June 2017 Making Your Gray Matter

The Review that Gives You a Real View

What’s your default method of reviewing something? Do you simply read over your notes? Look through a couple of PowerPoint slides? Talk about it with a friend? While those all may be helpful, they often don’t give you a real view of your learning. Make your review a whole-brain involving view. Make it an Idea Map!

Get a large sheet of paper and turn it sideways (landscape). Start at the middle of the page with the main topic. I prefer an image or symbol, but you can start with a word or short phrase. Keep it brief. You can add symbols or images later if you want. Now connect some main branches to this central idea. On the branches, put words or phrases of your choosing! You may have notes from a class or meeting wherein the speaker had a different phrase representing a main idea, but it’s more powerful for your memory that you choose the information here. The more personal your notes, the better you’ll retain them.

The number of main branches is up to you, but I like to limit myself to 7-8. More than that and my map can feel cluttered and claustrophobic. To power up your memory, assign a color to each main branch and it’s supporting branches. This color coding will “fire up” a part of your brain that would remain idle with a single color of notes.

You can add all of the main branches before adding in second level branches, or you can continue with one branching system until you feel “done.” This is completely up to you and the way your brain wants to construct the map.

Add information to subsequent branches from your memory, your PowerPoint slides, your notes or whatever your source is. To make your map even more memorable, add in your individual associations; anything that the information triggers for you. As you sort through all of this, you are reviewing. When you’re finished, you have a nicely compressed, colorful, visual, and spatial view of your learning!