Having Materials Ready: Impact of Attention and Memory

Being ready to learn often means being prepared for the next activity, having to shift gears from one task to another, and having all the necessary materials on hand. In order to develop this aspect of learning readiness, students must engage their attentional abilities (especially that of previewing), as well as their memory skills.

Through previewing, a student is able to look ahead and be prepared to deal with upcoming circumstances, challenges, and academic tasks. For example, previewing helps students prepare for a test, get ready for an upcoming class, and smoothly transition from one activity to the next. In addition, students who preview are able to determine which materials are needed for a task and to remember to have those materials on hand. As a result, they are better prepared for activities and better able to follow through on assignments.

Here are some strategies to help students learn to have the needed materials ready when they begin working on an assignment.

Previewing

  • Have students preview an assignment, make a list of the materials needed for the entire assignment, and collect and organize the materials and their workspace before starting work. Suggest that students also preview to prepare for homework and assignments before leaving school, to make sure they will have all the materials they need at home.  
  • Provide written reminders for students to bring specific materials to class or to take specific materials home when needed.  
  • Provide time at the beginning of the day for students to preview their class schedule, as well as time at the end of the day to preview their homework/study schedule. For middle and high school students, you might divide homeroom into two half periods, one short period in the morning and one short period in the afternoon.  
  • It may be helpful to give students advance notice about upcoming activities and the materials needed for those activities, offering suggestions like: “In our next activity, I will ask you to plot these points on graph paper,” or, “You will need to take out your language book and journal notebook for your next subject.”

Organizing and Planning

  • Encourage students to have all their books, notes and working tools, such as pencils, paper, ruler, etc., together in one spot to avoid the distractions of searching for lost or misplaced items.  
  • Help students be prepared by suggesting that they keep certain materials on hand both at school and at home, for example., a set of books, a copy of assignment due dates and test dates, a set of pencils, etc.  
  • Recommend, and if possible, confirm that the student has an ‘office space’ at home where he/she has work materials, a calendar, strategy sheets, etc. to facilitate a strategic approach to learning at home.  
  • Provide students with desk organizers for materials and notebooks at school and at home. Color-coding notebooks and folders may help students organize their work and make materials more easily accessible. Guide students as they create their own color coding system.