While using colour makes revision more fun and notes more attention-grabbing, it is also a scientifically-studied means of improving memory and recall. Colour is a powerful stimulus for the brain, enabling us to digest and remember information more easily. Specifically, it’s the choice, combination and association of different colours that helps make information more digestible and boosts memory. Revision is a long process, particularly during GCSEs, and so adopting some of these techniques whilst taking notes may make revision simpler closer to exams. Here are some of the ways your child can use colour to help with their revision.
Choosing the right colours
Certain colours have a greater impact on our memory than others, so it’s important for your child to choose the right colours when making revision notes. Studies have shown that colours such as orange, red and yellow are more attention-grabbing compared with colours such as grey or brown. This means that information written or highlighted in these colours have a higher chance of being remembered.
But what colours should be used, and when? According to basic colour theory, red and yellow stimulate the mind. Red draws attention to something that is important and is good for memory retrieval, while yellow highlights points that need to be remembered and stimulates mental activity. Blue has been proven to be good for boosting the ability to think creatively, while both blue and green have both been found to be calming and to increase concentration.
So, when it comes to revision it’s all about choosing the right colours to help your child remember information. You could encourage your child to highlight important text with a yellow highlighter, or write key phrases or terms using a red pen. Similarly, coloured pens and highlighters can be used to organise and break down information; your child could connect ideas using one colour per topic, by using blue folders, pens and highlighters for French for example. Using the same shade of blue in their French exams may then prompt their memory and help them to recall important information.
Fun tip: Colour doesn’t just mean highlighters and folders. If your child is associating red with science, why not treat them to a bowl of strawberries or a packet of red sweets. They could eat one for every worksheet they complete. Or, ask a younger sibling to make a loom band bracelet in the colour they’re using- your teenager could wear it into the exam as a way to encourage recall.
It’s not just the choice of colours but the combination of colours which aids memory. Opting for shades that create an eye-catching contrast is more visually stimulating and helps the brain to retain information. Generally speaking, the higher the level of contrast the more attention-grabbing a piece of work will be. Just keep in mind that too many colours can be both chaotic and distracting, while too much of one colour can have an adverse effect on memory recall; too much yellow, for instance, is known to provoke headaches which is the last thing your child needs whilst revising.
Combining colours, therefore, is all about balance. Basic colour theory makes use of the colour wheel to give examples of harmonious schemes. A complementary colour scheme uses two colours from opposite sides of the wheel – such as yellow and purple – and should be used to highlight the difference between two things. An analogous scheme uses three colours next to one another (such as red, red violet and red orange), with one being the dominant colour (red). This colour scheme can be used to make something stand out, using the dominant colour for the most important information.
When it comes to your child’s revision, encouraging them to apply colour schemes to their notes can help boost their memory. Simply conduct a quick google search for ‘colour wheel’ to find plenty of printable options to keep to hand as your child revises.
Adding colour to visual tools
It’s no secret that visualising things often helps us to better understand information. Diagrams, PowerPoint presentations and posters are all examples of tools used to make information more digestible and memorable.
Furthermore, adding colour to these tools has been associated with a further boost to our ability to absorb, process and understand information. Psychologists from a number of top Universities conducted an experiment where they showed participants 48 images, half of which were in colour and half of which were black and white. The results revealed that recollection was on average 10% better with colourful images, with the researchers concluding that colour images are more ‘richly’ represented in our memories.
Learning maps are used in classroom education as well as for revision back at home, and adding a splash of colour to these tools is a great way to improve memory. For an effective learning map, using a monochromatic colour scheme (two or more shades of the same colour) can be used for grouping similar objects or facts together. Each of the map’s ‘branches’ should be a primary colour (blue, red, yellow, etc.) then each sub-branch should be a lighter shade of the colour before it. This will help with the child’s cognitive process of understanding and grouping together different groups of information.
Stimulate the brain with colourful pictures
According to colour theorists, pictures help to stimulate memory and boost information recall. But this doesn’t mean printing and sticking-up random pictures around the room; it’s the colours used within the images that help with the revision process. For example, an image of a sky will inevitably incorporate lots of blue, and the colour blue is known to be calming and to boost creativity – both of which are important during revision. Or red, which is associated with adrenaline and correction, encourages both awareness and vigilance, in turn boosting memory and recall. Different pictures may be relevant at different stages of revision. Red may be more appropriate in the thick of revision, whilst your child is trying to absorb as much information as possible, whereas blue may be more beneficial in the days leading up to exams to keep stress levels low.
Fun fact: Enid Blyton believed that the colour red acted as a “mental stimulus” for her.
While you’re choosing the right colours to ‘inspire’ your child’s revision, you could also give some thought to the subject of those pictures. Pictures of inspirational figures may encourage your child to revise, especially if they relate to the subject they’re revising, or else a photo of where you’re going on holiday this year may keep them motivated to press forward with revision. Just remember to pick a photo with lots of your chosen colour in there.
Here are some of our top picks to help incorporate colour into your child’s revision plan:
- – Highlighters
- – Coloured Pens
- – Sticky Post-it Notes
- – Red Stationery
- – Pink Stationery
- – Orange Stationery
- – Yellow Stationery
- – Green Stationery
- – Blue Stationery
- – Purple Stationery
Do you have any tips for using colour to help memory? Share them in the comments box below.