A Memorization Tip

I have given out this tip in past years to people in Revels North who’re preparing for the Christmas Revels show…

I found this trick for memorization in a wonderful book, Don’t Shoot the Dog, The new art of teaching and training, by Karen Pryor. It talks about modifying behavior — yours and others. (One way of modifying behavior is shooting the dog. But she talks about lots of other—usually more appropriate—ways to change behavior.) She tells about coaching, teaching, and maybe even making things better in your life. And it’s a fun read…

But back to memorization: The trick is to learn the last verse first, then the next-to-last, and so on.

Why? Because the usual way of learning the verses sequentially is enormously dispiriting. You struggle to get the words of the first verse. After a lot of work, you begin to be comfortable with them, so you attack the second verse. But you’re back at sea. It feels like such hard work. After the second verse, you hit the wall of the third verse. You despair of learning the words at all.

Instead, learn the last verse first. Then start learning the previous verse. After you get the new verse down, you can keep on singing, but they’re words that you already know. You’re drawn along by the familiar material. You feel competent and confident. You feel good.

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