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Memory Vygotsky Style. B y Meghan Elfelt. “The very essence of human memory consists in the fact that human beings actively remember with the help of signs.”. Biography. 1896 – 1934 1 of 8 kids – Dad was a banker and mom was a teacher Grew up in Gomel (port city in Western Russia)

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Memory vygotsky style

MemoryVygotsky Style

By Meghan Elfelt

“The very essence of human memory consists in the fact that human beings actively remember with the help of signs.”


  • 1896 – 1934

  • 1 of 8 kids – Dad was a banker and mom was a teacher

  • Grew up in Gomel (port city in Western Russia)

  • Jewish (3% quota to enter university and he made the drawing)

  • Graduated from Moscow University with a law degree

  • After a brilliant speech in 1924, he had an electrifying effect on the young psychiatrists

  • Received job at the Moscow Institute of


  • First big research project was in 1925

    with his psychology of Art

  • Wrote 7 books and dozens of articles before

    he died of tuberculosis at the age of 37

Vygotsky s main ideas
Vygotsky’s Main Ideas

  • His fundamental insight was that children need social interaction with adults and older children to advance their psychological development.

  • Cognitive Development

  • He places emphasis on culture affecting/shaping cognitive development which contradicts Piaget’s view of universal stages and content of development

  • Social factors and the role

    of language are contributors


  • The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)

  • “The distance between the actual development level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers.” (Vygotsky)

Terminology cont
Terminology Cont..

  • Scaffolding

  • “Those elements of the task that are initially beyond the learner’s capacity, thus permitting him to concentrate upon and complete only those elements that are within his range of competence.”


  • Natural Memory

    • Arises out of direct influence of external stimuli upon human beings

  • Memory does not develop in children all at once

  • Memory grows and develops in childhood

  • 25 years old is the high point of memory

Vygotsky s signs
Vygotsky’s “Signs”

  • Signs– Various psychological tools that people use to aid their thinking and behavior

    • Notched sticks and knotted ropes

    • Speech – Our ability to talk to ourselves (to think with the help of words) contributes enormously to our powers of thought

    • “Inner speech” – when people talk aloud to themselves

    • Vygotsky sees ”inner speech" as a means for children to plan activities and strategies and therefore aid their development.

    • Language is therefore an accelerator to thinking/understanding.

3 stages in the development of mediated remembering
3 Stages In The Development of Mediated Remembering

  • 1st stage (ages 4-8) – Child is not capable of mastering his behavior by organizing special stimuli. They ignore aids or use them inappropriately. They “do not yet know their capacities and limitations” or how to use external stimuli to help them remember things.

  • 2nd Stage (ages 9-12) – The introduction of aids as a system of external stimuli raises the effectiveness of the child’s activity considerably.

  • 3rd Stage (Adults) – At this higher stage of development, behavior remains mediated. The external sign of the school kids has been transformed into an internal sign produced by the adult as a means of remembering. No need for external cues for they make mental notes to themselves inwardly.

What am i testing
What am I testing?

  • I am testing whether or not I can teach the children to use the “house cards” (signs) to aid their memorization.

  • Vygotsky believed that “aids” actually hinder young children.

  • Hypothesis:

    I believe that both the first and sixth graders will use the “house” cards (signs) to help them remember the animals better, thus, proving Vygotsky wrong.

Challenge one

  • “I am going to give you the cards and I will give you one minute to memorize the animals. READY, GO!”

  • After the one minute, take away the animal cards.

  • Ask the kid what he/she remembers?

Challenge two

  • Show the kid the house cards and match them with the animals together.

  • Stack the house cards in a pile and tell the kid they can use them to remember the animals.

  • Start the timer and observe to see if the kid looks/uses the “house cards”

  • After a minute ask, “What did you see?”

Results 1 st grade
Results – 1st Grade

Results 6 th grade
Results – 6th Grade


  • 1st Graders

    • The young kids were not able to discover how to use the “house cards”. Even after I explained to them how the “house cards” could help them, children at this age were incapable of using these external stimuli in order to organize their own behavior.

    • Signs hindered these children.


  • 6th Graders

    • Only 2 out of the 6 used the “house cards” and only 1 of the 2 was successful in receiving a better score.

    • They are most likely on the verge of understanding their capacities and limitations when it comes to memory and for some, the signs raised the effectiveness of the child’s activity.

What does this mean
What does this mean?

  • Vygotsky was right! 

  • The “house cards” (signs) actually hindered the 1st graders and most of the 6th graders.


  • Familiarize myself with the children beforehand so some of them wouldn‘t be so nervous

  • I wish I had been in a quieter atmosphere (lunch room/hallway)

  • I would visit in the afternoon so I wouldn’t be testing them right before/during/right after lunch/recess. Too hectic!

  • I would have liked to have tested more than 12 students and more ages

  • Use different wording in my questions… “This time you get to use the house cards to help you win” and place them in the kids’ hands in addition to the animal cards

  • It also would have been nice to have a partner to take turns taking notes and observing the kids – it was difficult to concentrate on so many things at once






  • Crain, William. Theories of Development. New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc, 2011.

  • Vygotsky, L.S. Mind in Society. Massachusetts: Harvard Uninversity Press, 1978.

  • Vygotsky, L.S. Educational Psychology. Florida: St. Lucie Press, 1997.