Sunday, October 12, 2008

Why Memorizing is Good

An email I received the other day: 

Dear Professor Drout,

I don’t know if you remember me but I took Anglo Saxon and Chaucer with you a couple of years ago. I’m teaching junior high English this year and I wanted to share a little story with you about how taking Anglo Saxon helped me with classroom management.

I was trying to define “epic” for the students a couple of days ago and no one would be quiet and pay attention. I was getting really frustrated. I tried to give them examples but everything went in one ear and out the other. Besides that none of them had even heard of The Odyssey or Beowulf! I finally I shouted “It’s like this!” and started reciting the first eleven lines of Beowulf in Anglo Saxon. In an instant the class was DEAD SILENT. They were all dying to know what that was and hung on my every word after that.

So thank you for making me memorize the first eleven lines of Beowulf!

1 comment:

Michelle said...

Hm, I wonder if Steve will have us do that next semester? I did have to memorize the first 11 lines of the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, as well as the first buncha lines in the Aeneid waaaaaaaaay back when I was in high school in the early 80's. Yes, I still remember at least some of it, and recited the first bit of the Aeneid in class a couple of weeks ago. I think rote memorization is an underutilized tool, one which I didn't respect until I went into military aviation. Memorizing emergency procedures is nothing but rote memorization - being 'familiar' with them was a good way to be dead. I'm glad you're impressing this on your students, too! Plus it's SO cool at parties....