When you hear someone say "memorize the periodic table", the word "fun" probably doesn't come to mind. "Run", maybe... but not fun, right? Well we recently learned all the elements of the periodic table in a short amount of time and we did enjoy it! "How?" you may ask. It was with silly stories and fun whiteboard animation videos!
I'm don't remember how I found Memorize Academy and the "Memorize the Periodic Table" videos, but I'm glad I did! Chemistry is an upcoming subject of study for our homeschool, so I thought it would be good to refresh my understanding of it. Knowing all the elements by heart seemed fitting as well, especially because my daughter, Big Sis (age 9), has had an increasing interest in it lately. So I was quite pleased - and a tad excited even - to try these videos that gave us an easy and fun way to remember all the elements... and now I'm excited to tell you about it too!
About Memorize Academy
Memorize Academy is a website with several videos and supplemental materials by Kyle Buchanan, an author and whiteboard animation memory coach. His offerings aim to help users learn how to memorize information fast and easy. Some videos are free and others are considered premium content and available at a reasonable fee. Amazingly, the associated vlog on the site offers a number of other free articles and videos that help viewers memorize a variety of topics! Kyle also authored the book, Memorize the Periodic Table: The Fast and Easy Way to Memorize Chemical Elements [<-- NOT an affliate link], available on Amazon.
We received online access to the following videos from Memorize Academy:
I love to exercise my memory but had never before attempted to learn the periodic table of elements, so Big Sis and I took this on as a mother-daughter challenge. Lil' Sis (6) also enjoyed watching the videos with us and was the first person to ask to start the next one each time we finished a segment. Baby Sis (4.5 months)... well, she mostly just drooled on my keyboard. Par for the teething course.
The videos are entirely whiteboard animation with a little background music and Kyle's explanations and narration of memory tips and the short, often crazy, stories that utilize visual associations to remember key information. In this case, the elements.
As is usually the case, my 9 year old outpaced and outshined me on the speed at which she remembered things, but with the aid of these silly mental imagery stories, I was able to keep up fairly well nonetheless. The key, I found, was most definitely to focus and really visualize the story in my own mind. So while the videos were certainly helpful in creating a mental picture, it wasn't as simple as casually watching them and hoping it'd soak in. No subliminal learning while you sleep here. So you can't just stare at the screen like the Watching Dead. You definitely need to stay on task and engaged. Thankfully, for us and in this case, that was pretty easy to do. (And as a hot mess of a homeschool mom these days, I love things that are easy to stay on task with and accomplish!)
Big Sis and I had the first 50 elements down in less than an hour total, though that was spread out over multiple shorter sessions - not one hour-straight stint. The rest were accomplished in a bit more time (maybe 1.5-2 hours total - again, in shorter sessions spread out over a few weeks), due to having to explain a few things from some videos to Big Sis, which caused her to review things 2-3 times before she felt confident in knowing those elements. That is still less time spent memorizing and far fewer repetitions than she would do in other circumstances!
You can see Big Sis' first attempt at reciting the first 112 elements (on our brand new You Tube channel)! She missed one element and some pronunciation might be a bit off, but we wanted to share the reality of her result, so we decided not to retake and fix it. Here's the video and the link: https://youtu.be/gCy3T116CLo.
What We Liked
The process of memorizing the elements was made easier because these are short, "bite-size" videos, never more than about nine minutes in length. We liked this because even though it took mental energy to reap the benefits, we didn't have to sustain the effort for very long. We stayed focused intently to learn a chunk of the material and then had a chance ot rest our minds in between or save the next video for another day. We could easily fit in a video here and there in the midst of our busy schedule. Very nice.
The story Kyle weaves to help each element stick in your mind is rather strange and quite far-fetched, but I guess that's why it worked. It is so odd and silly that it is harder to forget. (At least, most of the time. Read on for some exceptions we encountered.) Our favorite part of the memory story was the one for phosphorus and both Big Sis & Lil'Sis still giggle and yell out the story association nearly every time we recite the elements! Big Sis is rather fond of the manganese segment as well.
