Syllabus for Memory Class at AAC, Spring 2010

In this class, I taught how to memorize 50, 100, 500 or even thousands of facts. With special memory techniques, students could begin to keep what they learned.

Syllabus: Keep What You Learn
2010 Spring, Tues. and Thu. 12:501:40.
Aquinas Academic Center, Front Royal, Va.

Summary: Learn to memorize, improve your other classes

Welcome! In this class, you’ll learn how to memorize 50, 100, 500 or even thousands of facts. With special memory techniques, you’ll begin to keep what you learn. For instance:

  • history facts
  • vocabulary meanings
  • definitions
  • literature facts
  • science facts
  • math formulas

Instead of hoping you’ll remember such things, you’ll know that you will.

Do these techniques really work?

Yes. I’ve used these techniques to memorize thousands of facts. For instance, I know the entire Gospel of St. Mark. That’s 678 verses, nearly 15,000 words. I can recite any verse by its chapter and number.

This may seem like a superpower. In one sense, it is. It’s amazing, and you will learn how to do it.

But in another sense, this “superpower” is really a simple matter of training. In this way, memorizing is like speech, walking, reading, driving, using computers, and our other cultural “superpowers”.

In many ancient and medieval cultures, memorizing was considered just as normal as reading or driving is today. When Jesus was ten years old, the average Jewish boy memorized the entire Pentateuch. In medieval times, an aspiring monk or nun had to memorize the entire Psalter. Even today, many a Muslim knows the entire Qu’ran.

With the right techniques, and practice, you can keep what you learn.

Why haven’t I heard of these techniques before?

Sadly, in the transition from the medieval to the modern era, many educators explicitly rejected memory techniques as too “medieval.” In many areas, they had an added objection. Memory technqiues were too visual, too scholastic – in fact, too Catholic. Since then, there have since been small revivals, and even some academic research, but advanced memory techniques still haven’t gone mainstream.

It’s time to reclaim this heritage. With these ancient techniques, updated with modern research and tools, we can keep what we learn.

Class Format

Each class is 50 minutes, as usual. Many classes will be lectures. Others will include class discussions, as we practice making mnemonics (memory prompts).

We’ll have frequent quizzes, but no tests or papers on the material in this class. Instead, you’ll do memory projects, where you memorize information from your other classes. Memorizing does take work, but this way, you can do the work on what you already need to study.

Required Materials

There is no required textbook. Instead, I will provide handouts.

You must keep the handouts organized and bring all handouts to every class. I suggest a binder to keep them organized.

Please bring to every class: your class handouts, looseleaf paper, and a pen.

At home, you’ll need a tool to maintain your set of flashcards.

  • I suggest the free computer program: Anki.
  • But you can use index cards instead, with small sticky notes to mark study batches.

Fee: 5.00 to cover the cost of handouts.

I can also offer index cards and sticky notes at cost, if there’s a demand.

Grade Breakdown

Percent Project
25 Quizzes
25 Attendance, Participation
25 Memory Projects
25 Daily Flashcard Review
100 TOTAL Grade for Class


  • We will begin each class with a short quiz.
  • If you miss the quiz, you get a 0 and a Tardiness penalty.
  • If you bring a written excuse, you remove the Tardiness penalty, but not the 0.
  • (With a quiz every class, 1 or 2 missed quizzes won’t destroy your grade.)
  • I may offer a quiz makeup project, if there’s demand.


    For absence or tardiness not to affect your grade, I need a note or call from your parent or guardian.


  • I will note whether you listen and pay attention.

  • Feel free to ask questions, though you don’t have to if you don’t need to.

  • Sometimes, you’ll need to contribute ideas, as we make up mnemonics (memory prompts).

    Memory Projects

    Memory projects will include:

  • preparation work for memorizing

  • memorizing information

  • presenting what you’ve memorized, both in written tests and in recitations

Daily Flashcard Review

Modern research has shown that for efficient review, your brain needs proper scheduling of each card. As you start to study lots of cards, you’ll need a short review every day. This habit of daily review is so central that it will be graded.

I’ll provide logsheets, and you’ll track whether or not you review each day. The minimum daily review time is short: 15 minutes. But you must review every day except Sunday.

The sheets must be signed by a parent/guardian and brought to class every two weeks for a brief inspection. This will encourage you as you develop this habit.

You will not being graded on whether you get each card right or not. You simply need to review.

Sunday is optional. A single missed day each week is a minor setback, if you schedule your studies properly. I don’t want to interfere with your practice of Sunday rest.

Topics we’ll cover in this class:

  • Introduction
  • Why we have “bad” memories
  • Why our memories are actually amazing
  • You can train your memory
  • Five basic steps to memorization
  • Beginner pitfalls to avoid
  • Spaced Repetition: Reviewing the right material at the right time
  • Organizing information
  • History of the Art of Memory
  • Oral mnemonics (memory prompts)
  • Mnemonics based on rhythm, rhyme, or acrostics
  • Visual mnemonics, and using your imagination
  • Storing your mnemonics (the loci method)
  • Memorizing specific kinds of information
  • vocabulary
  • definitions
  • numbers
  • years, history facts
  • literature facts
  • science facts
  • math formulas
  • In-class practice and recitations

About Bill Powell

I’m a web designer and developer, an editor, a typesetter, a writer, and a teacher. I’ve studied memory techniques, ancient and modern, and successfully memorized large amounts of material, such as the entire Gospel of St. Mark. I’ve taught these memory techniques to Christendom students, and I’m excited to offer them here at Aquinas.

I’m also assistant editor for the new Catholic kids’ magazine, St. Mary’s Messenger. (See my resume for more of my projects.) I graduated summa cum laude from the Franciscian University of Steubenville in 2001, with a B.A. in Philosophy and another B.A. in the Communication Arts.

Please feel free to contact me with your questions or comments. Thanks!