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February 29, 2008


Ben Bleckley

I was just talking about these kind of assignments that include rote memorization with a colleague yesterday. I don't have a lot of teaching experience and would like to learn; what do you feel your students learned from this assignment or what skills did they practice?


Interesting. I have been ruminating on the value of forced memorization lately. I quite like the idea of using it to level the playing field, as you put it. Was that your primary intent? Also, have you found value in making regular use of memorization assignments?

Christian Long

Ben: Know that I'm definitely NO expert on the real implications of 'memorization' projects (and frankly rarely give 'traditional' exams that require such study styles)...so I can only offer an anecdotal response. Here goes:

Skills (beyond the obvious 'I did it'):

* An ability to 'enter' the poem in a way that would have been otherwise impossible if they had only 'read' it or 'analyzed' it. I am convinced that most of my students now 'own' the poem on 'their' terms. I was just the audience for this moment.

* An ability to look for 'patterns' or 'techniques' to aide their own thinking and memorization style. Once the kids began to break down the poem into component parts and saw how 'visual' it was, the anxiety fell away for most.

* EVERY one of them can now 'empathize' more personally with ANYONE who acts, presents, etc. And they can see themselves doing it in ways that many would not have thought possible before.

* When we discuss the 'oral' tradition of literature's roots, they know 'get it' on a much deeper level. The traveling bard did NOT read from paper. They had the entire story, poem, etc memorized...including some really 'epic' pieces.

As to what they 'learned'?

* "Know thyself (as a problem solver)" is what comes to mind here for me. Instead of generically thinking they could or could not do this, every one of them had to solve the puzzle in their own way...and everyone has figured it out.

* And there are obviously the many 'intellectual' elements that allow this poem (and the entire Romantic poetry movement) to come to life and raise off the printed page for them.

I hope this helps or makes sense.

Thanks for the response.

Dawn Hogue

Because when it comes down to it, teaching is a gifted adult who connects with kids and helps them grow.

Sounds like an amazing experience. What a lesson.


Ben Bleckley

Thanks for the post Christian. I guess I feel there may be other ways to get them inside the poem than having them memorize it, but I can see how the study skills/cross-curricular element could be beneficial at the beginning of the year, and, as you say, some students come away appreciating the poem more. Thanks for making me think.

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