Remembering Spellings – The Keyboard Approach

I was running a seminar just recently where I was helping a group of medical professionals understand effective learning techniques.

Their profession has just implemented a process of Continuing Professional Development and so they wanted so help with their studying strategies and how to improve their memory.

We had a great session and at the end of it I was surrounded by people who wanted to ask me questions.

Hanging back from the group was a young woman who clearly wanted to ask me a question but didn’t want to do so in front of the rest of the group.

After 20 minutes or so, I finished answering the questions and then got on with packing up my things ready for the long drive home.

It was at this point that the young women approached me.

She seemed a little embarrassed but wanted to share something with me about her memory.

She explained she used to be a notoriously bad speller, that her handwriting was dreadful and so as a result she always typed anything she wrote.

What she wanted to know though was whether or not there was something wrong with her!

I wasn’t sure what she meant so I asked her to explain.

She said that although her spelling over the years had improved to the stage where it was no longer a problem, she could not remember how to spell longer and more complicated words unless she was sat at a keyboard.

“If someone asks me to spell an unusual or difficult word, I simply cannot remember how to unless I am sat at a keyboard”

She went on

“The only way I can remember the word is if I put my hands on the keyboard and pretend to type it out then it is easy”

“Is there something wrong with me?”

I had to laugh at her suggestion because this poor woman felt that it was a handicap that she had to do this.

I quickly apologised for my apparent insensitivity and explained that what she was doing was perfect for her because a) she was able to remember the spellings and it doesn’t matter how we get there and b) she was just harnessing her natural tendencies for thinking.

Let me give you a quick lesson in learning styles.

If we take our five senses, what we see, what we hear, what we feel, what we taste and what we smell we have the different ways that we “make sense” of the world.

These five senses are the inputs to our brain that also allow us to learn.

If we discount taste and smell for now, the main ways we learn new skills and knowledge is through sight, sound and touch i.e. what we see, what we hear and what we do.

In learning style speak these are called the visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning styles.

In a simple world, each of these senses would be evenly balanced with each as strong and as powerful as each other.

However this is not always the case and what we find is that the majority of people have a preference from the three styles.

For some that preference is slight, for others it is so strong that information coming via the other two learning modes is pretty much a waste of time.

So in this woman’s case, her kinesthetic sense was so strong in her that to remember spellings of words, she needed to rely on the mechanical movement of her fingers on a keyboard in order to recall that information.

I went to great length to explain to her that there was absolutely nothing wrong with her and complimented her on being able to use her unique thinking style to help her address the spelling challenge that we all face.

Now different people will use a different blend of the three styles to recall spelling.

I myself will listen to the sound and of the word AND I will try and visualise it.

Once it is written I will know if I have got the correct spelling if it LOOKS right to me.

So I use an auditory approach and a visual approach to come up with what I think the spelling is and then confirm it visually.

This woman’s approach was used her kinesthetic preference to achieve the same aim.

Some people also remember telephone numbers in the same way because the unique pattern their thumb makes (if using a cell phone of course) helps them remember the number.

I told this woman that I bet that was how she remembered numbers and she was amazed at my insight and seemingly superior intuitive powers.

Unfortunately for me, whilst basking in this artificial glory, I tripped over my bag and looked like a real idiot.

That will teach me!!