Poetry Memorization

One of our favorite poets, Alfred Lord Tennyson, is honored today, born AUGUST 6, 1809. 

We memorize this rousing poem in 6th grade with the Mother of Divine Grace curriculum. This poem works well for a boy as it tells a true story...it sticks with them. Recounting the courage of the British Cavalry in The Charge of the Light Brigade as they rode to their deaths fighting in Russia, he was honored by Queen Victoria as Poet-Laureate. 

Tennyson wrote: "Cast all your cares on God; that anchor holds."

One of the ways we found effective in aiding memorization was posting the work on the mirror in the children's bathroom. One son recounts that he still brushes his teeth to the first stanza of this poem.

Another tip, we play a few Youtubes, where possible, of the poetry selection to be memorized so that the children can hear the cadence and inflection of the poem recited. It helps them in their recitation and understanding.

Poetry recitation is an important part of Classical Education. It exercises the mind and makes it limber. We have found that just 5 minutes with the material each day...turn the timer on, just 5...brings incredible progress each day.

"Also, poetry appeals to the emotions, as does music, and like music, beautiful and rightly ordered poetry can habituate or train the soul to the right kind of internal movement. Familiarity with truly good poetry will encourage children to love the good, to hope for its victory, and to feel sad at its demise. The opposite habituation is very clear to see in children who watch or read stories in which the grotesque is taken for granted. They cease to be shocked by what is really disgusting. That is a great loss to the soul."   - Laura M. Berquist (The Harp and Laurel Wreath, 1999, p. 9)

There are many good arguments to teach your children poetry. Read this article, Why I Force My Students to Memorize Poetry Despite the Fact that it Won't Be on the Standardized Test. And from In Defense of Memorization, "John Henry Newman called this close study of language “a discipline in accuracy of mind,” a “first step in intellectual training” that impresses on young minds notions of “method, order, principle, and system; of rule and exception, of richness and harmony.” And of course memorization is a kind of exercise that strengthens the powers of the mind, just as physical exercise strengthens those of the body." In her newest picture book anthology, Forget-Me-Nots: Poems to Learn by Heartformer Children’s Poet Laureate Mary Ann Hoberman says,  When you learn a poem by heart, it becomes a part of you, you know it in your mind, in your mouth, in your ears, in your whole body. And best of all, you know it forever.” 


It is a delight to have  poetry become a part of your family traditions. And it does come back to you. My mother was having lunch with 2 of my children's great Aunts and sharing with them how she was enjoying being involved in teaching my daughter The Owl and the Pussycat....at which point the 2 women, more than half a century older than my daughter, broke out into recitation of that Edward Lear classic.

One other note on memorization, don't miss out on memorizing Scripture and Indulgenced prayers for the reasons above but also compounded by the graces to be received!


Jenny said...

This is a great post Allison about memorization. We have fallen off the memorization wagon and this post gives me the encouragement to hop back on.

Your children are very blessed to have you as their homeschooling mom.

Nancy Shuman said...

Love this post! My homeschooled granddaughter is now very into rhyming, and I (a LOVER of poetry), am delighted. I can't sing a note, so I recite poetry to the grandchildren as "lullabies"... the Owl and the Pussycat being one of my all time favorites.

Kelly M. said...

Great post! As much as I love the idea of poetry memorization, it's never been something we've incorporated into our school day. I'm hoping to change that this year and I like your idea of using YouTube. I also see there are many CDs out there aimed at helping kids memorize dates, scripture, poetry, etc; have you ever used any of these? I was thinking of using one, just recording all our memory work myself so my kids could listen to it over and over.

Allison said...

Jenny, thank you for that. I rarely live up to it but it makes me want to strive to.

Nancy, the cadence of a poem can be melodical, too. I love the image you you reciting to your grandbabies. Whenever they read that poem, they will hear your voice....

Kelly, the greatest part of it is that it takes only 5 minutes. But you also reminded me of another tip. Yes, I do record some of the younger ones memory work. My daughter has a sony walkman and when she was in K and 1st, before being a good enough reader, I would read her poems into it. First, I read the whole poem. Then I would read a line out loud and them pause and slowly whisper it again so that she could repeat it with me. She learned her poems SO FAST that way!

Also, I did buy some poetry on CD. One called Great Poets of the ROmantic Age that we keep in the car to listen to and one that came with a John Lithgow book and celebrities read thepoems. There's also the one called Poetry Speaks which includes CDs. I do think you understand nuances of a poem, like never before, when you hear it recited by a professional....

Thanks for commenting!

Mary said...

Thank you for so many good ideas! You make me think that I'd like to do more memorization. Your five minute rule, note in the bathroom, and CD idea give me courage to try more of this for next year's school work!

We've done something like this throughout the years recording the children's prayers and catechism answers, but they're getting beyond the years for this and we practice the new prayers during the year that the youngest is first using them - we learned that with the St. Andrew Novena. My younger sons are in line for learning the Latin for Mass this summer, so that will be a natural start.

Thank you for a recharging post!

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