Teachers should Model, and “Sell” their Students on, Copying, Memorization, and Other Educational Activities.

I wish my teachers had.

Parents, obviously, do their children a huge favor when they model good use of time like reading. But besides reading, there is copying, and memorization, and other solitary educational activities, and this hasn’t been talked about much. So I thought I’d try to do my bit to remedy that.

The first time I was told to copy what was written on a blackboard I put up my hand and asked why. The teacher told me it was so I would have the information. So I asked why not just have it printed and given out. No reason, just do it, came the reply.

Now that I’ve grown up and left school, not necessarily in that order, I use copying as a way to teach myself things. For example, I copy out computer code in order to get better at coding.

Sometimes I am too tired to think, and too tired to read, and the temptation is to watch a YouTube video, but, instead, I copy out something by hand. It might a poem, or some text from Wikipedia, or, like I said, some computer code. I find it is a way to focus my mind on something. It is like reading, but easier on the eyes, more relaxing, and the reading matter is better attended to. Often, I only notice a typo in something, that I have already read several times, after I copy it out.

Copying something out is a way to read it closely, and like I said, it even works when I’m too tired to read. So this could be a good activity in the late evening when one is too tired to do any other form of studying, and a YouTube video could cause eyestrain or boredom or even falling asleep in front of the computer.

Copying might be used by schools at times when students are tired or sleepy, after lunch, for example, or near the time to go home. It could also be set as homework.

Copying could be used as a reward activity. Once students have completed challenging tasks, copying would follow, as a reward.

Teachers and/or parents might model copying for children. Instead of telling children to copy, why not sit down and copy out something (a poem, a newspaper article, a part of a novel, what is on the cereal box, anything) when the children are around, so they can see that the adults think it is a cool, adult thing to do. This could dovetail with encouraging thinking about the copied material. Once the adult and child have both copied out all or some of the cereal box, the adult could comment on or ask questions about it.

And teacher and parents should explain how great and cool copying is. How it is like reading but more thorough. How it is relaxing, calming, and a sort of meditation at times, while at other times it is simply a break from reading. Copying something is, one might say, a deeper, more thorough form of looking at something. I never cease to be amazed at how much more deeply I understand something that I have copied out. Teachers and parents should say this kind of thing to children while walking the walk by modeling the behavior.

Likewise parents and teachers might do well to model memorization of poems, maps, diagrams and other cool educational things, it order to sell students on these activities. Copying something is half way to memorizing it. Strictly speaking, to copy something, you have to memorize each part for long enough to write it, so in a way, copying is a type of brief memorization.

Actual memorization of an entire quotation, line of poetry, stanza, or entire short poem, is a wonderful thing, and arguably, any true lover of poetry can recite it from memory, and/or write it out from memory. As I see it, poetry is for memorization. A parent or teacher might sit down and memorize a poem once in a while, or just write out from memory, or recite it when the child is around, as just a form of recreation or normal conversation.

Copying or writing or arithmetic should never be used as a punishment, and neither should any educational activity or any other good use of time, such as sitting silently alone. This is because people tend come to have negative feelings about anything that is used as a punishment.

A great thing about reading, copying, and memorizing is that they are habits that will be useful throughout life, and fit in well with teaching yourself things. Also, these techniques are very inexpensive and involve a low amount of investment of time. When money and the parents time are limited, these techniques could be especially useful as part home schooling, or used in a school with limited resources. The student can check his own work, and/or students can check each other’s work with minimal involvement my the parent or teacher.

Another great technique is dictation. The teacher, or a student, or a computer or CD or tape player produces spoken words at the desired speed, while the student or students writes it down. A printed copy of the text can be used by the student to check his own work or that of another student. Again, very relaxing and calming. This can be used teach anything that can be written down and read aloud.

It was only after years of teaching myself things as an adult that I realized that I had been wrong to resent being told as a child to copy from the board, but would have been right perhaps to resent not being told that it would make me better at reading, writing, learning, and generally smarter.

Photo by Thiago Barletta on Unsplash