Education has, rightly, moved away from rote memorization to critical thinking. Children are expected to use mental math, explain how they get their answers, analyze history, and write with intention. Long gone are the days when the child with the most memorized facts got the best grade on the test. Now, that child would have to explain the why, the how, and make connections in order to succeed. But, there can still be value in memorization.
Memorization trains the brain, improves elasticity, and teaches children to focus. Many people find that poems they learn when young stick with them for the rest of their life, and teach rhyme, rhythm, and meaning. Knowing math facts can speed along many processes in daily life, and historical memorization encourages connection and a sense of place. Memorizing facts can enrich conversations as participants have concrete information to share in fluid discussions. Finally, memorization presents a challenge and a feeling of victory and accomplishment when it is done successfully.
Present memorization as a fun challenge for your child, for yourself, or for your family. Work together to memorize and practice a little bit each day (or, better yet, every morning and night). Make flashcards, draw pictures, make connections, do whatever helps you learn the material. Then, give yourself a reward. Did your child memorize their favorite Shel Silverstein poem? Buy them another book of poetry! Did they learn their multiplication tables? Have a pizza party and talk about fractions!
Here are 12 things we suggest you memorize with your children:
- The Multiplication Tables
- The metric system
- A long poem of your choice
- The Presidents of the U.S. in order
- The 50 states
- The Preamble to the Constitution
- The Gettysburg Address
- The Pledge of Allegiance
- The Scientific Method
- 10 of the most basic elements
- The planets, in order
- The colors of the rainbow, in order
Finally, some tips to help you memorize. First, become familiar with it and try to understand the vocabulary and concepts behind it. Second, break it into smaller parts. Third, write it down, read it to a friend, record yourself or videotape yourself reciting it. Finally, practice cumulatively. With each part memorized start again at the beginning to practice it as a whole. Then, teach it to a friend or share it frequently.
Good luck! And, let us know if you can think of anything else to add to our list of things to memorize with your children. Thanks for reading!