I’ve been trying to refine and rethink how I teach “Palace of Memory” technique. It’s clear, looking at some recent quizzes, that I race through it far too fast to suit some students; I teach the technique, but I don’t script it very well… and I try to cram it into a couple of lessons, instead of allowing it the time it deserves.
Accordingly, I’ve both scaled back expectations and redesigned the program a little. First, I give a quiz (as I did today to my seventh graders) to plant the idea that rote memorization is hard. I follow that up with a discussion of the hippocampus (as I did today after the quiz), noting its three core powers:
- Where you are
- adding and retrieving items to and from short-term memory
- adding and retrieving items to and from long-term memory
But, of course, this means that the hippocampus does not process sense-memories at all. THAT’S HUGE. It means that when you imagine yourself somewhere else, you really ARE somewhere else, for the purposes of memorizing things, or recalling them. (It’s why I woke up this morning dreaming that I was reciting part of the Orphic Hymn to Jupiter, swimming up through my consciousness, in my meditation room…) How bizarre. How wonder-ful. It also means that you can store memories consciously in places in your own house.
(My supermusical kid in class made up a song to remember his New England dates. My super-kinesthetic kid made up a dance. We’ll see how this works out…)
So thinking about this in slightly slower fashion (and remembering this morning’s lesson to slow down), I’m splitting my Ars Memorativa training into a few different blocks:
- Showing that you can imagine yourself walking through your kitchen (Lesson 1)
- Imagine yourself storing a timeline in specific places in your kitchen (class)
- Storing that timeline of dates/events in one’s kitchen (class)
- Connecting that timeline with a specific series of images or pictures (homework)
- Showing that you can store information in specific places in your house (lesson 2)
- re-taking a quiz connected with rote memorization, after storing a timeline using Palace of Memory (class)
- developing a line or a pathway through the house to specific locations, and planting specific images there (homework)
- And so on.
I don’t want to give up the whole system at once. I also haven’t thought through the whole system yet. But it’s clear that I have to break it down into a larger number of steps, with some practice in the physical space, and some in the imagined space. Whether they’ll ever be able to get to the Akashic Library this way, I don’t know. But it is a powerful way to store memories, and particularly things to be memorized.