Are you a teacher? Do you still use rote repetition while delivering the lessons? The word rote may take you back to the memory lane of childhood. In the early 1900s, teachers used to teach the alphabet, mathematical problems, and writing skills by employing this style.
Plenty of people find learning by Rote ineffective and an obsolete style of teaching. The foundation of learning is based on rote memory and repetition. No individual can defy the role of learning by rote, but a blend of it with explicit instructions could benefit a sizable population.
Others who study by memory and do not follow this learning style call it “drill and kill”. But also worry about “recoil to rote” despite having access to superior learning resources. Let’s just skim through the rote learning definition, its examples, and rote learning advantages and disadvantages.
What is Rote Learning?
Let us cruise through what is rote memorization. Before reading the definition, it is important to understand that the phrases “rote learning” and “rote memorization” are synonymous.
It could be defined as a learning style in which the learning is done through repetition of words or alphabets. Can you recall how numbers and rhymes were taught to you by this method? This remembrance of things is what is called rote memory.
Do you remember cramming English questions and answers before the exam by frequently repeating what was written in the notebook?
Many researchers believe that everything which has been imprinted in our hearts or brain is due to rote memory.
It is also called learning by repetition. Consciously or unconsciously, many teachers incorporate this method of study in their classrooms.
Many educators feel that rote learning kills the essence and thinking power of students. And feels that the child will fail in science if their out-of-the-box thinking is not developed.
“In educational circles, sometimes the phrase ‘drill and kill’ is used, meaning that by drilling the student, you will kill his or her motivation to learn,” explains Daniel Willingham a professor from the University of Virginia.
Bartoli in the essay, An ecological response to Coles’s interactivity alternative says, “Drilling often conjures up images of late-19th-century schoolhouses, with students singing state capitals in unison without much comprehension of what they have ‘learned.’
A search at Cambridge Dictionary Online defines “rote” as
learning something to be able to repeat it from memory, rather than in order to understand it. While Merriam-Webster exemplifies “rote” as the use of memory, usually with little intelligence.
The Difference Between Memory and Intelligence
Memory is the capacity of a human being to identify, compile, keep, and recall information that it gathered from its environment.
Meanwhile, intelligence is the capacity to understand, learn, comprehend, and develop problem-solving skills. It also means analyzing the information in such a way that it could be beneficial for everyone.
In her book, Seven Myths About Education, Daisy Christodoulou argues that rote repetition and memorization do not hinder understanding, but it is essential to it.
“Saying all these negative things about rote learning [versus understanding] is very unhelpful,” she says. “The two things are not in opposition. It’s not that we should spend time on conceptual understanding instead of spending it on learning times tables. It’s by spending time on times tables that you’ll develop a conceptual understanding. Having timetables, basic maths facts, phonics, spelling, and grammatical structures really well established will allow you to speed up later on.”
Memory and intelligence are closely knitted terms. A brain’s capacity to memorize is usually seen as an indicator of intelligence, but it is not a universal truth.
There are two kinds of memory, i.e. working and long memory. Working memory usually runs in deficiency due to factors like stress, anxiety, and lack of rest. So, it can’t be a defining variable for Intelligence.
Rote Memorization Learning Techniques
Readers might think about what is rote memorization but don’t go so far as settle your thoughtful clouds. It is just an interchangeable term for rote learning.
The building blocks of rote learning lie in repetition. Zig Ziglar precisely stated the importance of this term, “Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which is the architect of accomplishment”.
The following techniques can help teachers in incorporating learning by rote in the classroom:
Children are not able to retain messy information for long. So, this technique can ease this process by linking new knowledge with existing information.
For example: Relating mathematical formulas with tongue twisters.
It is often noted that children tend to remember the lyrics of songs and tunes more than the text lessons. This could be implied in learning as well. Lessons could be made in the form of song lines or tunes. It will blossom curiosity in the child.
God has wired humans differently from others. Our visualization has resulted in so many unique creations. It’s a god-gifted thing that could be employed in rote memory. And this development will result in better learning. Every lesson or topic of the lesson should create a visual image in the brain of a child, this will help in remembering it for a long time.
