Tips for Trainers – Does Memorization Have a Sound?

Facilitator Tip: Does Memorization Have a Sound?

I have a few games in my repertoire that require participants to memorize a few tidbits of information to complete an activity. I notice more and more that anytime I say, “OK, for this next activity I need you to memorize a few images…”, that the next 3 seconds always erupts into an audible, “Arrrrrrrgh…” or other sound that implies I have just asked them to do the most awful task ever. I have facilitated this activity over 300 times and I get the same response every single time. So what is it about memorization that the human race hates so much? Does it take us back to traumatic childhood school days? Does it seem like our brains are too full of information that we can’t possibly absorb one more thing? I’m not sure what the correct answer here, but what I do know is that the mere mention of ‘memorization’ will cause participants to groan…

For example, when I use Spot It Cards or Ubuntu Cards, I have one icebreaker game that encourages participants to get to know one another through unique connection. I give each participant a card and explain that one image on their card will connect with one image on every other card in the deck. (reference picture). I then say, “For this next activity, I need you to look at your card and memorize all 8 images on your card.” (Insert audible horror sound here.) Spot It Visual Aid

I then proceed to give them two tips for memorization. “Here are 2 helpful tips for memorizing. You have 4 fingers on this hand and you have 4 fingers on the other hand. You could assign one of the 8 images to one of those 8 fingers – OR – you could make up a silly story using all 8 images in your story line to help you remember. Now I’ll be quiet so you can concentrate.” I only give them about 90 seconds to memorize, which seems to be about the right amount of time.

Then, when memorization time is up I say, “OK, now I’d like you to take your card and put it face down on your leg. You may no longer look at your card for reference. What I’d like you to do is go and find partner. Together you will try and find the common image you have on your cards without looking at your cards. You can say the names of all of the images (or even tell your silly story) to find the match. Once you have found the common image, I then want you to find something you have in common with that person that is not obvious to the eye, like ‘We’re both wearing blue jeans.’ Or something simple like that. Try to find something that goes a little below the surface level. Then, once your conversation is over, go and find a new partner and repeat this process. Try to interact with at least 4-5 other participants. Are there any questions? You may begin!”

There are a few things that end up happening:
99% of the time people remember their images and can find the match with their partner without looking at their cards.
Because of the power of suggestion, people will end up ‘going deeper’ with their conversations and find unique things they have in common.
When you debrief the activity and ask what strategies they used for memorizing, about 50% of participants will use one of the two suggestions you gave them, and the other 50% will come up with their own strategies. I then ask them to share some of their unique strategies they came up with (on the spot!) in order to be successful at memorizing. Other common techniques are grouping related items together and color matching of items. I love hearing the creativity they come up with in their strategies. I then ask questions about how they can apply these simple strategies to their everyday life (work, home, school).
In the end, memorization wasn’t the end of the world, and it probably wasn’t as horrible of an experience as what it sounded like. Give this activity a try and see if the suggestion of memorization gets an audible response from your participants!
Have fun out there,
Michelle Cummings
Owner/Trainer/Big Wheel
Training Wheels