Thursday, July 27, 2023

Memorising Dolch words (High-Frequency words) - Research Evidence


I have written several blog posts on memorising High-Frequency Words by rote memory. Educators have consistently said that there is no need to teach these words by memorising because they had learnt about visual memory without understanding what is rote memory. An article published in Neuroscience News  mentions students memorising Kanji by rote memory. This is exactly what I said about kids in Malaysia having to learn to read Chinese characters by repeated writing.

We don’t have to rote memorise the Dolch words by writing them a hundred times, though that will be a good idea, but just spell out the word using letter names a few times and recite the word at the end.


Here are extracts from the article:

When children learn to write Japanese Kanji or Chinese characters, they consistently repeat the order of strokes required to draw each character whilst speaking aloud the corresponding word. This helps the motor sequence – the combination of small movements required to write each word or sound – get ‘wired in’ to their brains.

“So, when the child is asked to write later on, the child’s hands almost automatically write down the character from memory,” said Prof Wydell.

Children are introduced to new Kanji characters in the text. The Japanese children start their primary school education aged seven, which lasts for 6 years, and they are introduced to 996 different Kanji characters, which are prescribed in the List, GAKUNENBETSU KANJI HAITO HYO2 by the Japanese Ministry of Education and Science. By the end of compulsory education (age 16 years), a total of 1,945 Kanji characters are taught. Note however that adults need some 3,000 Kanji characters for most everyday activities (e.g. reading a national newspaper; Morton & Sasanuma, 1984).

It follows therefore that the most optimal way of learning Kanji is essentially by rote. An example of a primary school child repeatedly writing the same Kanji character in order to learn how to read and write characters correctly can be seen in Naka and Naoi (1995). This is often accompanied by a child reciting the name of the character each time he/she writes the character.

Why is the above not public knowledge and why do educators keep repeating that rote memorising Dolch words is a waste of time?

Why do they keep repeating lies on social media?

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