The animations are not super fancy because it is all hand drawn whiteboard illustrations, but they were well done and usually clear and helpful. A thoughtful touch was that the key point of the story that associated to the element was usually highlighted with more color or emphasis, drawing your attention to that aspect.
We also liked Mr. Buchanan's voice. His narration was easy and pleasant to listen to.
My daughter particularly appreciated the "action replay" at the end of each video, which was a quick review - a shortened version of the information presented earlier in the video. It always helped solidify what we just learned/saw. She later used these sections of each video to review the material and make sure she still had it all correct. I suggested to Mr. Buchanan that he make a single, full action replay of all the elements in one video for future reviewing purposes, so I hope that is something that gets added later on!
We also appreciated the printable illustrated review sheets. I almost missed these, though, because I didn't see the download link on the right of the screen in that section. I'm glad I found it though! The review sheets are a handy way to be sure we don't miss an element when we review them now and then, over time. Mr. Buchanan suggests going back over the story occasionally to further cement it in your mind and keep it fresh, so that is what we are doing.
Another reason I personally like what Memorize Academy has to offer is that it fits well with our homeschool approach. While these videos and this method is not marketed toward homeschoolers or to families that use a classical style of learning, I think it lends itself well to both. This may or may not be applicable or suitable for your own situation, but for us, it was a big plus. Our family appreciates the classical approach to education and we have a focus on memorization of facts and information in the early years; facts upon which futher knowledge is later built and explored in depth. To that regard, these videos are a perfect fit.
Some parts of the story were more of a stretch than others, making some parts easier to remember quickly and others took a bit more effort. A few times, we modified or even changed a small part of the story entirely to better suit us. This wasn't frequent, but it did happen now and then. I don't think this was a negative reflection on the product/videos, but rather a personal preference. I can't imagine the time and effort it would take to create an entire memory story ourselves, so for us - these videos were valuable and I'd say they are worth the cost. I do think that each user's results might vary a bit according to how well suited the story is for them. But overall, it seems a very good tool that likely only needs a little tweaking for personal preferences, if any.
Some of the references in the memory story might not be familiar to young children - such as valium, Celine Dion, James Dean, and Neo from the Matrix. This made those points of the story less memorable for my daughter and we had to make some adaptions for her or spend some time learning about the references so that portion of the story would stick better for her.
Also, while it was not an issue for us, I thought I should mention that the vidoes use the word "ass" (in reference to a "donkey", not as a swear word) a few times... since it is the name of the animal - and used in that capacity alongside the image of the donkey - I didn't mind it, even though it was another word that my daughter was not familiar with and needed explaining (once explained, it worked well). But I thought it worth mentioning so you know what to expect ahead of time.
I also think, and suggested, that it might be helpful to have the written name of the elements appear on screen during the "action replay" portions of the video too, but again, this is more of a personal preference thing. I find my mind does well for spelling when I can see the word, so repeated exposure is good for me. In fact, I'm far better at remembering someone's name when I see it written on a name tag or roster and sometimes "read" notes in my mind when trying to recall something. So the more I see something written, the better it is for me.
If memorizing the periodic table of elements, presidents, or other information is something of interest to you or your children, I would definitely recommend looking into these videos and trying out his free ones to see if they would work for you!
Every child (every person) has a different learning style, needs, wants, and methods that work for them, so I always say that nothing is perfect for all. Not everyone will love any given product or service. The same holds true here. Luckily, the free videos are plenty to give you an idea of if it'll work for you and if you want access to the rest or not.
You might wonder if this is only good for visual learners, but I think that it could actually be valuable to both those who are already strong visual learning types AND those who are not. For those that aren't, I wonder if the method that is used in the Memorize Academy videos might even help one learn how to better benefit from or strengthen their visual memory.
While I was given access to the videos at no cost, this review is my sincere opinion and all thoughts are my own or that of my kids. There are NO affiliate links in this post. I'm sharing about this because we enjoyed it and I think others may be interested.
I'm a homeschooling mom of two, enjoying our time in Hawaii and hoping to share some of that experience with you, including ideas, reviews, resources, and information.