Memorization Should Not Be a Lost Art

Isn't it only fair that we share some of the tricks that we learned years ago?

By Linda Fitzsimmons Pierce


finger pointing with orange string tied in a bow

Memorization allows scholars to warehouse, if you will, a stockpile of concepts. Important background information will only help learners throughout their lives. Also, the creativity process is a mysterious one. The more useful concepts that students have stored, the easier it is for their minds to sift through their "files" and allow them the satisfaction of discovering new ideas. Getting out of the box is the name of the game, but we need to remember to continue holding onto some necessary background information too.

Our Intentions Have Always Been Good

We teach to help children learn. Even with the very best intentions, some mistakes have surfaced in teaching that now require patching up. Everyone learns from where they've been, and with the sincere changes in curriculum and exponentially speedy changes in technology, we've all had to decipher what we should continue to integrate into our teaching. Thus, like it or not, the emergence of standardized testing.

Where Have We Been?

The following are just a few examples of situations in the past that have brought about changes in curriculum that needed to be addressed and/or tweaked:

  • Whole language that was taught with some missing links left a space in the place of spelling correctly. For those students who were inclined to read and retain word spellings, the process of languaging was no problem. However, a considerable number of learners needed more exposure to words. There was some thinking that spell-check computer programs would fill the gap for poor spellers. Spell-check had, and still does have, some holes. Luckily, spelling words correctly is making a comeback, thus memorization for some is very necessary.
  • Digital watches made the importance of telling time using an analog watch or clock seem outdated. It turns out that there are students who have seemingly moved forward in grade levels and are hiding the fact that they still cannot tell time. Schools still use analog clocks. This situation creates embarrassment. Memorizing how to tell time is necessary.
  • For a while, some teachers theorized that calculators would replace the need for memorizing the multiplication tables. The reality is that in order to function well in math, everyone still needs to have multiplication facts memorized.

All of us work so hard and want the very best for our scholars. It's time to bring memorization back. After all, when taught with meaning behind it, memorization can be fun and it instills pride in your class while contributing to their life-long learning.

Using Some Tricks of the Trade

Memorization need not be taught in a blah, blah, blah way. We all love tricks, and here are some fun approaches to encourage memorizing when appropriate age-level pieces are assigned. (You just may recognize some of these. If you do, remember how often you still return to them to help you to remember information.) Reaching children with different learning styles will contribute to their enjoying the process. So, some auditory, acronym, visual and kinesthetic examples are included, let’s share these with our learners!

Auditory: I've Got the Music in Me

Schoolhouse Rock! - Catchy songs and videos that cover a variety of subjects make up Schoolhouse Rock! Songs include:

Acronyms: Linking Letters with Words

  • Every Good Boy Does Fine / FACE: This mnemonic is used in musical notation to help students remember those treble clef notes on the lines (E, G, B, D, F) and those on the spaces (F, A, C, E).
  • My Very Earnest Mother Just Served Us Noodles: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune. Here we have an easy way to remember the order of the planets starting from the sun and moving outward.

Visual: Seeing is Believing

  • Before you begin your read-aloud, choose someone to pass out a piece of newsprint paper to each person. Allow learners to draw a picture from the story as you read. Everyone needs to write one sentence at the bottom of his picture to explain how it pertains to the story. If they’d like to share their picture and sentence, allow them to do so. After the book is finished, post all of the pictures in the classroom with the title of the book at the top. You will be amazed at how this visual tool encourages comprehension which is, in fact, remembering…memorization? Yes!
  • First, lead your kids in memorizing rule-breaking words. The method of looking at the word, saying it, spelling it while looking at it, tracing the letters in the air, closing their eyes and seeing it, then recalling the word and writing it down touches on all of the learning styles.
  • Teach your class how to attach a mental picture to a words. For example, they can draw an ear by the word hear or a cat's face by the word category to distinguish between the beginning c or k sound.
  • As dull as they may sound, good old fashioned flash cards are a great way to help your kids learn the multiplication tables. Sometimes rote memory is most effective in helping students to gulp down and retain information. Yes, it may take a variety of repetitions, but it does work eventually.

Kinesthetic: I Like to Move it, Move it!

Incorporate hands-on or touching techniques for the kinesthetic learning style. The kinesthetic learns best by using his hands to touch. Get your kinesthetic learners involved, hands-on, with the information you want them to memorize. More than listening to you tell them about it, they want to actually get in there and do it. When it is time for them to recollect information, they can reflect back to their hands-on experience.

Memorization can take off with a new spin when pupils begin to come up with their own auditory, acronym, visual, and kinesthetic approaches to learning information. By all means, encourage your class to share their own memorization methods, or work in groups to devise techniques for memorizing material. Everyone enjoys the process when the students become the teachers.

Lesson Planet offers so many approaches to teaching. Here are some ways to work memorization into your repertoire.

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