Memorization: Is it still effective?

I remember back when in elementary or middle school when the teacher gave us a list of words and asked us to memorize the definitions. Often, I wondered why I was learning a particular word and when I would use that word and sometimes felt puzzled as to how to use it. I learned the word simply to learn a word but how long did I truly remember that word? Was the memorization effective or was it just a way to get past a quiz or test the teacher would administer?

Today's trends in education might suggest that memorization is an archaic way of learning new material. Perhaps, there are certain things that students have to put in rote memory, but new curriculum points to the fact that students should learn vocabulary, per se, in the context of a story or a news article to be able to connect meaning to those new terms they may have never seen before. They need to see pictorial images that relate to the vocabulary, read it, say it, predict what the word means and then branch out to determine if there are even multiple meanings for the terms. Memorization simply doesn't accomplish this "deeper" learning or synthesis. Students can also employ what is called "mnemonics", or their songs or abbreviations which aid in long term storage of new material. This technique is one in which a student is likely never to forget. If a student can connect an experience to a new vocabulary word or learning concept, then it takes on an authentic meaning, and is not just an amalgamation of letters. Besides, what benefit does a student have if he/she has memorized a list of words that he/she is unable to effectively use in writing or conversation?

Hence, I would like to summarize by saying that I personally do not believe that memorization is too effective anymore. I would encourage your students to experience their learning rather than repeating it over and over to you.

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