How Traditional Memorization and Recitation Helps Cognitive Skills

Repeating and rehearsing something repeatedly does work. Many years ago, that is how children were taught. When you recite, especially out loud; you remember. These are basics that develop strong cognitive abilities that many instructors have gotten away from. They do work and we should start using them again. Many educators have moved away from recitation techniques, believing they were antiquated or outdated. They were too simple for the technical world.

Many people can remember (if you have been out of school for awhile) that when “New Math” was taught, it did not include the memory skill. In fact, you were not supposed to teach it the traditional way. Many children had problems grasping it, and because so many parents were also not able to help the children; most had to have a tutor to pass the class.

Although innovation and technology are great; we must “get back to the basics” so to speak by also including traditional memorization and recitation into the classroom. What is wrong with utilizing both in order to develop strong cognitive abilities?

According to Mid-Continent Research for Education & Learning (1998); cognitive skills are important in acquiring literacy skills. They say reading and writing rely on a specific set of cognitive skills such as attention, memory, symbolic thinking, and self-regulation.

Reading and writing are not the only categories where memory and recitation are important. For example, in order to recall the names of the Presidents; one must use “rote” memory. With rote memory; there is no relational knowledge required; just a matter of pure repetition.

Rote memory is the ability to learn by habit, and it is the way people recall their alphabets, spelling rules, numbers, and multiplication tables. describes cognitive skills as “basic mental abilities we use to think, study, and learn.” We make associations between different pieces of information and to be able to concentrate on particular tasks. They go on to explain that understanding individual cognitive skills help you see how they impact learning. They are as follows:

– Processing Speed – The faster the brain processes data; the more efficient the thinking and learning.

– Visual – Ability to receive and manipulate information.

– Auditory – Processing sounds.

– Logic Reasoning – Ability to create new relationships between information.

If one or more of these areas are missing; learning is hindered. In some cases. it is almost impossible. Consequently, memorization and recitation are very important concepts for cognitive behavior. Our ancestors were not wrong when they trained us to repeat and constantly rehearse something as a way to retain it. Together, with the new concepts of learning, students are quite privileged.