With the Books by Heart podcast, each episode not only teaches a new verse, but also includes the most recent verses you’ve learned. Every day, you learn a new verse, and review the previous verses you’ve learned.
How many previous verses? For now, each episode reviews 20 previous verses. (I may experiment with a different number eventually.) This means that you recite each verse every day for 21 days.
Why Learn a Verse for 21 Days?
Why so many initial recitations? As we know from spaced repetition, the key to long-term memory is to repeat something many times in that narrow window of time when you first learn it.
If we were trying to be as “efficient” as possible, we wouldn’t say each new verse every day over twenty-one days. Instead, we’d use a more complicated schedule. But since we’d still be saying each verse many times over that period, I’ve decided it’s simpler to just say it every day.
Plus, this way, you say a large chunk of the story, in context, one verse after another, every day. Saying the whole story like this creates a much stronger, more coherent, memory than if we split off each verse into an independent flashcard.
However, even after twenty-one days of reciting, you’ll still need to renew these memories in the future. Here’s how.
After Those First Three Weeks
Again, you have a choice between an efficient, though complex, schedule of repetitions, or else a simpler schedule where you recite a little more often than you probably need to.
For now, let’s keep it simple.
- On the day you begin to learn the last verse, you should recite the whole chapter from the beginning. This ensures that you don’t forget the earlier verses in the time it takes you to learn the later verses in the chapter.
(If you’re following one of my books, like Easter by Heart, you can skip this step. In the books, I have you recite the entire chapter every day until you learn the last verse. Without the podcast, saying the entire chapter each day is simpler.)
After you complete the final, twenty-first recitation of the last verse in the chapter, get out your calendar. About two weeks from today, write a reminder to say the entire chapter. For instance, if you’re learning the 20th chapter of John, write “Jn 20”.
Then, pick a day to recite the chapter every month. Write these on your calendar for the next year.
If you ever do one of these recitations and find that you stumble, simply check the text, and repeat the whole chapter every day until you’re confident again. When you’ve polished this memory, you can stop reciting it until your next monthly recitation.
After a year, you can probably say the chapter every three months. After that, once or twice a year should be enough. The key is to make these “appointments” on your calendar so you don’t miss them.
When a Podcast “Album” Ends
Here’s an important side note. If you’re following the podcast, you’ll notice that I sometimes group multiple chapters into “albums”. In the Gospel of John, Chapters 20 and 21 make up the Resurrection stories, so they’re together in an album. When you begin a new chapter, if this chapter is within the same “album”, you’ll continue to hear verses from the previous chapter over the following days.
However, if the next chapter begins a new “album”, from some other place in the Bible or another book entirely, I won’t include the previous verses in the podcast. I want people to be able to start with a particular “album” anywhere in the podcast, so each new album needs a clean beginning.
In that case, you’ll need to keep reviewing the final 21 verses you’ve learned on your own. The podcast episodes won’t help you do this. If you like, you can keep listening to the last episode of the previous album each day. But you might find that you don’t really need this. Just make sure to continue reviewing those last verses for another three weeks.
What Is a “Chapter”?
Let’s clarify what I mean by a “chapter”. A chapter is a block of thirty or forty verses. In the Bible, this usually corresponds to an actual Biblical chapter. But if the chapter is really long, like the 72 verses of Mark 14, I divide it into two halves, at a natural break between two stories.
For other works, thirty or forty verses will often give you a “canto” or other natural chunk of story. Plus, this is a reasonably-sized chunk to say at once, in five minutes or so.
The Daily Chapter Habit
Eventually, you’ll learn enough chapters that you can make a simple habit of reviewing one or two chapters every morning. But I’ll save that for another post.
And if you’re curious about maximum efficiency, you can learn more about spaced repetition.