ARTICLE - Context is King!

Sábado foi um dia muito importante para nós - o meu filho teve a sua primeira aula de natação - his first swimming lesson!  (tem quatro anos...)  Então, off we went, com fato de banho, chinelos, toalha, touca.  He had his photo taken at reception for his card on the way in, and they said the cartão would be ready to pick up after I'd taken him in and got him ready, so they buzzed me through.  To get out, I had to press the campainha (bell) and they buzzed me out.  Muito bem, did all that.

Back I went to rececão and got the cartão de utente for him (with the fotografia) and a cartão de acompanhante para mim.  Then he said venha cá, and took me to the turnstile entrance to show me how to get in with the cards.  He told me that on the way in I needed to present this card first and then other, and to get out I had to do the cards the other way round.  He'd lost me before he'd finished the sentence.  As someone who will mix two things up with ease (left/right being the prime example) I knew I would not remember.  So I smiled and said desculpe, nunca vou me lembrar disto, tenho de escrever...  whilst fumbling in my bag for a pen.  And he said, to my relief, não faz mal, é só tocar a campainha (great- the buzzer!).  

After watching the lesson, I used my cartão de acompanhante to get back through the turnstile and dressed my weary child and headed back to the turnstile to get out.  Which card first?  I was sure it was his, did that and it worked, out he went no problem,  Tried mine and no luck, again, still no.  By then o meu filho was halfway across reception on his way to the door to the car park.  - Anda cá!  - Porquê? (has to always ask why) -  Não consigo sair daqui  (and he came back..)  Pressed the campainha, lovely rececionista buzzed me out and explained that I have to go out first so my son isn't wandering around reception by himself - Ah... now I will remember.

Why this little story?  Often it is very hard to remember things.  When learning a language, this is our major challenge - to build up a large bank of brand new words and phrases and know what they mean.  To help new pieces of information to stick in our minds we need to be proacative and help ourselves.  A bit of context can make all the difference.  For me, understanding that the order of the cards was  important as it made it safer for my son meant the information instantly memorable.  Prior to that understanding I was at a loss as to how I would remember without having the information written down. 

As a teacher I am constantly looking for ways to make the learning experience easier and providing meaningful understanding of complex ideas.  I hope this little história will help you to think a little more about ways you could remember things that you struggle with.  One challenge I have of teaching mainly adults is you guys, vocês, are not all the same!  So, often it is a case of thinking carefully about you as an individual, how you learn, what your situation and interests are etc in order to give you pertinent advice on how you will learn best.