The Art of Memory: How to Teach Memory Beyond Chants and Jingles

Jenny Rallens expands our understanding of what memory is, how it plays a crucial role in education and virtue.

In classical education today, memory has been limited to playing a very narrow and specific role. When we think of memory, we think of the grammar or “poll parrot” stage of the Trivium. We think of the rote memory of Shurley grammar jingles, Latin chants , multiplication tables, Bible memory passages, cheesy history songs, and speech meets. However, to medieval educators and Christians a much different kind of memory was held to be not only the source of all learning and the mother of all creativity, but the foundation of all virtue as well. The practices of a well-trained and well-stocked memory were seen as essential for cultivating affections and translating the knowledge of education into the wisdom and beauty of a virtuous life. This seminar will expand our understanding of what memory is, how it plays a crucial role in education and virtue, and practical ways we as teachers can 1) train the memories of students of all ages, and 2) teach lessons with practices and methods crafted to stick in students’ memories.

Jenny Rallens

After homeschooling through highschool, Jenny Rallens earned her B.A. in 2008 from New St. Andrews College and then joined The Ambrose School faculty in Boise, Idaho to teach, direct nine (mostly Shakespeare) plays, and develop a pedagogy based on four pillars: incarnational student-teacher relationships, story, socratic discussion, and liturgy. In addition to teaching, Jenny is currently working on her master’s degree at Oxford in Literature and Arts, particularly investigating the roles literature, liturgy and material culture play in forming a community’s theological imagination.

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