As a kid, I remember memorizing poems and famous speeches regularly when I was in school. To this day I can still recite the Gettysburg Address. I believe there are many benefits to memorization, including building vocabulary and language skills and strengthening brain processes. While it is easy to hunt down different resources to memorize, it would be much easier to have them at my fingertips already, so I was really excited to check out Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization from Institute for Excellence in Writing.
This program includes a Teacher’s Manual and five audio CDs with recordings of the poems you can use to help your kids learn how to recite them with the appropriate pacing and inflection. It also includes a bonus DVD featuring Andrew Pudewa giving a presentation on communication at a conference. You can also purchase an optional student book that contains printed copies of all of the poems, or you can print them from the e-book download that comes with the program. Additional MP3 downloads include several other lectures from Pudewa.
The book is divided into five different levels, and no matter what age your child is, everyone starts at level one. The poems in the first level vary from short, four-line poems, to longer four-stanza poems. Some of them are by familiar authors, like Robert Louis Stevenson, but there were some that I had never seen before. Older students, like my son, will probably progress more quickly through this level, memorizing two or more poems per week, while younger students may work on one poem per week.
The Teacher’s Manual does a really good job of explaining the theory behind the program and explaining the mastery learning approach. Basically, the child memorizes each poem until they can recite it correctly without any hesitation. Since my son is an upper middle school/beginning high schooler, I also like to focus on pace and inflection too. This is where the CDs come in really handy, because the poems are recited expressively in a way kids can mimic in their own recitations. My son also found having a printed student book really handy, because it allowed him to practice the poems with the words right in front in him at first, and personally, ink is expensive, I would rather have a pre-printed product if it is reasonably priced.
All of the poems are listed at the beginning of each section, and you are given the option of choosing your own poem to memorize at the end of each level, with suggestions listed for you. The Teacher’s Edition also gives you a method for how to teach the poems, including a schedule for practicing old poems throughout the program. In the student edition, there is a handy checklist that allows you to track progress for each section too.
As students progress through the levels, they move on to memorizing more difficult work including historical speeches in level 5. We aren’t there yet, but I am really excited about this part because of all the history tie-ins. I also like to study the authors as we come across unfamiliar names (the appendix in the student pages includes short biographies of all the authors) and work through unfamiliar words and vocabulary as my son memorizes his poems.
Basically, we start with our poem first thing in the morning, because it only takes a few minutes. If we are learning a new poem, my son gets the book and puts on the CD. First, he listens to the CD and follows along with the words silently a few times, just to hear all the words and get the pacing down. Then, he reads the poem out loud with the CD. After that we put it away and go on with other work. Periodically throughout the day, he will grab the poetry book and practice the poem. We go on like this for a few days until he feels comfortable trying the poem without the book. Also, each time we practice we also review the previous poems scheduled for that day. All in all, we spend about 10 minutes working on this throughout the day, maybe three or four times total. But I will tell you, I often overhear my son repeating his poem to himself in his room, or in the kitchen, or in the bathroom!
I can honestly say, he is having a lot of fun with this, and I can already see the value in it. As he memorizes longer and longer works, his confidence in himself grows. I think this will make him more comfortable with public speaking in the future and I definitely think he is learning some vocabulary and grammar skills! To learn more about this program, connect with IEW on social media here:
To see what other members of the crew had to say about this program, click here: