help them calm down. Breathing and all meditation techniques will work like magic to improve their memory.
- One of the things that hinder kids trying to remember new information is distractions, which introduce "noise" to the memory. Teach your kids to do one thing at a time. When they study for a test, it is better not to watch TV at the same time. When they are learning new words for spellings, it is better not to eat at the same time. Doing one thing and doing it well is called focus.
- Memory is like a muscle, so work it! Reading, doing crosswords, mazes, scrabbles, word searches, puzzles, Sudoku and other challenges will improve their memory.
- Teach your kids to make lists to help themselves remember things they want to do. Tell your kids that "The opposite of forgetting is writing down". Encourage them to use calendars, diaries, whiteboards or special lists on special papers.
- Help your kids find the best time to learn. Some kids perform better in the morning, so if they need to memorize something challenging, help them get up in the morning half an hour earlier. Other kids think better after dinner, so clear the evening for them to study for their exams.
- When you are active while learning, you remember more. You can help your kids remember things by developing activities around their learning or by asking them to teach you what they've learned.
- Understanding your kids' communication style can help a lot in helping them remember. If your kid is visual, make sure they use colors and pictures. If your kid is auditory, make sure they talk about what they need to remember. If your kid is kinesthetic, make sure they are allowed to move while learning and that they feel physically comfortable. If you kid is digital, make sure they have enough information and it is presented to them in a structured manner. Each kid has their best way to learn. There is no point in talking about your way to learn if your kid has a different style. Introduce your ways to remember. If your kid finds it valuable, cool, but if not, help them find their way.
In your kids' life, they will be asked to remember many things. Some of the expectations will be just repeating something they have memorized and others will have a bit more value. Nevertheless, they will be assessed many times based on their memory and school, though it expects them to memorize things, will not teach them memory techniques (at least not as part of the curriculum. I think we are lucky some teachers find it so valuable they teach it in-between lessons). It is your responsibility as a parent to give your kids this valuable skill.