Teaching Drama

9 Techniques for Students to Memorize Their Lines

9 Techniques for Students to Memorize Their Lines
Written by Kerry Hishon

Memorizing lines should happen as early and quickly as possible in the rehearsal process. The sooner your students get their scripts out of their hands, the easier it will be for them to get into their character’s movements and gestures and gain a deeper understanding of them and the show as a whole. It’s important that students really understand what they’re saying and why they’re saying it, but it’s also important for them to memorize their lines as they are written in the script — paraphrasing isn’t cool.

The following techniques include a variety of learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic. Have students try different techniques to see what works best for them. 

1. The tried-and-true basic technique — have a friend or family member read out your cue lines and recite your lines out loud back to them. You could even have a “learning lines party” and get together with your fellow castmates to practice as a group. Memorizing and bonding at the same time — bonus!

2. Copy out your lines, by hand, on paper. Then try writing them out from memory. Go back to your script and make a note (circle or underline) of any missed words or phrases. If writing by hand isn’t your forte, type out your lines on a computer or phone. You could even text your lines back and forth with your scene partner, or start a group chat with your castmates devoted to practicing your lines.

3. Write out the first letter of each line onto a separate piece of paper. For example, if your line is “Let’s get something to drink,” write L G S T D. Read the paper and say your actual line out loud to fit the letters. This ensures that you’re saying the correct line and not paraphrasing.

4. Write your cue line on an index card, with your line on the other side of the card. Have a friend or family member quiz you. If you want to be extra organized, write the Act and Scene number the line is from on the top right corner of each card. You also might want to punch a hole in the top left corner and put the cards on a ring so they stay in the correct order.

5. Draw a comic strip of your lines, either in the margin of your script next to the line or on a separate piece of paper. For example, if your line is “Let’s get something to drink,” you might draw a stick figure walking into the saloon and ordering a drink.

6. Record yourself saying your lines with a recording device (for example, iPhones have a voice memos app) and listen to them while doing other things, like going for a walk. Say your lines out loud at the same time and try to match your recording.

7. Record yourself saying your CUE lines and leave blank spaces for you to say your lines out loud in between them.

8. Stand up and move while you read your script, rather than sitting or lying down passively. Even better — practice your blocking and use the vocal intonations as you’ve been directed. This helps your muscle memory get stronger.

9. Write your lines on Post-it notes and stick them to your mirror so you can read them while you brush your teeth or fix your hair. Stick them up in your locker. If you want to go further, use colour-coded Post-it notes for different acts or scenes.

Click here for a free printable tip sheet.

Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage combatant from London, Ontario, Canada. She blogs at www.kerryhishon.com.

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About the author

Kerry Hishon

Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage combatant from London, Ontario, Canada. View her blog at www.kerryhishon.com.