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How to Learn Prose and Poetry by Heart

Aug 17, 2007
How unobservant and wholly unreliant many pupils are may be seen from the fact that notwithstanding my elaborate handling of the processes of learning prose and poetry by heart, I often receive requests to send some indication of how I would learn a particular chapter or selection by heart! But a chapter consists of paragraphs and paragraphs of sentences. Learning the desired passages by heart is done by applying the methods here so profusely illustrated to the successive sentences of the chapter or selection, until practice and training in these methods will make their further application unnecessary.

In pursuance of my plan to keep the mind in an Assimilating condition when trying to learn and to further aid in making the intellect stay and work with the senses, I proceed to furnish a Training Method for committing prose and poetry to memory.

Endless repetition or repeating a sentence to be memorised over and over again is the usual process. After one perusal, however, the mind in such a case has sated its curiosity in regard to the meaning of the sentence and each subsequent repetition for the purpose of fixing it in the memory merely makes an impression upon the eye or ear or both, and the intellect, being unoccupied, naturally wanders away. Hence, learning by rote promotes mind-wandering : for the Attention always wanders unless wooed to its work by all- engrossing interest in the subject which in case of a weak power of Attention is rarely sufficient, or by the stimulating character of the process of acquirement which is made use of. In the Method about to be given, the intellect is agreeably occupied, and thereby a Habit of Attention is promoted.

The justification for this Method is found in the Psychological maxim that the intellect can assimilate a simple idea more easily than a complex idea, and a few ideas at a time than many ideas.

The process of this New Method of Decomposition and Recomposition is as follows :--Find the shortest sentence or phrase that makes sense in the sentence to be memorised. Add to this short sentence or phrase, modifieis found in the original sentence, always italicising each new addition-- one at a time--ontil the original sentence is finally restored. Suppose we wish to memorise Bacon's definition of education : " Education is the cultivation of a just and legitimate famihantv betiuixt the mind and things." Begin with the briefest sentence and then go on : 1. Education is cultivation. 2. Education is the cultivation of a familarity. 3 Education is the cultivation of a familiarity betwixt the mind and things. 4. Education is the cultivation of a just familiarity betwixt the mind and things. 5. Education is the cultivation of a just and legitimate familiarity betwixt the mind and things In this process, the sentence is first taken to pieces, and then reconstructed. Finding the lowest terms, " Education is cultivation," we proceed step by step to add modifiers until the original sentence is fully-restored

Each time we make an addition, we recite so much of the original sentence as has hitherto been used, in connection with the new modifiers laying special emphasis on the new matter as represented by the italic words. The intellect is thus kept compulsonly and delightfully occupied from the start to the finish. It seeks the shortest phrase or sentence and adds successively all the modifiers, making no omissions This analyzing and synthesizing process--this taking to pieces and then gradually building up the original sentence, makes a deep and lasting First Impression.

Every time this method is used the Attention ought to be strengthened and mind-wandering diminished and the natural Memory strengthened in both its Stages.

This process admits usually of several applications in the case of a long sentence In the foregoing example, it might have proceeded thus : 1. Education is a familiarity. 2. Education is the familiarity betwixt the mind and things. 3 Education is the cultivation of a familiarity betwixt the mind and things 4. Education is the cultivation of just familiarity betwixt the mind and things 5 Education is the cultivation of a just and legitimate familiarity betwixt the mind and things. Or we might have taken this course : 1. Education is a familiarity. 2. Education is a familiarity betwixt the mind and things. 3 Education is a just familiarity betwixt the mind and things. 4 Education is a just and legitimate familiarity betwixt the mind and things. 5. Education is the cultivation of a just and legitimate familiarity betwixt the mind and things.
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To learn more on how you can improve your memory, buy and read the ebook Assimilative Memory
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