One of the things than can be very daunting for kids at show is remembering workouts, jump courses, dressage test and so on. If the child is so overwhelmed in trying to remember where they are going, the quality of the work will be compromised. Helping a child understand how they themselves retain information, and to trust their own judgement in regards to where they are to go next has a huge impact on their overall performance.
One exercise I like to use to help kids learn to retain information is the A-Z game.
This is ideally done with a group of around 6 children. Without giving too much reasoning as to why we are playing this game I ask them to think of food. All the kids sit in a circle with the first child saying a food beginning with A. The child sitting next to them initially says the name of the food starting with A that the previous child stated, they then add another food beginning with B. The third child on the circle states the name of the food beginning with A, followed by the food starting with B, and then adds their own food starting with C. The pattern follows until 2 circuits have been completed (approx, this can be adapted according to the number of children)
Once the game has finished, ask the kids - how did they remember each food in order. Here are some answers I usually get.
1. I pictured each bit of food on a plate 2. I looked at each person in the circle and tried to remember what their answer was (association) 3. I chunked in down into alphabetical order 4. I put into a suquence
Great! That is a great place to start. We then discuss how each of us use different ways of remembering things and briefly discuss how that my impact our ability to remember a judges workout under pressure.
I then ask them to do the same exercise again using animals, but this time, each time a child adds a new animal to the sequence we put it into a picture. I ask the kids to picture the animals actually behaving as they would in the image for example..
The first child says A - Alligator. The second child says A - Alligator, B - Bee. I then discuss where is the bee in relation to the alligator. She replies, he is attacking the alligator. Cool! The third child says A - Alligator, B - Bee, C, Cat. I then ask what is the cat doing? She replies the cat is running infront of the alligator. And so the game goes on, but each time we add another animal we add it to the whole scene. By the time we are finished for example we may have..
The A - Alligator is being attacked by the B - Bee with a C - Cat and D - Dog running out in front, followed by an E - Elephant with a F - Frog on his back and a G - Gallah flying above squawking and flapping his wings. A H - Horse is galloping on the right hand side of the alligator, and an I - Iguana on the left hand side of the alligator. A J - Joey is riding on the rump of the elephant, as we are moving along the beech where a K - Killer whale is swimming along side us while a L - Leprachn is laughing at all the frivolity!
The kids love the idea of creating a scene in their head and they find it so easy to remember the order of animals as they can see it all unfolding in front of their eyes!
Once the second exercise has been completed we then discuss how they retained the information so easily.
1. These guys loved being able to picture the whole thing unfolding 2. These guys were able to associate each animal with an image 3. These guys were able to chunk down the scene 4. These guys had a structured pattern to follow
Very cool huh! The coolest bit start when we start to use that information in real life situations. Before we start talking workouts etc...I ask the kids to stand up and I very quickly give them an series of obstacles to complete.
For example, I may say. Go over to the white tap and touch it, run to the power pole and circle it once, leap frog over the milk crate, jump the rope on the ground and them come back and lay over one of the 6 yellow pegs laying on the ground. I do this quickly and without giving them a chance to really think it through. I then let them go one by one and see how much of the course they remember.
Apon returning we discuss how easy (or not) that was to complete and asked whether they had time to visualise the course before hand. I then give them another course, this time different but give them a minute to compose themselves and let them imagine the course as I give them instructions. I ask them to imagine themselves doing each of these things and remind them of the exercise we had completed before hand with the A-Z game, as I discuss the pattern, and then let them go at it once again.
The difference is always outstanding!
I then link that to a judge giving them a workout pattern. How will you remember that easily so you can concentrate on the quality of the work rather than where you are going next?
Will you imagine a horse and rider that you admire completing the workout as the judge is explaining it? Will you break it down into A-Z type structures, will you chunk it down into 5 incremental parts. However they choose to break it down is OK, we always have to remember how us as coaches/instructors/parents retain information is not always the same way our little people do. We need to find out how THEY remember stuff, make it OK and then practice how to do what they know best.