Reciting Raises Retention   back

The University of Alabama
Center for Academic Success
124 Osband

Forgetting remains the major academic problem you will face. How can you prevent forgetting and improve your retention? One especially effective method is recitation. Reading a paragraph, following immediately with reciting, raises your retention. Why recite after each paragraph? Because most writers express a main idea or major point in a single paragraph; therefore, the best way to comprehend the author’s message is to understand each concept. Reciting after each paragraph allows you to grasp the meaning while it is fresh, before other information can obscure it.

What is reciting, and how can it help? Reciting means saying aloud, in complete sentences, the main ideas and details from each paragraph after reading it. Reciting improves your memory 5 ways:

  1. promotes concentration

  2. forms a sound basis for understanding the next paragraph
  3. provides time for the memory trace to consolidate
  4. ensures that facts and ideas are remembered accurately
  5. provides immediate feedback.

How does reciting work? Simple! Cover up what you’re reading at the end of each paragraph. Then, using complete sentences and paragraphs, repeat the ideas in the paragraph—ALOUD—in your own words. When reciting a list of ideas or facts, enumerate them by saying "first--, second--," and so on.

Want to improve on reciting? Write as you recite. Record your recitation as though you were writing the answers to an essay test. This embeds the knowledge in your long-term memory (the kind that lasts through tests) even more firmly. Why? Because you learn by three means: eyes, ears, and muscles. Is re-reading the same as reciting? No, definitely not! When you re-read, you see only the same things as when you first read the paragraph. For you to learn efficiently, you need to take a different approach to the same material: recitation. (From Paulk, W. (1984) How to Study in College, p. 161).

For more information on this and other study skills, come by or call the Center for Academic Success, 124 Osband, 348-5175.