Josh & Amy go head to head in a friendly debate about whether the memory palace method of Scripture memory beats the “backward buildup repetition method”. Which is better…and what techniques can you steal for your own Bible memory journey?
Or you can listen to the Memorize What Matters podcast on your favorite player:Listen to “The New “Backward Buildup Repetition Method” for Bible Memory (does it work?)” on Spreaker.
Here are a couple of the resources mentioned in the interview:
- Amy’s Youtube Channel: @biblememorymasters2291
- Join the community: https://www.biblememorygoal.com/join/
Amy Interview Transcript:
Amy: I call it the Backward Buildup Repetition method. It’s kind of a mouthful, but it sort of explains what it is that we do in the videos. So I started using the method just reading to my kids at night, and I found that when I read the same passage over and over again to them, all of us started memorizing it. But as you move forward through a passage, you tend to not learn the stuff at the end very well. So you’re really intent on learning the things at the beginning, but by the time you get to the end, you kind of fizzle out and don’t really feel like finishing or whatever ends up happening. So I found if I started at the back and moved myself through the chapter forward, suddenly I would have much deeper, better memory. And it is a repetition method, but that’s why I call it the backward buildup method. I have videos that specifically run you through the process with different passages, full chapters is, and even books is the goal, and I’m adding more to that as I go.
Josh: Okay. So it sounds to me, I mean the method for memorization itself is really repetition, but this is a different way of doing your review. Is that correct?
Amy: Kind of the review and the repetition. I mean, the repetition and the review are all in one and it’s split up into lessons so that you could sort of take a chapter by chunks. Nothing is ever just single verses at a time. It’s chunks of verses because the brain connects them in the flow together. And so once you learn one chunk, then you can add on the next chunk. But as you review, you’re always reviewing through to the end of the chapter. So that’s the beauty of starting at the end. So as you’re learning the next chunk, every time at the end of it after you finish going through the new material, you finish out the chapter. And so you get to practice that review stems naturally as you continue to add on more going toward the beginning of the chapter.
Josh: So you’re literally memorizing the end as it to start and then moving your way backward the whole way. Is that right? Yeah. Yeah. There was this, and I can’t recommend the movie because I know it was very crude, but there was this movie a decade or two ago that was filmed, or it wasn’t filmed backwards. It was probably filmed forwards, but it was edited backwards so that you knew the end of the story first. You. Can know which one you’re talking about. Yeah. And yeah, it was crazy that it was actually fascinating to watch just because you’re like, wait, how did we get to this point? So there is still that anticipation.
Amy: Yeah. The one issue with it is if you’re trying to do it alongside a Bible study or something else like that, you’re not really going to be moving at the same pace as that. You’re going to be going backwards. Through it.
Josh: Yeah. Do you But yeah, sorry, go ahead.
Amy: No, no, no. Go ahead
Josh: Well, I was just going to ask you, do you ever find yourself, because different methods lend themselves to different benefits and different deficiencies, and I’m wondering if when I ask you about, let’s say certain texts that you’ve memorized when you think about it and you think about, oh, it’s at the end of the chapter. Oh wait, no, no, no. That’s actually the beginning of the chapter because I’ve memorized it at first to, I mean, do you get that reversal happening?
Amy: No. However, it’s interesting, and this is actually one of the benefits of the method perhaps, is that if I were to go to recite something, the first verse would actually be the hardest for me to remember because I’ve practiced them the least. But after I get myself started, then everything after that, the chunks that come after I’ve practice more and it gets easier and easier and easier as you get to the end. So that’s actually one of the benefits and one of the reasons why I wanted to do it, because I wanted that flow to come after I get started as opposed to the other way around where you get started really easy and then you’re like I don’t remember.
Josh: Yep. Yeah, I understand that. I think, so when we’re doing the and this isn’t really the memory palace method, it’s just the method I used for encoding a verse on the memory palace. It’s very important that I get that very first one or two words because for me, that’s what gets me moving. And then I can boom, alright, now the rote kind of takes over but if I don’t get those two words then I really can get just stuck there and I just have to wait until something, some epiphany arrives. So I don’t know, I can see myself even getting a little frustrated, not being smooth at the start because even though I guess you would know that, okay, well it’s going to get better from here, so I just keep going through it. Right. Yeah.
