Memorization Made Easy

One class I teach in our program is the Woody Ornamental Plant Identification class. This class is run in the fall semester and requires a large amount of memorized information which has been an issue for students in the past. Since we require the students to learn 125 different plants in one semester it can sometimes be an overwhelming task for them to remember all of the common names, Latin names, (both Genus and species names), identification characteristics and pest problems for each plant. One of the biggest issues is the memorization of the Latin names for the plants. In the last two class sessions I have started relating the Latin names to what they mean in Latin along with the meanings of the name and even a short story of the origin or history of the name. Some of the names are obvious as they are just the Latin name translation to English those the just have to learn. Others have stories or easy meanings of the names that help to remember them. For example the Genus of all Maples is Acer which means Maple or Maple-like or sharp which is a reference to the hardness of the wood of which Romans used for spear hafts. So Sugar Maple is Acer saccharum. Saccharum is the Latin word for sugar or a sweet juice, also the name of an artificial sweetener we use for coffee or tea. These relationships and stories have seemingly increased the retention rate quite substantially. The success rate of the students in the last wo class has risen tremendously to the point that there are now twice as many A’s and B’s as in the past.

One thought on “Memorization Made Easy

  1. Latin, is my second language ( no it is not dead), I was delighted with your strategy (relationship and stories) to help students memorize both Latin genus and species. Your associative memory strategy offered me a challenge:

    Picea = change the C to N = Pine/Spruce

    Picea pungens = pungent/stinky/skunk pine/spruce

    I am sure I will doing more of this.

    Armat spinat rosas = The thorn arms the rose

    “Though I am an old man, I am a young gardener” —– Thomas Jefferson

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