Over a lifetime, many of us memorize many things, and for many reasons. As I began pondering this phenomenon, I ruminated on some of the many things I either chose to memorize, or was forced to memorize - the alphabet, counting by tens, thousands of songs, Bible verses and books of the Bible, the Prologue to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (in Olde English), much poetry, the order of operations (Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally), directions on a map (Never Eat Soggy Waffles), “righty tighty-lefty loosey,” phone numbers and addresses, complete scores to masses, oratorios, and musicals, the periodic table, the 16 ways to say “the” in German...and the list goes on and on. Fortunately in today’s world, there are lovely memory helpers such as Google or Siri, and this once-memorized information is just a touch away. So is there value in memorizing anything these days?
As a Teyve sort of person (Google that under “Fiddler on the Roof”), I naturally began arguing with myself, and was delighted to come across this article while cruising the Internet, Memorization Still Matters: Benefits of quick access to working memory and 25 memorization techniques by Rick Wormeli in the Association for Middle Level Education.
Wormeli begins with this -- “Even for those with consistent access (to the Internet) at home, has our reliance on the Internet to provide the answer we didn't take the time to memorize hindered students nonetheless for not cultivating in them a working memory fortitude with the focus and skills to retain chunks of information purposefully for later application, or simply because they enjoy a topic, and to access both while in situations without Internet access?”
Wormeli goes on to quote a teacher, Ben Orlin, on the topic of memorization and its usefulness in critical thinking, "It's a mistake to downplay factual knowledge, as if students could learn to reason critically without any information to reason about." As an educator, I often thought about that, especially when employing Bloom’s taxonomy to questioning with my students. If we are going to ask students to apply, analyze, evaluate, and synthesize, they need to have knowledge and understanding at the ready, and some of this knowledge will be the result of memorization. For example, I recently sat in a Board meeting where I was asked to explain a process used to develop and implement strategic planning. I immediately summoned the acronym SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound) from my memory, and proceeded to expound on the components. There was no need to say, “Just a moment, let me GTS that (Google That Stuff)...” Because I’ve relied on memorization so much in my life, it seems plausible that others will too, and that we need to teach the “fortitude, focus, and skills” to help students retain chunks of information.
In Wormeli’s article, he lists 25 possible strategies to aid memorization, and I’ve chosen to highlight some that I believe are most efficacious. They are:
As always, I welcome your thoughts and ideas. Together we learn and grow.
Past President, WATG
Gifted in Perspective
A column designed to link the gifted perspective to other perspectives, and to make you think.