Read it loud
Read the text slowly and clearly aloud. It is bliss to read things, and utter bliss if you can retain them. You can even read it out loud while holding your breath, in front of a mirror, or to a friend. You can experiment with your reading speed and level of expression. This method of rote learning will be quite helpful for aural learners.
Write it down
The most sorted thing to do is write down notes after completing the reading of the text. This will help in the discovery of key focusing areas which require re-reading. If you’re preparing for a written exam, this kinesthetic learning rote technique will serve as a mock test.
Writing down and reading out loud are the two highly recommended rote memorization techniques that could be employed for learning.
What are Some Examples of Rote Learning Activities for Children?
Rote learning is crucial in the foundation stage of learning. It is quite significant in every discipline. If you could recall, how do you learn chemistry formulas? By cramming right, which is a technique of rote memory. Did you find any other way than cramming for learning tables and alphabets? No, right? You cannot deny the need for rote memory in every field of study.
The table below represents the concept and its application in the rote learning process:-
|Tricky Spellings||English is loaded with tricky-sounding words. Students are left with no option but to memorize its spellings. You can apply rote learning in order to learn to spell words, moreover which coils help you learn other difficult words later on.|
|Cramming||Students find it difficult to learn lessons before exams, so they make flashcards for it.|
|Facts ||In order to learn the names of different continents, a student is not expected to know in detail about these continents. All they need to learn is the names of continents by using the rote learning method.|
|Mnemonics ||Remembering the order of things and words could be quite useful. It can help students retain information about different disciplines. You can incorporate it while teaching colors of rainbows or numerical numbers.|
For Example –V before E except after N is a mnemonic to help you remember how to spell words like “seven” and “heaven.”
|Language Lessons||It is useful to learn grammar by using it in repetition while forming sentences. For people learning a second language, rote learning could be of great help.You can use flashcards for better learning.|
|Machine Learning ||Machine Learning helps artificial intelligence whose structure is based on rote learning. It works by deciding from various options available.|
|Song or Rhyme||Songs and rhymes can help children to retain information for a long time. You can teach students the fruit’s name by using Fruit Song.|
These are some of the finest examples of rote memory developmental activities. If these activities are incorporated with text features, it can have a great impact on the learning of students.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Rote Learning
Many scholars regard rote repetition as a “brain kill” and regard teachers who employ this technique as bad teachers. But this is not entirely true. Along with drawbacks, it also possesses a handful of advantages.
The following are the advantages of learning by rote:-
- It is the building block of learning without which the understanding structure couldn’t be built.
- This approach to learning does not require a complex understanding or analysis of things.
- For students, learning is thoughtful, which enables them to learn things in order. For example, counting in order or the reverse way.
- Rote repetition can help aural and visionary learners score well by learning what is necessary without going into the peculiarities of the topic or complex problems.
- Rote learning helps the brain to function well. It increases the recalling power of the brain if practiced regularly. This turns out to be the precise rote memorization definition.
- Can help in boosting confidence in students.
- One of the simplest and quickest ways of learning. Moreover, they have proven results.
- Studies have shown that it helped dyslexic children to retain some important information in their memory.
- Its application does not require any infrastructure or teaching aids.
The following are the disadvantages of learning by rote:-
- Rote memorization does not support critical thinking, critical analysis, and scientific thinking in students.
- It can mold students into passive learners.
- This is fruitful in only the short run but fails badly in the long run. It works for working memory but crashes when applied to long-term memory.
- It only gives importance to rote repetition and neglects basic understanding of terms.
- Because of its monotonous nature, students lose interest sooner.
- It limits the creativity of a child.
Every teaching method has its own benefits and limitations. Teacher plays a significant role in executing every method of teaching. It is important to understand the needs of the students and apply the teaching method according to it.
The teacher can infuse different methods along with rote learning methods to simplify the learning process and ultimately be successful. What needs to be considered is that the rote learning process should be great fun for students.
Does Rote Learning Have a Place in the 21st Century Education System?
