Fast Track to Memorization

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When your child struggles to learn concepts, find surprising success by turning those concepts into playful ditties!

How did you learn to spell Mississippi?  The old rhythm comes right back to you, doesn’t it?  Learning facts by using a rhythm or rhyme has been a part of schooling since the beginning.

This idea began to take hold with me when my son was struggling with fractions in his current math work.  So I created a silly little rhyme and quickly incorporated some basic fraction rules.  When you read the part that says your shoes should match, that simply means that the denominators must be the same.  Here’s how it goes:

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When adding or subtracting fractions, you can’t lose.
Just be sure before you start you’ve got matching shoes.
Once your shoes DO match, keep your shoes the same.
And work straight across the top. That’s the name of the game.

To multiply two fractions, it’s so easy if ya got ‘em.
Multiply across the top. Multiply across the bottom.
When ya got two fractions that you need to divide,
Just flip the second fraction and multiply.

That’s it.  No big fanfare.  Yet, the results were instantaneous, successful, permanent and dare I say it … fun.  He had the information down cold.  This changed everything.  Thus, we embarked on a love of the ditty.

Now we start all our school days with a little three- to five-minute period we call “recitations.”  There’s no pressure to quote the ditties perfectly on any given day, because they’ll just hear them again tomorrow.  It’s similar to when I recited the Pledge of Allegiance in school as a child or the Pledge to the Christian flag in Sunday School.  We repeated it at the start of every single class.  I didn’t need to memorize it, because I heard it with such regularity that it just naturally became a part of my long-term memory.

Our homeschooling recitations cover a wide variety of academic subjects. We might rattle off the names of the presidents in order, rules of capitalization, the planets in order from the sun, the classification system, common weights and volumes, fruits of the Spirit, speed of light and sound, music notes, the Ten Commandments, even the elements in the Periodic Table of Elements. My 8-year-old daughter can recite any of these and so much more.  Any time I find something worth memorizing, I throw it into a silly little ditty and voila – practically instant memorization.

Even higher-level academics can be more easily retained with ditties. Every time my oldest daughter needed to memorize a mathematical rule or chemical formula, we put it into some sort of silly rhythm. Even years later, she can recall the facts that were memorized through rhyme.

If you see your child struggling with something, ask yourself if a simple little ditty might not alleviate some of his frustration. Grab a pencil. Write down the main items you’d like him to retain. Then begin a simple rhyming scheme.

One of my favorite online tools for finding unique words that rhyme can be found at rhymezone.com.  It’s a great resource. It will put an end to the creation of boring and typical rhymes. So instead of always choosing fool or spool to rhyme with school, you’ll have some fresh options, such as gruel, milking stool, garden tool, swimming pool and majority rule.  Oh, yeah.  And ditties are cool.

Carol Barnier, author of The Big WHAT NOW Book of Learning Styles, lives with her husband and three kids in Connecticut, where she is forever in search of another ditty. Learn more about her at carolbarnier.com.

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