The Most Effective Way to Learn

Repetitio est mater studiorum. This consecrated phrase is the basis for every effective teaching method there is. It means: Repetition is the mother of studies. At IHM, it is our secret of learning success. There are so many fun ways to "repeat" information that the students end up learning a surprising amount in an effortless process. Games abound in almost all of the subjects and grade levels.

We Sisters daily finish our teaching only to become students ourselves. And, this same method applies. For example, when we learn the chant for the propers of the Mass, we use the same principle of repetition. However, instead of playing games as we do with the students, we systematically listen to a tiny portion of a new chant, repeat it, then learn the next tiny portion the same

way, and then we solidify our knowledge by repeating the two portions together. Building phrase by phrase in this way, we can usually "rough out" a difficult piece within 15 minutes. The "polishing" then only takes a couple of minutes each evening and we are ready to sing on Sunday.

Actually, we have learned a lot about learning and memory by studying the chant. Going extremely slowly until you learn something, then going extremely fast, can fix something in

the memory in a surprising way. The speed seems to force one to overcome inhibitions to learning. If you then momentarily divert your mind by singing one line from another hymn (for example, Immaculate Mary) you can try singing the chant one more time to "test" whether or not you actually have it in your memory. I find these discoveries fascinating and very practical when running a school. The games in our school often employ the element of time and incremental addition of knowledge.

A traditional way to help learn information is taking notes. "Nihil in intellectu nisi prius in sensu." ["There is nothing in the intellect which is not first in the senses."] Learning is through the five senses. When you take notes, for example, you learn better than if you simply listen, even if you never look at those notes again. Why? While you are taking notes, you use several senses: you hear information from a lecture; you see the teacher speaking;

you feel the muscles and pen you are using and you see the information on paper. (Are you noticing any "repetition" in this?) You have used (several times) your senses of hearing, sight, and touch. Unless it is home economics, you are not likely to use your senses of smell and taste! The more senses you use to record information, the more likely you will be to remember it since there are more sense "phantasms" that are recorded in your sense memory. (You can learn about phantasms in Brother Francis' philosophy course.) Another reason to take notes, is that it engages the mind instead of allowing the mind to be a mere passive spectator. How? After you hear information, you have to mentally translate that into writing on your page.

Again, the process for learning how to take and use notes is almost effortless at IHM. As early as fifth grade, students begin by watching their teachers put notes on the board and then copying them onto their own papers.

Later, an "open note quiz" is given allowing the students to use their notes. This tests whether the students recorded the information accurately and also if they understand how to use notes. All things must be learned! It is surprising how many students begin by having the information in front of them and still getting the answer wrong! But that changes quickly. Gradually, the teacher abbreviates her notes so that the students have to glean more information from the class by themselves for their notes. Finally, the teacher leaves all of the note taking to the students and they proceed with confidence. Eventually, the students learn to use their notes for study and no longer need the device of open note quizzes.

Repetitio est mater studiorum. This applies to our highest studies as well. So, in the Rosary, we repeat the sacred addresses to God and His Mother and think under myriad aspects of the 15 Mysteries. Our mind is elevated and our heart is filled. We are getting to know...God.

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