A Little Old Fashion Rote Memorization is Good After All

When she was forced to teach her students Latin and Greek word roots, high school English teacher Suzanne Kail thought that such "drill and kill" method would backfire. (Progressive educators tend to think that rote memorization would surely kill students enthusiasm for learning, hence the term.)

But is a little old school learning really that bad?

As soon as she began teaching her students the Greek and Latin origins of many English terms — that the root sta means “put in place or stand,” for example, and that cess means “to move or withdraw” — they eagerly began identifying familiar words that incorporated the roots, like “statue” and “recess.” Her three classes competed against each other to come up with the longest list of words derived from the roots they were learning. Kail’s students started using these terms in their writing, and many of them told her that their study of word roots helped them answer questions on the SAT and on Ohio’s state graduation exam. [...]

For her part, Kail reports that she no longer sees rote memorization as “inherently evil.” Although committing the word roots to memory was a necessary first step, she notes, “the key was taking that old-school method and encouraging students to use their knowledge to practice higher-level thinking skills.”

That’s also true of another old-fashioned method: drilling math facts, like the multiplication table. Although many progressive educators decry what they call “drill and kill” (kill students’ love of learning, that is), rapid mental retrieval of basic facts is a prerequisite for doing more complex, and more interesting, kinds of math. The only way to achieve this “automaticity,” so far as anyone has been able to determine, is to practice. And practice. Indeed, many experts who have observed the wide gap between the math scores of American and Chinese students on international tests attribute the Asian students’ advantage to their schools‘ relentless focus on memorizing math facts.

Annie Murphy Paul of TIME has more: Link

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King Philip Crosses Over Foaming Goat Spit [Very Carefully]. My high school biology teacher taught me that one.

I remember the planets because of memorizing the Planet Song, from Blue's Clues, with my kids.
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There's a lot to be said for rote memorization. It's one of the most effective ways for me to learn, I've come to understand that. What I memorized I still know, for the most part.
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I think it's important to make it fun. If you have competitions, turn things into games, then it makes it more interesting and entertaining. I teach ESL and am often asked to do listen and repeat drills with the students. Just doing the sentences normally bores the students (and, more importantly, me!) out of their skulls. But changing things up, doing it in silly voices for example, makes it more entertaining.
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My seventh grade English teacher, Mr. Scherer, was a firm believer in rote memorization. We memorized lists of different examples of different parts of the Language: active verbs, linking verbs, etc. She was most famous for her list of sixty-six prepositions which we were required to memorize and recite on command. We even had competitions to see who could recite the list the fastest! That was over thirty years ago, and I can STILL recite the entire list.

Three years later when several friends of mine were studying for Biology class attempting to learn the hierarchy of taxonomy, we remembered how Mrs. Scherer drilled things into our head. Using her methods, we chanted the seven levels of taxonomic structure: Kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species. I can recite the order even today.

There is something to be said for rote memorization.
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