Amy: I want to ask you, so about the memory palace method and actually have not. So my issue with memory palace is that I don’t have the time for the top down input that’s necessary. So you really have to sit down and you have to have time to your space, space to yourself. No kids, craziness as a mom. With little guys, I don’t have that quiet time usually except for when I’m reading to them at night. But then I’m reading to have the space to put it all in front of me and to encode.
And so the reason I created this method instead was to use that time to create a way to passively if you will have something that I can turn on. So I create the videos for the text that I’m learning, and then I can literally just turn it on while I’m doing dishes or turn it on for the boys even as we’re going to bed. And it doesn’t require that time to sit down and really top down memory work that I think for most people is possibly a barrier to entry to the memory world, if you will. What do you find with people, what’s their biggest reason they don’t do memory or they feel like they can’t do memory work?
Josh: No, I think that’s an excellent question and I want to circle back around later to the videos because I want to understand a little bit more about what you’re doing with that. The way that I explain it to people, as I say that, listen, if you’re walking through a forest, it’s a dense jungle and you just walk and walk and walk and do that same path back and forth from location A to location B a hundred times, eventually there’s going to be a path that forms and somebody could follow that path and you could theoretically just kind of follow that path with your eyes closed because the path has been worn down.
And then the other option is you can come in with a machete or a knife or something like that and just beat down the bushes that are in the way and create that path. And obviously the beating down the bushes is going to take a little bit of time on the front end. I think that in the end, you’re both getting a path. So I’m not saying that one is better than the other, but what I am saying is I think I’m frontloading a lot of my effort that oftentimes for rote and other methods ends up happening in the midway or later on down the road. And also for me, because it’s a cleaner cut, still using that analogy there is a little more ability to organize. So what I love being able to do is I love being able to know exactly where a verse is in a book in a chapter and what verse it is. And by going through that memory palace method, it does give me a lot more options for organization along the way. So to answer your, I got two young kids too. I’ve got a 10 year old and a five year old, and I don’t have loads of time in my day either. So I really split it up into a couple different periods of time that I’m working. One is the creation of the memory palace, which I can involve my kids in. Actually, we’ve walked around, we were at an Airbnb a month ago, and I’m using, that’s the place that I used to create the memory palace for 2nd Timothy that I just memorized. And we walked around and I had my camera and we were helping to pick out places that would associate with a certain number for that chapter.
So it was a four level place, it sounds like a mansion. It wasn’t that great, it was on a hill, so it had to be four levels that associated with the four chapters of second Timothy. So it worked out really well. And then once I have those locations set up really it, it’s up to me how much time I spent. So if I’m just doing one verse and encoding that verse to the location, I mean hopefully it only takes me a minute or two. And then the minute or benefit that I see you’re talking about, Hey, I can then go around, do my dishes and I’ve got something playing for me. What I say is after I’ve got that encoding, now I can replay that in my head throughout the rest of the day. And hopefully by doing that now I’m associating that verse with that place, with that story so that I don’t have to have a book in front of me. I don’t have to be listening to anything like it’s in here. It may not be smooth, it may not sound good as I may have to just sit there and think through it, but I’ve got the words in my head, it’s just a matter of now wrote. So it’s like I’ve cut the bushes down now I just got to walk the path a number of times before it really starts to feel like I know that path. Does that make sense?
Amy: Yeah, yeah, it does.
Josh: So you’d mentioned cause I’m talking about using the stories that I’ve encoded on that particular location as a means of review throughout the day, even if I don’t know it very well. And you were talking about creating a video that you then use as part of your review that you’re going backwards through. I’ve seen the video, I don’t necessarily Sure. I’m not sure I understand exactly what you’re doing. You’re creating an image for a verse I think. Can you go into more detail about what you’re doing there?
