Over the last year, I’ve mentioned that part of Ella’s homeschool schedule is memorizing poetry.
A few people have asked for more details on the hows and whys, and since April is National Poetry Month, I figured now would be the time to do so.
why i teach my kids poetry
I grew up memorizing poems.
I can still recite the entire The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear, a skill that has come in handy more than . . . okay, actually never. I memorized all 17 stanzas of The Highway Man when I was in elementary school, and if you’re familiar with the classic Anne of Green Gables movie, you’ll recognize it as the poem she recites and Gilbert gives her a standing ovation at the end (and now I need to go watch the whole thing again).
I also memorized all 300+ lines of The Pied Piper of Hamelin, and countless other shorter poems – some famous and some not.
So, of course, it just seemed natural to me that I would add short poems to memorize as part of our curriculum when we started homeschooling.
I hadn’t memorized much of anything in the last decade or two, but then when Ella started it up, I began memorizing poems with her and I’d forgotten how much I loved it.
It feels really good to stretch my brain a little bit, and I loved having the language of these lovely poems rolling around in my brain while I did mindless tasks.
I’ve also found that when I memorize a poem, I feel much more connected to that poet – after memorizing Daffodils by William Wordsworth when I was five or six, I’ve always loved his poetry.
Each week, we pick a new poem (unless it’s a little longer, in which case we do two weeks). We usually pick something from National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar! or Poems to Learn by Heart. We switch back and forth between who picks – I tend to choose ones written by famous poets and Ella likes the funny, short poems the best.
how to memorize a poem
Each day we learn a few lines or a stanza, depending on the rhythm and meter of the poem, and we recite it four or five times until we have it down. She’ll recite it once or twice, then she’ll look at the book while I take a turn and she’ll correct me if any words are wrong. When I was child, I remember my dad writing the poem on the whiteboard and then erasing a few words each time until I could say the whole thing with nothing written on the board.
It’s an easy way to introduce different kinds of poetry and styles and poets, and I love the rich vocabulary she learns because of it.
To my surprise, Ani picks up most of the poems too. After Ella recited The Pasture by Robert Frost to me one week, Ani asked if she could recite to too. I said yes, assuming she’d make it through one line, maybe two. And then she rattled off the entire thing with only one tiny misstep, and I just about died of the cuteness.
Maybe Star has them memorized too, but since she doesn’t speak yet, I guess I’ll never know.
And I couldn’t help but make a little video of Ella reciting a few of them.
If you have favorite poems or tips for helping your child memorize poetry, I’d love for you to share them!