Dear Classical Wisdom Kids,
Today’s lesson is for EVERYONE!
For kids with tests looming and stories to tell, parents who need to get everything at the store and everything in the car (and then everything out of the car), and educators who are just trying to get through the day.
Today we will learn how to improve our memory!
You see, back in the ancient days before there were books, computers, and handy dandy cell phones with all the world’s information at the tips of your fingers, folks had to remember everything they learned and there were no cheat sheets.
Indeed, before Homer (and afterwards), poets had to learn ALL the words of the epic stories... sometimes up to 12,000 lines!
Did they have better memories than us today? Probably not...Instead, they relied on a special technique called the "Method of Loci."
Sometimes it’s called a Memory Palace... but I prefer the term Method of Loci, because “Loci” means “Place” in Latin. So the name actually helps you remember the method :D
Read on below (as well as watch Owly introduce the concept above) to discover this awesome technique, its history and how to use it!
All the best,
Founder and Director
Classical Wisdom and Classical Wisdom Kids
The Method of Loci
The history of the Method of Loci dates back many, many years... but we know it still because Cicero wrote about the story of Simonides and how he found that he could remember things better by imagining them in specific places. This was the very beginning of the Method of Loci.
Simonides and the Method of Location:
One day, Simonides attended a big feast in a grand hall. He was reciting poems for the guests, but then had to go outside for something. As he did, a terrible accident happened – the roof of the hall collapsed! People were injured, and it was a big mess. The injured guests had to be identified but it was hard to tell who was who with all the mess. Fortunately Simonides remembered where each person had been sitting at the table. He used his amazing memory skills to help identify the injured guests and their families.
He realized that he remembered where people sat because he associated them with the locations at the table. This inspired him to develop the Method of Loci, where he linked information he wanted to remember with specific places. Simonides shared his amazing discovery, and others began to use this technique too.
How Does it Work?
Imagine a place that you know really really well. It can be your neighborhood, your street, your house or your room. The Method of Loci works like this: when you want to remember something, like a list of items or a story, you place each piece of information in a different location of your setting that you know, like your bedroom.
For example, if you want to remember a shopping list that includes a pencil case, pencils, and milk, you would imagine milk on the chair, pencils on the desk and a pencil case on the bedside table.
To remember the items on your list, take a magical journey through your place in your head. Start at the door, and step into the room. Imagine pencils on the desk. Think about their color and how they feel in your hand. Then, move to the bedside table with the pencil case and do the same. Finally, visit the chair with the milk.
By moving through your Memory place, you can recall each item one by one. If it’s your house, you can put the items in different rooms. If it is your street or neighborhood, they can be in the buildings. Either way, you always take a very specific path so you can ‘find’ the items in your memory.
Remember, this doesn’t have to be for things either. It can be parts of a story, or lecture. It can be vocabulary for a test or people you need to call... anything really!
A Method for All Ages:
Throughout history, many great scholars, poets, and thinkers used the ‘Method of Loci’ to remember important knowledge, from stories and speeches to important lessons and even whole books. They found that this magical method helped them remember better and share their wisdom with others.
Today, we still use the Method of Loci in various forms to remember things. It's like a special magic trick for our brains. We create our own Memory Places and take journeys through them, just like Simonides did so long ago.
Ancient Memory Palaces
Another version of this method includes creating your own ‘Magical Palace’ filled with rooms, hallways, and secret passages. This palace is not just any palace; it's in your mind! It's your Memory Palace. You can design it however you like, with all sorts of magical decorations and features.
You can also use this Memory palace again and again to help you remember things. Personally, I prefer the Method of Loci because then I don’t have to worry about forgetting a room in the Palace that I have created! But... for those super imaginative among you, this can be a really fun way to practice (and demonstrate) this method.
Test it out!
You can draw it out first, to help cement the “Memory Place”. it can either be real or a “Memory Palace”, just make sure to pick out the important furniture/rooms/buildings. (Drawing isn’t necessary though... if you are on the road or talking over dinner, perhaps ask each other what their Memory place looks like first and let them describe it.)
Next, practice giving a list - shopping, vocabulary, etc. - and remember to attach each item to a specific location.
Lastly, wait a while or do another task and then see if you can remember. Practice the technique a few times to help improve your memory. Try going to the store, for instance, without your list... how did you do?
Let us know in the comments!
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