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How Teachers Can Support Visual Memory


Study Skills & Tools Universal Design for Learning All Ages Strategy


Visual Memory

How Teachers Can Support Visual Memory

There are always flowers for those who want to see them.
— Henri Matisse

Visual memory refers to how you store and recall concepts, numbers, objects, or other non-language-based information.

When It Matters Most

Students use visual memory to remember previously seen objects, images, ideas, or numbers, as well as diagrams or charts. Visual memory tends to be most important in math and science classes, particularly geometry and trigonometry.

Top Go-to Strategies

  1. Describe pictures in your own words. For example don't just look at a picture, describe it: A hexagon has six sides and points. Count the sides out loud - 1,2,3,4,5,6. It is always better for a student to your their own words than the words you tell them.
  2. Encourage students to draw connections or similarities to information they already know. For example, a stop sign is always the shape of an octagon. This approach draws on their reasoning skills and not just rote memorization.
  3. Chunk numbers rather than try to memorize a list. For example, with the numbers 2, 4, 8, 3, think 2,483 or 24 and 83.
  4. Provide a copy of charts or diagrams used during your lessons. Ideally they have captions so students can read the caption to remember what it is, not just look at the visual.
  5. Encourage students to re-draw chart and diagrams in their notes rather than expect them to recall what you might have shown in class.
  6. Highlight key elements of charts and diagrams so they learn to focus on and remember key elements rather than getting lost in the details. Describe key elements in words to reinforce and remember them.
  7. When available provide tangible objects to reinforce what they see. Blocks and 3-D models can be incredibly helpful for students with weaker visual memory.
  8. Use colors for reinforcement. For example, odd numbers can be red and even numbers are green. Commas can be purple and colons are orange.
  9. Remind students to space out their studying, so they are not cramming before a test and are likely to forget.
  10. Ultimately, it is most important that your student begins to recognize and adapt when a weaker skill is interfering in learning. Middle or High School students can use this checklist to become more self-aware of their visual memory. Also, find strategies for a student's MTSS/IEP/504 Plan.