Time and Date Stamping: Getting to Know History
One of the most difficult things to memorise is dates, especially if they involve something that is not within our cognitive reference points of our own lives. Because you do not feel attached or emotionally drawn to historical dates despite some significance for the world, it is difficult for your brain to give these a priority placement in your knowledge library. Instead, these usually get stuffed back in those dusty recesses of your mind after they are determined to not have ongoing value. However, you still need to know these dates for an exam so there has got to be some memory technique to help you recall them at well despite feeling random and obscure.
Here's what you can do to keep 1861 from morphing into 1851 so you can pass that history test with flying colours. Use a mnemonic memory technique and make sure you turn it into something fun to take the monotony out of time and date stamping your brain. One way to do this is to borrow from the East London Cockneys who developed a slang system that was originally intended as a secret language used among entertainers and the London underworld. Now, it can be used for memorising dates. Cockney slang is a rhyming system that replaces certain words but make it easy to equate back to what was really meant. Here are some examples of the Cockney slang and what it really means:
- Can you Adam and Eve it? = Can you believe it?
- Trouble and strife = wife
- Whistle and flute = suit
Now, let's apply that to recalling historical data and dates. All you need to do is to think of a rhyming term that can work with your date. The Cockneys always made their rhymes silly as humour has a wonderful way of stimulating your memory. If it's easier to leave off the century part of the date because your exam only has you focusing on one century but many dates within that century, this can help create an easier system:
- 61 = Sticky bun
- 73 = Saucy tree
- 83 = Ate a pea
Beyond just creating a silly rhyme for each date, the critical element of this memory recall method is actually to create the accompanying silly visual. If you can, create a story to go with the image that maybe works in elements of the event that relates to the date, the silly rhyme and the even sillier image.
If this technique is not something you want to take on, there are other recommended ways to learn and recall dates:
- Lists: Many people like to make lists as the process of writing things down helps them stick in the brain – at least on a short-term memory recall basis. The list can have dates in one column and the related event in the other column, so that you can cover one side and work both sides. Start by covering the event and just show the date so you can name off the event that went with that date. Now, switch by covering up the date and showing the event so you can recall it the other way.
- Index Cards: This is similar to the list method except that each date is written on one side of an index card while the other side has the event. You can also work the memorisation method from both sides to reinforce the event and date together as a pair.
- Auditory Learning: Others learn and memorise through the process of hearing the information out loud. You can record yourself saying the dates and the accompanying events and play it back to yourself through headphones in short bursts so that you can imprint this on your memory. You can also turn it into a song or poem that you recite out loud.
- Visual Learning: Many of the aforementioned memory techniques are successful because they involve pictures and bright colours, so you can put your dates on a timeline and draw a picture to represent the event tied to that event. This will help reinforce the date and the event in your mind in a way that your brain responds to.
- Kinaesthetic Learning: This type of learning technique requires that you link or anchor different dates to different places b y writing them on index cards and placing them in different areas of your living space, such as in your wardrobe, on your refrigerator, and on a door, for example. Walk around your living space and look at each card with the date and event and imagine yourself travelling through time and space as you walk through it. Think of it as a way to bring that journey method to life. This enables you to both write, say, and touch the dates and events for a meaningful experience for your brain and way to reinforce the information.
Lastly, remember not to just to get fixated on memorising dates for your history exams. You need to be able to do a lot more than just recall dates:
- Be sure you know how to describe things that happened during those historical periods.
- Understand how you can explain why and how those things happened in terms of the relevance, factors, and attitudes of that particular time period.
- Illustrate your critical thinking ability so that you show what you learned from studying the past so you can show how it applies to current history.
Beyond dates is the need to know places, so the next chapter covers how you can become an expert at geographic recall.