Before IQ tests, memory was a common measure of intelligence. Students memorized poems, speeches, and sometimes whole texts. Michelangelo, for example, memorized all of Dante.
Memorization has fallen out of favor in today’s teaching climate. The current thinking is that we should teach kids to apply information, and that knowing isn’t so important. I think kids should be able to do both. How can you apply anything if you don’t know anything?
Memorizing builds attention span, task commitment, pride, and (I believe) intelligence.
Challenge your students to memorize things worth knowing. Weave memorization into your classroom, but make it fun. DON’T grade students on memorization if it’s not in your state standards. (Give rewards instead.) Make memorization a Fast Finisher activity. Students who finish work early can focus on your class’s latest memorization goal.
Here are some ideas for things to memorize:
> Preambles to the Constitution and Declaration of Independence
> Important ideas in the Bill of Rights
> The Gettysburg Address–all or part
> The National Anthem (not all students know it)
> Patriotic songs
> Excerpts of famous speeches
> Famous poems
> States and capitals (not stressed anymore, but good to know)
> Continents and oceans
> Several countries for each continent (Australia and Antarctica are special cases)
> Famous cities in each state, country, continent
> Science concepts: the parts of a cell, Newton’s laws, whatever suits your curriculum