Thursday, January 24, 2008

Memorization is Good for the Brain

I have heard some fellow teachers argue that rote memorization doesn’t teach our students anything but I disagree. I think it is an important part of our learning process and should be encouraged every year. We learned to memorize the alphabet, the spelling of our name, our address and lots of other useful information that is important to us. I have to memorize things all of the time but as I get older I notice that it is harder for me to remember things. I feel that by practicing memorization, we are actually exercising our brain and keeping certain paths or connections open for more information. I tell my students that exercising our brain is just like exercising our muscles in our arms and legs. If we don’t use it, we will lose it. I was even told that I couldn’t expect much from my special education students because they are disabled and can’t memorize things. That is totally condescending and insulting to my students. It is the self fulfilling prophesy and if you tell these kids they can’t enough times, they never will try. I have had my students practice multiplication tables and we do drills with them. I had my students memorize the national anthem, our school’s alma mater, and even the poem “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer (all of this was not done in one year though). Some of my students were able to memorize all of the things and others were not, but at least they tried. I could not do 100 pushups like some of my students but I could try. That is the whole object of this lesson.

I’m not saying that the only learning they should have is memorization but it is as important as other parts of learning. Sure, they will need to learn how to think critically and analyze and all of that other stuff but I hope teachers aren’t discounting how important memorization is as a step for other learning to happen. I think it is important from early childhood to the college level.

How do you feel about this? Do you agree or disagree?

5 comments:

Miss Profe said...

As a foreign language teacher, the cognitive strength of memory is crucial. Therefore, tasks which push information from short to long-term memory are invaluable. Reciting poetry, dialogues - anything which gets the kids to use the language and produce from memory are things I do and support.

loonyhiker said...

Totally agree with you Miss Profe! Well said. Thanks for reading.

Raani said...

Great post! I couldn't agree more. I am currently memorizing the book of 1 Peter with my kids.

Andrew said...

Totally agree... Unfortunately, most public education folks disagree.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I agree wholeheartedly! I'm in my senior year at University, studying Secondary Education and English as a dual major. In my Practicim class, they are drumming into our heads the uselessness of 'rote learning',I.e., 'memorization'. I couldn't disagree more. I have many accounts as to how memorization has helped me throughout the years. "Understanding by Design" is good, but, not by any means the only way!