Learn By Heart with a Simple Rote Learning System - Marks in the Sand



Learn By Heart with a Simple Rote Learning System

March 17, 2014 © Kramii (filed under Learning, Memory, Mind)

parrotUse this easy rote learning technique to help to learn a text by heart. This proven method enables anyone to recall a text word-for-word.

I have always found it difficult to learn things by heart. At school, for example, I seemed to struggle in this area more than most. I was sometimes required to memorise lines for a play, or to learn a short poem, but I barely got past the first couple of words.

It didn’t help that nobody ever explained how to go about it, other than “practice and repetition” – advice that simply doesn’t work for me.

However, one day – when I was in my early 20s – I shared my struggles in this area with a good friend. She took the trouble to demonstrate the technique that she used to tackle this herself. The method she demonstrated was so easy that even I could make it work for me. I’m sure it will work for you, too.

The system is perfect for memorising:

  • Meaningful prose
  • Narrative poetry
  • Favourite quotes and aphorisms

It isn’t so good for learning:

  • Lists
  • Impressionistic poetry
  • Gibberish

The easiest way to explain the system is by example, so I’ve presented one below.

By the way,  if anyone knows the proper name for this technique, please let me know.

Anyway, here goes…

How to Use the Technique

Step 1: Choose Something to Remember

Suppose you wanted to learn the following text (which happens to be taken from the Bible):

Don’t pile up treasures on earth, where moth and rust can spoil them and thieves can break in and steal. But keep your treasure in Heaven where there is neither moth nor rust to spoil it and nobody can break in and steal. For wherever your treasure is, you may be certain that your heart will be there too!Matthew 6:19-20 from J.B.Phillips translation of the New Testament

Read over the passage and make sure that you understand it.

Step 2: Take One Bite at a Time

Don’t try to memorize too much too quickly, but break the piece into bite-sized chunks. Each chunk should make sense on its own, so will typically be a whole phrase or sentence. I might divide our passage up like this, for example:

  • Bite 1: Don’t pile up treasures on earth, where moth and rust can spoil them and thieves can break in and steal.
  • Bite 2. But keep your treasure in Heaven where there is neither moth nor rust to spoil it and nobody can break in and steal.
  • Bite 3: For wherever your treasure is, you may be certain that your heart will be there too!

Step 3: Write It Down

Once you’ve decided how to divide up your passage, take the first “bite” and write it out on a blank sheet of paper. Then, read it out loud to yourself 3 times.

Don’t pile up treasures on earth, where moth and rust can spoil them and thieves can break in and steal.

Step 4: Miss Out a Key Word

The next step is to choose the most important word in the sentence, and re-write the sentence with this word missing on another piece of paper.

Don’t get too hung-up on which word you start with – as long as it is one of the key words in the sentence then you’re good to go. I’m going to choose the word “treasure”, because it is difficult to make sense of the sentence without it.

Don’t pile up ________ on earth, where moth and rust can spoil them and thieves can break in and steal.

Again, read this out loud to yourself 3 times, saying the word “treasure” when you come across the blank.

Step 4: Miss Out Another Word

Choose another key word, and repeat step 3. You should have 2 blanks this time. I’m going to choose the word “earth” this time.

Don’t pile up ________ on _____, where moth and rust can spoil them and thieves can break in and steal.

Step 5: Rinse and Repeat Until You’re Left with Punctuation

So you’ll go through this stage:

Don’t ____ __ ________ on _____, where ____ and ____ can _____ them and _______ can _____ __ and _____.

And eventually end up with this:

_____ ____ __ ________ __ _____, _____ ____ ___ ____ ___ _____ ____ ___ _______ ___ _____ __ ___ _____.

By this time, you’ll have memorised this sentence!

Step 7: Move On to the Next Sentence

Repeat from step 3 until you’ve memorized the whole passage.

Notes

Don’t Rush

As you become practised with the technique, you’ll probably remove more words at each step or repeat the sentence less often. That’s fine, as long as it works for you. Remember however, that learning by rote takes time. Don’t rush things.

Consider Using Cue Cards

This technique that I’ve described above is easy to master for shorter passages, and many longer ones, too. I’ve you’ve a very long text to remember, however, you may still struggle a bit. Personally, I find it all too easy to miss out whole sentences, or to get them in the wrong order. One way to overcome this is to make a cue card that you will use to prompt you through the passage.

A great way to do this is to make a note of the first couple of key words that you deleted for each sentence.

In our passage, for example, I might choose the following:

  1. Don’t pile up treasures on earth, where moth and rust can spoil them and thieves can break in and steal.
  2. But keep your treasure in Heaven where there is neither moth nor rust to spoil it and nobody can break in and steal.
  3. For wherever your treasure is, you may be certain that your heart will be there too!

So, here’s my cue card:

  1. Treasure earth
  2. Treasure heaven
  3. Heart

Acknowledgements

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