Remembering to remember

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Die Grünen hybrider Kongress 2021

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Talk at BESIG 2021 for Cornelsen

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I often struggle to remember the names of my students, especially in large classes. Like most people, using my visual and spacial memory helps. Classes with fixed seating arrangements are out because you want students to mix partners. Attendance lists are frowned upon at the institution I am currently working for.  This had me in a bind.

So Khushi suggested something that I have in fact done: Students formed study groups, made name tags, and I took a photograph of each group holding up their tags. Looking through the pictures I now see myself walking around the room that day to where they were sitting that lesson. Finally, names are starting to stick.

Josua Foer summarizes the technique of the Memory Palace, arguably the best way to memorize individual, unconnected items in sequence by connecting and associating them with 3-D navigation through an imagined scene. He mentions that ancient orators used this topographical technique to learn their speeches by heart, and points to the connection between “topic” (and topic sentence) and “topos”, or place.

The entire art of memorizing is to make items meaningfully connected. But more still, as Foer says about the techniques of the Memory Palace, “They work because they make you work. They force a kind of depth of processing, a kind of mindfulness, that most of us don’t normally walk around exercising. There are no shortcuts.”

Finally, he points out the essential importance of memory,  namely that our lives are the sum of our memories. So we need to process deeply. We must remember to remember.


4 Responses

  1. LOL, Joan…
    What would memory be without long-term relationships? I’m grateful for the opportunity to be at least somewhat connected. We should meet up — or even just phone. 🙂
    How’s the Ukrainian connection keeping up?

  2. Hi again, Anne,

    Maybe this year … in Stuttgart (BESIG) or at some other event.

    Let’s see what’s happening on the EFL front.

    Re Ukraine, yes, we’re still trying to keep the show on the road – we’re having two English teachers coming in June, one German teacher in July/August and Alla (director) and the school lawyer, end of July. Things are getting even worse than they were over there as you probably see from the news.

    It’s nice and sunny inMunich today and in Berlin??

    Have a good ‘un, Jxx

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