8 Tips for Memorization

Tips to help you wade through the rough water of memorization.

It is not uncommon for students to memorize information for the sake of learning. It is usually charts of information such as the Periodic Table of Elements or verb conjugations. In the English department it turns into lines of poetry such as the General Prologue of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales or lines from any number of Shakespearean plays. For those who find this more than a little daunting here are a few tips to consider to help you surmount the seemingly insurmountable.

1. Introduction – Take time to just look at your information and become familiar with the wording the arrangement. Go over your text and take note of odd spelling, words you don’t recognize and look them up. Focus on each word individually so you can visualize it in your mind and spell it correctly. Notice the arrangement of the chart or the table at hand.

2. Comprehend - If you’re memorizing the Periodic Table you will want to make sure you know what it actually represents. What are the different sections? Why is this section a different color? Understanding your information will make this memorization more like solving a puzzle. It’s not just ingesting and spitting out information, you will understand it so when you get stuck it won’t be pulling at straws you will have a better understand at what comes next in the list.

3. Break it down - Group the charts into sections what they have in common, if it’s a verb conjugation you can group them by the singular and plural conjugations and memorize the columns. The Periodic Table is already broken down into sections, metals, non metals, etc. If it is lines of poetry, group them in couplets it will seem less daunting than one big piece. Sonnets would best be grouped by the rhyming sections. If it works for you, then use it.

4. Vocalize – Say the words out loud to yourself. It may seem odd to be standing in an empty room and talking to yourself but saying the words out loud allows you to notice patterns, rhymes or simply the tone of your words. This aids in comprehension also. You can even ask a friend to read it to you, hearing another say the words may help you notice something that you didn’t when you read it.

5. Pick a good place – if you don’t work well with noise then pick a nice quiet place to work. Don’t force yourself to work somewhere uncomfortable if you are struggling with the task at hand. It will only make you more anxious.

6. Hang it up – the more exposure you have to the text the more familiar it becomes to you. Hang up a few copies in your room, next to your bed, your desk and maybe even hang one in the shower. Simply seeing the text in different places makes the information more natural to remember it’s not some random group of information that you have to memorize. It’s words that you’ve been seeing for weeks that you now have to recall.

7. Practice, practice, practice – Stand in your room and talk it out, ask your friends to quiz you or set a schedule. Promise yourself to recite the text X number times a day until you know it all. Allow time to relax, but dedicate a certain amount of time to recitation.

8. Work your way through the entire list/text – It is very common to get stuck half way through and then start over, this practice is usually fine. However, what will happen is that the first half will be practiced much more often than the latter half. So even when you stumble go all the way through until you don’t know anymore. Note each place where you get stuck and work through those spots.

Although I can’t guarantee that these tips will work. I can honestly say they have helped me get through countless charts of Old English memorization as well as Hamlet and Canterbury Tales recitations. I hope these help you as well.

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