How to Memorize

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    William C. Michael

    The study and teaching of history’s wisest and best men has been given to us to master and the most efficient way to learn most of what is available is by memorization.  So, how do I recommend students go about memorizing lessons?

    1.  Don’t fool yourself

    Before we get into any discussion about how to memorize good information, let’s acknowledge that we are going to memorize lots of bad information in our lives.  We memorize bad jokes, worldly songs, sports information, silly stories, and much, much more.  We memorize it because memorization is natural for us, and we often work so that we can gain and keep the knowledge they want.

    How do we memorize bad information?

    First, we are persuaded that the knowledge will bring us some benefit.  We want to sing the songs with other kids at school, or act out the scenes from movies with our friends.  Knowing all the words will be cool.  Whatever the benefit may be, we believe the knowledge will do us some good–whether we’re right about that or not.

    Second, we learn it by repetition.  Do we watch our favorite shows once, or only until we “understand” them?  No.  Do we listen to our favorite songs until we can explain them “in our own words”?  No.  Rather, we repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat until we can recite every line and sing every verse.  There’s no problem memorizing bad stuff.

    We know how to memorize–and we know that it’s useful to do so.  It’s actually easy and natural to human beings. Don’t fool yourself.

    2. Recitation

    As said above, we understand that recitation is the key to memorization.  It’s not all that there is, as we’ll see, but it’s the necessary work of memorization.  The method is simple, just like learning a bad song.

    Let’s memorize Psalm 1:

    1 Blessed is the man | who hath not walked | in the counsel | of the ungodly, | nor stood | in the way | of sinners, | nor sat | in the chair of pestilence. |  2 But his will is in the law |of the Lord, | and on his law | he shall meditate | day and night. 3 And he shall be | like a tree | which is planted | near the running waters, |which shall bring forth | its fruit, in due season.  | And his leaf  shall not fall off: | and all whatsoever | he shall do | shall prosper. | 4 Not so the wicked, | not so: | but like the dust, | which the wind | driveth from the face of the earth.  | 5.  Therefore the wicked | shall not rise again in judgment: | nor sinners | in the council | of the just.  | 6.  For the Lord | knoweth the way of the just: | and the way of the wickedshall perish. 

    As you can see, I have broken the work to be memorized into parts with red lines. We will begin by reading through the entire piece–perhaps a few times through until we are familiar with the content.  Then, begin reciting the first piece until memorized:

    When that is memorized (it will not take long), add the second piece to the first and recite all until memorized:

    When that is memorized (it will not take long), add the third piece to the others and recite all until memorized.

    Continue this until the entire passage is memorized.  As time goes on the child’s memory strengthens, the routine becomes comfortable and the speed of the work increases.

    In my experience as a teacher, I have found that once students llearn how to memorize things, and develop thteir strength in memorizing,  it becomes their preferred way of study.

    What’s most important is that memorization, when there is authoritative material to be memorized, takes away all confusion from studies.  Study becomes a simple matter of effort and, really, anyone willing to do the work can thrive.

    God bless,

    William C.  Michael

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