Monday, July 1, 2013

How We Do Memorization

As I've mentioned before, memorization is a very important subject in our home.  I grew up doing very little memorization and I still have a lot of difficulty memorizing anything.  I always regretted this and memorization was one of the first subjects I knew I wanted to do when I decided to homeschool.

In most classical education scopes and sequences, memorization is a very important subject, especially in the younger years.  Some authors/speakers suggest that poetry is the most important source for memorization material.  Others say scripture.  And still others say facts and lists are important, although even these people disagree as to whether the facts and lists should be taught in context with the subject or whether it is good just to memorize them as stand-alones.  I agree with all of these groups!  I think poetry is great because it helps our minds get filled with good language and sentence structure.  Scriptures are important because of the content that is in them, and I honestly believe that one of the ways the Spirit can speak to us is through those words we have memorized.  Facts and lists are important because they create a peg effect: the more familiar you are with a word or topic, the more you pay attention when it is brought up and therefore the more you learn about it.  Thus while memorizing you are creating a "peg" on which to hang information.  I also believe that while teaching memorized pieces in context is ideal, there is still much to be gained from memorizing for memorization's sake.

Children get confidence and self-esteem when they have memorized something that they saw as challenging.  It feels good and is a great accomplishment to memorize something challenging and know that it will never be apart from them again, that it is in their heads forever.  When I was in eighth grade, I decided on my own that I wanted to memorize the Gettysburg Address.  When I had learned it all, I was very proud of myself, and to this day I still remember the Gettysburg Address and perk up when I hear it mentioned.  I want my children to have this experience as much as possible.

That's the "why" of our memorization.  Our "how" is actually pretty simple and doesn't take too long every day.  The key is that we do it every day that we do school, and we constantly review in order to not forget anything.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I mentally divide our memorization focus into three categories: Language, Religion, and Facts & Lists.  Language includes things like poetry, great speeches, Shakespeare, etc.  Religion is mostly scripture, but can include hymns or quotes.  Facts & Lists is the miscellaneous group.  So far this section has included things like the 8 planets, my phone number, the colors in a rainbow, etc.  I try to keep our memorization workload pretty evenly divided between these three categories, although language and scripture tend to dominate in this season of our lives.  I imagine and we do more science and history, though, facts and lists will catch up.  At some point we might include foreign language as a fourth category, but not yet.

What I do is take the three categories I listed and make up a list of things to memorize.  This is the fun part for me.  I use Google searches, Living Memory by Andrew Campbell, various church resources like the Seminary Mastery list, and just ideas that I have to compile what we want to do.  Here is the list I did for the 2012/13 school year (Lydia's PreK).

Lydia's memorization book

After I have the list compiled, I write each item on its own index card.

Cards that she reviews on even days.  On one side is the prompt and on the other is the actual material.
 As poems get longer I might have to rethink this, but for now, this has worked.  I keep all of our future memorization work handy for use as soon as Lydia has mastered old ones.  I also keep a memorization book.  It is actually just a small scrap book that someone gave to us and that I organized according to the Simply Charlotte Mason method.

At first, every day we reviewed our new memorization piece and all the previously memorized pieces.  Once that became too cumbersome, I divided all of Lydia's previously memorized work into equal parts and she reviewed each one every other day, and the new piece daily.  That's where we are right now.

Pretty soon, though, even that will become too cumbersome so we'll put some of the more recent work into the even/odd group, current work is always daily, and older work will be reviewed one day a week.  We'll keep going like this until we have material that we review daily, every other day, weekly, and monthly.  It sounds complicated, but once you get it set up, it is very simple.

Every day while I make lunch for Lydia, we do memorization.  While I make her sandwiches, she goes through her older memorization and then we work on her current piece.  It takes us about 10 minutes, max.  When we review the older pieces, I say the title or scripture reference.  From that, she repeats the title, says the name of the author, if relavent, and then says the selection.  So for "Who Has Seen the Wind," I say the title of the poem and then she says "Who Has Seen the Wind, by Christina Rosetti.  Who has seen the wind, neither I nor you..."  Sometimes she might need the first word to jog her memory, so I help her.

For new pieces, I always read the entire piece to her completely a few times before having her say it back to me.  Then we start with the title and the author.  Here's an example of our dialogue:

Me (after having read through the whole poem a few times): "Sweet and Low," by Alfred Lord Tennyson.  Say that please."
Lydia: "Sweet and Low, by..."
Me: "Alfred Lord Tennyson"
Lydia: "by Alfred Lord Tennyson"
Me: "Now say the whole thing, Sweet and Low, by Alfred Lord Tennyson"
Lydia: "Sweet and Low by Alfred Lord Tennyson"
Me: "Great. Sweet and low, sweet and low, wind of the western sea."
Lydia: "Sweet and low, wind of the sea."
Me: "Close, but you say Sweet and Low twice and wind of the western sea.  So you say, Sweet and low, sweet and low, wind of the western sea."
Lydia: "Sweet and low, sweet and low, wind of the western sea."
Me: "Good, now let's say the whole thing.  Sweet and Low, by Alfred Lord Tennyson.  Sweet and low, sweet and low, wind of the western sea."
Me: Great!  Go ahead and eat your lunch, you did a good job today."

The following day I might read the poem all the way through one and then see if she remembers what we did.  I help her along if she gets stuck.  Usually we try to do about two lines a day, but sometimes it just takes longer.  Often she'll ask or I'll volunteer definitions of words or the meaning of a line.  After we did "At the Seaside," she started calling her little plastic shovel a "wooden spade," after I explained that a spade is just like a shovel.  Sometimes I'll make a motion or say a line in an over exaggerated way to help her remember.  So in "Sweet and Low," it says, "Low, low, breathe and blow."  For "breathe" we take a big breathe and lean way back and for "blow" we lean way forward and breathe out as we say the word.  Or for D&C 82:10, part of it says, "when you do not what I say, ye have no promise."  We always put a big emphasis on the word "not."  There's no trick to it, I just always try to make it easier to remember if possible.  I also always try to stay in tune with what she seems like she wants to do and don't push it too much on any one day.  I want memorization to be enjoyable.  

Doing it this way has made it quite painless, and since we always do Lydia's schoolwork immediately after lunch, it is the first subject of the day and never gets forgotten.

We love memorization and I don't see it going to the back burner any time soon!

No comments:

Post a Comment