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BiologyToolbox, Teaching and Learning

I have a cunning plan… (silly stories to make sense of the complex)

I originally chose the opening line of this blog as “I have a terrible memory”. On reflection the opposite may be true, I have an amazing memory, play any episode of Blackadder series 2-4 (series 1 never really did it for me) and I will quote you every line from every character. If you ever come up with a use for this skill let me know. Unfortunately this particular gift does not transfer to any other part of my life, so to get ahead I have found a few tricks.


One strategy which I have found helpful is turning lists of information into a funny story. The funnier and more exciting you make the story the more likely you are to remember it, especially if the sequence you are trying to remember doesn’t lend itself to humour or excitement.

I tried this technique with my Y13 students who were struggling to get to grips with respiration. Written as a list of 29 or so reactions it is a beast to learn, so I wrote it as a silly story for students to draw as a cartoon or just memorise. Using this technique I have had students memorise and then recite every part of respiration from glycolysis to the electron transport chain in under an hour. It takes a bit of a leap of faith to try it, but it has worked well. They can also recite the list for weeks afterwards. I have also tried the same technique with photosynthesis.

Download the list for respiration here, or photosynthesis here.







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