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Shannon Iverson

Let's Chat about Memory Work

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Do you use a formal memory work curriculum? Of all the wonderful knowledge to be had, how do you choose what to commit to memory? There are the obvious things such as Bible verses or inspirational quotes, but beyond the obvious, what do you choose for your students?

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I have my kids memorize poetry (or at least try to; they're not thrilled with it), passages from Shakespeare, Timeline (I use Classical Conversations' timeline because we were in it for three years), and Presidents of the U.S.

Memoria Press' curriculum have memory work for each subject (e.g., astronomy includes the 15 brightest stars and their constellations).

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I think that using a commonplace notebook (the medieval florilegium or "book of flowers") is an excellent practice for cultivating memory and virtue. I think that memorizing Scripture is paramount, but that we should by no means stop there. If students developed a practice of writing down the beautiful "flowers" they encountered in their reading, observations, and conversations, while memorizing many of them either by regular review and contemplation or my focused effort to memorize, they would benefit greatly.

Another kind of memory practice I like is the reciting of a "catechism." Josh Gibbs (great books educator) goes so far as to have students memorize a catechism for the history and literature courses he teaches. He does this not be requiring students to memorize, but rather by requiring them to recite (read aloud) the catechism for about five minutes before each class. After about six weeks of this, the students memorize the content without even trying to.

You see how Josh uses this practice on ClassicalU, here

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We do a commonplace, poetry, scripture and catechism. Occasionally quotes and things work themselves into our History notebook or nature journals.

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These are great ideas about memory, memorizing, commonplacing, and catechism. 

What do you think the difference is in application and purpose of each? Is one more appropriate for K-3? Is one inappropriate? Are there ways to begin preparing littles for advanced memory practices? Or can all of them be done at this age and then they will advance in them with maturity and instruction?  

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