Yes, rote memorization has a space in the 21st century, as many countries still use this method of education in schools. Knowingly or unknowingly, every teacher uses this approach in their method of teaching.
India is one such country that acknowledged this approach and included it in National Education Policy 2019. What is to be taken into consideration is that this approach would always be followed by other teaching methods or by discussion.
Besides, it inculcates, “If students are given a strong foundation in reading, writing, speaking, examining, number juggling, numerical and sensible thinking, critical thinking… at that point, all other future deep-rooted learning will turn out to be… increasingly friendly.”
Many critics disremember that rote memorization is the simplest and quickest way to master something but sometimes the only way.
This is important as it gives birth to automatization and the absence of it will cause defects and learning deficiencies in the students.
This early automatization includes the:
- The tree is dependent on its roots for nutrition and likewise for vocabulary and sentences, making it crucial that a child learns the alphabet through rote learning.
- There is no second way to memorize maths facts and formulas. The basics of maths that is subtraction, division, multiplication, and addition should run through a child’s veins. A child may have access to a calculator, but these basic concepts should be known to them.
- A child should be able to differentiate between up and down, right and left. Otherwise, they will be confused between 17 and 71, what comes above 2 i.e. 1, and what comes down to 2 i.e. 3.
According to William L. Heward, Professor Emeritus in the College of Education and Human Ecology at The Ohio State University, research has shown that rote learning is a consistently effective teaching method when properly applied. For example, a meta-analysis of 85 academic intervention studies with students with learning disabilities found that regardless of the practical or theoretical orientation of the study, the largest effect sizes were obtained by interventions that included systematic drill, repetition, practice, and review.
But it is wise to depart from the rote approach once the memorization of foundational things is completed.
Alternatives to Rote Learning
It is paramount to blend the rote method of learning with any other method of learning in order to get the most marginal utility. If it is mingled with some other approach to teaching, it could escalate the learning process of learners.
To make the most of your learning, you can try incorporating these learning styles in the classroom with rote learning:
It is a teaching method in which a teacher imparts knowledge by grouping students based on their intelligence and abilities. And organize the lesson in such a way that it caters to the needs of every student. The best example of this could be creating art and reading groups.
It helps students to overcome the “forgetting curve” by providing ample assessment and reinforcement of learning opportunities.
Example: Take home tests, self-implied tests.
It is the interlinking between ideas and experience. In this, you learn to associate new learning with the thing you learned in the past.
This results in the modernization of the behavior.
Example: If someone puts their hand on a hot pot and hurts themselves, they may learn to associate a hot pan with pain and hurt. They become conditioned to not hold a hot pan without any cloth or nipper.
It is a kind of learning technique in which children are engaged in deep thinking about the topic which is being taught in the classroom. Here, the classroom could be both an online or offline mode of instruction. The introduction of technology and smart classes can be counted in this approach to teaching.
- Peer teaching
- Group studies
- Case studies
Spaced Repetition Learning
It resembles rote learning as it also makes use of flashcards. It divided words into difficult and less difficult flashcards. In order to make students learn while doing more difficult things, flashcards are often used to develop children’s thinking power.
In the beginning, flashcards are used more frequently, and when children adapt to them, the duration between the flashing of cards increases.
Example: Revising a lesson every day for 1 or 2 hrs to once a week.
It could be regarded as deep intellectual thinking. Meaningful Learning is an intermingling of patterns, recognition of old and new concepts, and building concept associations.
This approach to teaching does not limit itself to critical analysis, critical thinking, discourses, and cognitive and metacognitive skills. And could be applied to different narratives and novels.
Example: Realisation that how many meaningful sentences could be made from a single action word.
Activities may include:
- Brainstorming Sessions
- Case-Based Learning Exercises
- Group Discussions
All the listed alternatives can help you increase the reach and capacity of the process of rote learning.
Now, the readers might be able to answer themselves: what is rote learning? And are familiar with the notion that this learning is omnipresent, and you cannot run away from it. But what is the gateway is that it couldn’t shoot the target in isolation.
This approach requires it to be blended with some other kind of learning technique. The 5E lesson plan can be a good, flattering teaching method for it.