Learning by rote or memorisation

Learning by rote or memorisation used to be a much more popular method of learning in schools than it is nowadays.  An article in the UK's Sunday Times a couple of years ago stated that the "Google generation has no need for rote learning".  It said that memorising facts was largely a waste of time when these facts are so easily obtainable now at the click of a button.  But wouldn't that argument make the majority of what we learn in schools unnecessary?  Let's skip Primary School - if you want to know what you missed - just Google it!

The argument against rote learning or memorisation is that it does not teach meaning or give any understanding of how things have been worked out or achieved.  In many countries, like the UK, USA and Australia, there has been a move away from rote learning in schools for this very reason. Students are taught to learn in a more 'active' way - understanding processes and reasoning rather than just learning facts.  Other countries, like Brazil, China and Japan still rely heavily on rote learning in schools. 

Some things are learnt by rote when we are very young - our ABCs for one - are learnt through repetition.  I certainly remember memorising things at school, my times tables for one.
My mum can still recite poems she learnt at school, and also tell you the formula for solving quadratic equations - facts that were learnt by rote at school.  Rote learning does work .

I don't remember learning any poems at school myself, but last year our eldest daughter brought home new poems and rhymes every week as part of her reading homework from school.  Each week she would read all the poems over, and then add the new one at the end.  After several weeks she could repeat most of the poems without reading them.  She enjoyed demonstrating this ability to us by placing the book in another room while she told us the rhymes!  Rote learning can be enjoyable and rewarding!

Learning things through memorisation is an important skill.  Memory is a skill that needs to be practised - just as your body needs exercise to stay in good condition, so does your brain.

Personally I think rote learning or memorisation is an excellent way of learning.  It doesn't have to be dull for kids. For example there are many fun ways to practice your times tables. Music and games can be used to assist in memorisation of important basic facts and skills that will be of benefit to kids as they progress through school, and indeed life.

I have written an e book on teaching your kids times tables in 5 minutes a day. This book is based on how we are teaching our daughters their times tables - making memorisation and rote learning fun!
If you would like a FREE copy of this book - then click on the link at the top of our sidebar here to sign up!

I've also made a neat little hanging pocket organiser for the memory games if you're interested in that too:


What do you remember that you learned by rote at school?  Are your kids learning this way now? Do you agree that it's a good method of learning for some things?




1 comment:

  1. my mother made me memorize poems. Mostly because memorization was not required in school.

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