Amy: Sure. So this method, again, it really stemmed from me kind of connecting the dots as I was just reading. So initially I started out just by reading to my kids at night and rereading the same passage over and over and over again, and then starting to do the backward buildup of starting at the last verse and then reading the next verse and then trying to recall from memory the verses that followed. So every night I would go up through the chapter and then try to remember my way back down. And eventually I decided, okay, so if this is drawing on my passive ability to memorize and always reading out loud has always been really, really helpful for me.
So I was actually trained in language. So I got my master’s in teaching Japanese and second language acquisition of all things. And in going through that process, I’ve learned language two different ways. One is the top down way, one is the bottom up way. And so my experience in those two different situations, one was the Spanish in grade school and the other one was in Japanese in college were radically different. The top down way was really hard. It was really frustrating. I felt like I was always trying really hard and never able to speak back what I was supposed to know how to do, even though I could do well on tests or the top-down memory was there, even though I could do well on tests or the top-down memory was there, I had a lot of comprehensible input, just a lot of input of the new words, the new vocabulary in context that I could understand. My brain just did the hard work. It was great learning numbers. They were really, really, really hard the first week. And maybe if you’ve learned languages, I know you live abroad, you’ve had the same experience where it’s really, really hard to mentally top down, just tread your way through it for the first couple weeks, and then suddenly a couple weeks later it’s like boom, your brain just does it for you. So God has built in this inner capacity for us to learn, especially in linguistic segments. And so I realized that I was tapping into that in the reading of the Scripture over and over again similar to learning the pieces of a new language, learning the pieces of Scripture that fit together with one another is very, very much, you know, can draw on that same passive ability.
The key is the input that getting it into your ear. And I think there’s a good long tradition of this in Bible memory or even just in humanity in general. I mean, before we had literate societies or in places where societies aren’t literate, they rely heavily on the storytellers and the children just sit at their feet and whoever’s going to be next in line will just listen to the stories over and over again and memorize them just from hearing them. Again, it’s that input. Same with the Jews throughout history, they would memorize the Torah. Again, a lot of that input of just hearing it over and over again. Same with Gregorian chance. I mean they were a purposeful way for the monks in the Middle Ages to memorize Scripture. Again, more of the song to intertwined in there. So with the videos, I take a screenshot or a snippet of a video that’s associated in some way with the meaning of the verse so that you have the visual that goes along with the audio and it gives more context to the words. So your brain has something else to latch onto. And as you memorize it, if you’re really, I mean while you’re doing dishes, it’s questionable whether you’re utilizing that . But if you’re sitting and watching it with your kids at bedtime as a routine before bed, which we’ve also done and has been really help, I mean they have a lot memorized because of it, because of the ease of the method. The way I do it, I go through the chunk of Scripture from the beginning to the end first. So you get the entire piece together and usually it’s a paragraph or two, and then I’ll go back and do each verse repetition about three to five times with the next one and maybe the next two after. So I kind of inchworm through it. So the first three verses and then the 2, 3, 4, and then 3, 4, 5, that kind of thing until I get through to the end.
And then once I hit the last one, then we start doing the repetition from the backwards buildup. So start with the last one, say it a few times, then the last two, say them a few times together, then the last three, then the last four until you get that whole chunk of Scripture together again. And so it’s training your brain to make those connections between the verses, which like you said can sometimes be the hardest thing is the places where ano a new verse starts that may have something totally different than what the previous paragraph was about. That remembering that is hard. So this kind of bridges that in the repetition and by looping more than one verse together always. So it’s not just focusing on memorizing one verse at a time, which is another difference between this and the memory palace. And then at the end I give a chance to practice. So you practice with my voice first through the whole thing and then with just the words on the screen and then just by yourself, so just with the visuals so you can practice with the visuals. And again, they’re that memory trigger that can help you with the recitation so that you hold onto that memory.
Josh: I mean, that makes sense. I get where mean, you’re obviously not using the spatial awareness of your brain within as part of a memory palace, but you are using the visual portions of how we associate visuals with what we do. And going back to something about language learning that I thought was very key, especially for those people that I know that get really hung up on memorizing, they get frustrated, it just doesn’t work for them. And one of the things you said that I thought was important was the fact that kids at a young age when they’re learning their native language, they’re not sitting there with a textbook and reading it and they’re not being asked to form. Yeah. Sometimes when parents are saying, say dada, say dad, but they’re not really being asked to correct to associate, okay, this is number four.
