Memorization Lesson

by Jana Wilhite

Memorization Lesson


by Jana Wilhite



Students will demonstrate understanding of memorization by applying memorization techniques to their performance piece.


Materials needed:

Access to computer/screen for video, whiteboard, markers, memorization handout (included in lesson plan attachment), Emily Dickenson poem (included below)



Direction (1 minute): Before starting the video clip, introduce it to the students.

We’ve been talking about performing for a while now, and today we’re going to learn about one of the most important, but often most difficult, concepts in performing live theatre. I want to remind you that even though this concept is hard, it is crucial for theatre, and it has applications in “real world” scenarios. As we watch this video, look for a common thread in the different clips. What do you think connects these videos, and how could this apply to our performance pieces?


Modeling (3 minutes): Play video “remember, remember.”


Discussion (4 minutes): Are there any ideas about what we’re learning today? To start off, what were the clips we saw? (List them on the board: “Hey Black Child,” Mark Wahlberg, Animaniacs, “Suits,” “Friends,” “Rain Man,” Periodic table) Did you see any common themes? {Remember, recite, lists, etc.} What could this possibly have to do with monologues? At this point, the students should realize we’ll be talking about memorization. If not, help them out. Write the word up on the board.


Step 1:

Transition (5 minutes): Have students pull out a piece of paper and answer the questions “What is memorization?” and  “Why is memorization important in theatre?” {professionalism, believability} Discuss the answers to these questions.


Step 2:

Discussion (7 minutes): Ask about the memorization in the video. Were these scenarios specifically theatrical? What could be some reasons these people memorized the things they performed? {learn about history, school project, interested in the subject, party trick, means of remembering, etc.} Does memorization have application outside of theatre? {school, work, religion: Quaran boys}


Step 3:

Guided Practice (3 minutes): If memorization is important for more than just theatre, let’s think about some things that are hard to forget. For example, my dad forgets my cousins’ names, but he knows ever make and model of car since the Model T. Come up to the board and create a word cloud of some things that you always remember, no matter what.


Discussion (4 minutes): Come back together and have students share some examples. {867-5309, jingles, my grandma’s phone number, middle school locker combo, pledge of allegiance, high school fight song, dad and cars, first kiss, embarrassing moments} Why are these easy to remember or hard to forget? {we care about them, repetition, music, emotional connection, etc.} (This can be an informal assessment for the day)


Guided Practice (1 minute): Pull out your performance piece script. Are there places where you can have a strong physical or emotional connection? Is there something in the piece you really care about? Mark these places directly on your paper.


Discussion (3 minutes): On the flipside, what are some things that are really hard to remember? {Periodic table of the elements, friends’ phone numbers, cousin’s birthdays, formulas for volume, how to spell Wednesday, quadratic formula, left and right} Do you have devices or methods that help you to remember these?


Guided Practice (1 minute): Look at your script again. Are there sections in your piece that are really difficult to remember? Mark these places. Can you think of anything that could help you remember these?


Step 4:

Transition: (How can we apply those methods and devices from Step 3 to theatre?)


Small Group Discussion (7 minutes): Now that we’ve talked about these ideas as a class, get into groups of two or three students and talk about some tricks we can carry over from remembering into script memorization. (Check for Understanding: call on a student to repeat the directions.)


Step 5:

Instruction (7 minutes): Bring it back together and talk about the memorization tricks students came up with. Fill in the gaps they missed with ideas from the memorization techniques list. Pass out the “Memorization Techniques” handout.


Step 6:

Modeling (7 minutes): Now that we’ve talked about what memorization is, why it’s important, and how to do it, we finally get to actually memorize! We’ll do one final application together, and then we’ll split up so you work on memorizing your own monologues.


Put “Hope is the Thing with Feathers” up on the board.


Emily Dickenson poem:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –


This is one of my favorite poems. It’s not very long, and I think we could memorize it together today. What are some techniques we could apply? (Write these out) {First Letters, repetition, read it out loud, write it down, record it, memorize it backwards, music (this poem fits the rhythm of the Harry Potter theme song), etc.}

Memorization Techniques Possible Answers

  • Write it down
  • Record a voice memo
  • Pneumonic devices
  • Write the first letter of each word
  • Repeat back and forth with someone
  • Put it to music
  • Read through the script before bed at night
  • Go on a walk
  • Color code it
  • Practice it with actions
  • Repetition
  • Draw pictures
  • Memorize the lines starting at the end



If we took a few more minutes, we could all walk out of here with a poem memorized. But I know you’re super ready to work on your own pieces.


Step 7:

Guided Practice (10 minutes): To begin, pull out your scripts and find those spots where you struggle to remember. Now that we’ve gone through some techniques, what could you do to reinforce your memory in these spots? Look at the rest of your piece. What techniques can you apply to the piece to help you memorize it? Working on your own, apply some of these techniques: write in your notebook, talk to the wall, whatever will help you to begin memorizing. You’ll have 10 minutes. (This could be another assessment.)


Transition (3 minutes): Were there any techniques that worked really well for you? Have you managed to work out some of your performance piece? Do you have any questions about the concepts we’ve discussed?


Group Practice (any left over time): Now, find a partner, and work on your pieces together. Use the techniques that require two people. Or have them check your accuracy as you recite what you’ve memorized. You can work in groups as long as class lasts.




Students will be assessed on their participation in the discussions, on their individual and group work during memorization, and on the word cloud participation.


Memorization Lesson Plan.Jana Wilhite