Written by Kristi Reindl. Media by Bri Phillips.
Memory is used for numerous things on a daily basis, and for college students, a large portion of their memory is used in the classroom. Professors use a variety of techniques to encourage memory enhancement in their students. Dr. Lesley Allen, in particular, uses memorization regularly and believes it improves the memory outside of the class as well.
Allen often uses poetry as a memorization technique in her literature classes. “I think that memorizing a poem, lines for a play, or a speech of some sort can be a wonderful exercise in discipline and practice,” states Allen. She believes that the sound of language through alliteration and also rhyme helps the most with memorization. Sonnets also allow students to visualize an image that the poem creates. As such, images can be very helpful as the students learn and show understanding of the text. One can also strive to memorize the visual layout and details of a text, where it is on the page. “That is a harder technique to teach, but it can be an interesting exercise in visual memory,” says Allen.
However, memorization versus understanding can be tricky in the classroom. Memorization tempts students to remember the hard facts and put no effort into analyzing the material before them, but Allen considers poetry to be different from memorizing content, facts, and dates. The significance of dates, titles, and names are what is important. Allen encourages her students to “tell [her] something about why that author or work is important — just knowing when the author wrote it (and nothing more) is not fully knowledge.” Allen disagrees that memorizing and reciting can take up valuable time that could be used more productively. “In my Shakespeare class, there is much to learn about how texts were performed, but I don’t like to require students to do entire scenes or monologues from memory, so I have them learn sonnets instead,” she states confidently. Students gain from interacting with the language through this experience.
In this way, Allen believes this requires us to live in the present when we memorize; we must take time and have a calm mind to work through something and commit it to memory. This goes beyond the classroom; it engages us in our surroundings to recall where we were and what we were doing when we are memorizing. Most importantly, Allen declares that “it will allow us to remember more details of our lives at a certain time.”