Frameworks in the Mind

"You put something in long-term memory by finding a structure that already exists in your head; by making sense of it, in other words." - Frank Smith, The Book of Learning and Forgetting

Students have so many facts to learn, but who wants to end up as a big bag of facts? It is important to give kids frameworks to help structure and make sense of all that they learn.

Timelines and maps are excellent simple frameworks. Every time your kid is studying an inventor or artist, if they have their own timelines and maps they can add them to, then they can see how they relate to other things they have studied.

Stories are another way to create frameworks. We love to tell the Story of Everything, in various ways and with more or less humorous characters (usually the mudskipper who won't listen to its mother and insists on jumping out of the ocean a bit...). Stories can summarize timelines, travel the world or survey different types of characters.

Yet another way to think about it is the Who, What, When, Where, Why structure of journalism. If the fact is the Who and What, the timeline the When and the map the Where, then adding the Why (and maybe How) lets students relate to more abstract frameworks about why and how things happen. Themes in literature, the scientific method, principles of chemistry or biology - these all relate to the why and how. These last categories are also fertile fields for discussion - when the Vietnam War started may not be debatable (except to very specialized historians) but why it started certainly is; when the Wright brothers made their first flight is a fact but how they got there is a rich subject for discussion and research. Yet having all the facts together on a timeline may feed into understanding the whys and hows!