The first thing that they’re doing is they’re being asked to just listen. And that was part of lots of input and that’s part of one of the training, some of the training that I got even before going into Chinese is there are people that start Chinese and they just want to try to speak it. And those people, because their accent isn’t always really good, the people who spend time just listening before they start trying to actively recreate the language, they’re the ones that are able to better mimic the way that a Chinese person would actually speak as opposed to the way that an English person thinks that a Chinese person would say that word. So the way that going full circle, the way that applies to somebody who maybe is just sitting there looking at a text that they want to memorize and just going, this just isn’t working for me. I can see how, okay, well if that isn’t, then that’s fine. Record yourself reading that. Or if you’ve got access to something like your videos, Amy or something like that. And then just let that be a continual input and see if that makes a difference. Because there’s a lot of times that our brains at work when we don’t even realize it and it works even more efficiently than we when we try to make it work for our own good. Does that make sense?
Amy: That was my experience learning language for sure, that the more I let the passive input soak in, the easier it was for me then to produce afterwards. the easier it was for me then to produce afterwards. another benefit of it is that you can use it with little guys. So with the memory palace, you really have to have that top-down desire to do it and to create the memory palaces and then do the repetition and it’s work that an adult can do, but a little one, probably not. But my boys are now five and seven and they have a lot memorized for such a young age just because we read it over and over and over and over again. And they’ve listened to these videos. So like Romans eight, they have more than half of the chapter memorized because that’s one of ’em that I’ve done the videos for. And actually, so I’ve also been doing something similar reading through the gospels with them at night. And my older one who’s seven now, there have been at least three times where when I’m reading he has interrupted me and corrected me because I’ve misread a word and he’s actually right every time.
Although we did have an issue with the loaves and the fishes where it was actually a different verse than he thought it was the one that was prior. And he’s like, no, that’s not the right that verse. So it’s amazing the capacity that kids have to memorize, and I want that Scripture deep in their hearts to where he knows who Jesus is and what he said, and he can’t escape from it when he gets older. And this is one way to do that. And that repetition has beautiful results in little guys, even if they’re not trying at all to memorize, I know, but they end up doing it. Anything
Josh: and I don’t know about if it’s the same for your boys, but there’s very little that’s quite as motivating as the opportunity to correct your parents about something that they’ve done or said wrong and that that’s like, okay, I’m going to listen very carefully and make sure that mama says it exactly right. Yeah, yeah, right. I think you do bring up a very good point, and one that I will have to concede in terms of the strengths of the memory palace method is it is a very difficult method for younger kids to follow with. I’m, I’m trying to bring my son through the memory palace method. He really wants to memorize the book of Jude because that’s something that I did before. And so I’m like, yeah, well, and he wants to, he’s watching me do this. And so he’s wanting to imitate.
And I think that there is value in teaching him the method itself that if he can learn this and use this even throughout his school career, it could be beneficial, but it’s going to be slow and it’s not going to be natural in part because he doesn’t have as many memory palaces to draw from as I do. We’re having to go through physical places to show him, okay, here, here’s your door in your room. That’s first number one, and let’s talk about what you’re going to do to put the verse here. But I guess each kid, just, even each adult has different preferences in terms of how they memorize and just have to see how each kid, because we’ve got a couple members in our community whose kids really love the singing. They sing a lot, and that works extremely well for kids as well.
Amy: Yeah, I have a couple of Psalms I think also that I’ve posted and a couple more that I need to do videos for that have been songs that my husband or I have created. And we thought, wow, those work pretty well. And you memorize the songs very easily because they are songs. So it’s a great method for them especially.
More Bible Memory Resources
Are you interested to memorize more of God’s Word? Check out the various resources we have available on Bible Memory Goal:
- Not sure where to start? Learn where to start with Bible memory here!
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- Want to listen to more interviews? We have amazing Scripture memory interviews here!
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