The book entitled Brain Rules by John Medina, the second edition of which was published in 2014, has twelve chapters, each dealing with a different aspect of our psychological functioning and each encapsulated in a simple rule. Medina said that he only discusses research published in a peer-reviewed journal which has then been successfully replicated. I’ll discuss the chapter on memory and a little from the chapter on attention. The rule for the chapter on memory is “Repeat to remember.” This, I think, is the short answer to children’s question as to why they have to do homework. Remembering often isn’t easy. Research shows that people usually forget 90% of what they learn in a class with a month. Most of this forgetting occurs within the first few hours after class. This is the longer answer to the above-mentioned question.

The initial moment of learning is called encoding- when we begin the process of memory. Some encoding occurs effortlessly. Encoding that we initiate deliberately requires conscious attention at the moment of encoding and a lot of repetition before the information can be recalled with ease. Knowing a few facts about encoding can help us engage in it more successfully. The more elaborately we encode information at the moment of learning, the strong the memory. The more closely we replicate the conditions at the moment of learning, the easier the remembering. So making the place where you study for a test similar to the place where you will take the test, (e.g., studying in a quiet environment) should help your recall during the test. The more a learner focuses on the meaning of information being presented, the more elaborately he or she will process the information. So get an understanding of the big picture before trying to memorize the details of what you are trying to learn.

If you’re trying to teach others, make sure that you use several real-world examples familiar to the learner that demonstrate your points. The more personal an example is, the more richly it becomes encoded and the more readily it is remembered. Medina tells us that public speaking professionals say you win or lose the battle to hold your audience in the first 30 seconds of a presentation. So you should open with something big. Big picture first, remember. From the chapter on attention, Medina suggests dividing your presentation into ten-minute segments, each of which focuses on a single general concept that you can explain in the first minute. He tells us what when he lectures to a class, he has a break in the lecture every ten minutes where he offers the class a hook that triggers an emotion and that is relevant to the interests of the students. He says that you can offer a hook at the end of a segment, summarizing the material, or place it at the beginning of a segment to grab the class’s attention as to what is coming next. These are some useful facts for teaching and learning. The rest of the book has many more useful facts that you might want to check out. Do it for your brain.