How To Memorize Poetry With Children 

I didn’t like to admit it but I always hated poetry.  My brain would turn off at the mere mention of it.  I didn’t want to hear it and I certainly didn’t want to write it when I was forced to in school. When I began homeschooling my children I didn’t want to pass on my distaste for poetry so I made myself read it to them. I still hated it.

It wasn’t until I started memorizing poetry that I began to really like it and now I honestly love it. Absolutely love it. Obsess about the music of the words love it.

Drowned suns that glimmer there through cloud-disheveled air.

Or

Nothing but should address, the souls loneliness, speaking her sweet and secret native tongue.

Mmmm. Magic.

Memorizing poetry has been a pet hobby of mine for several years now.  It’s one of my projects that I work on no matter what. When chaos is reining down upon us we still work on our poems.

We memorize because I’m so dumb and I would like my brain to work a little better.  Also because I would like to give my children all the advantages I can offer them in life and this is an easy one.  Memorizing is near the top of my list for developing the brain and we specifically memorize poetry because it is so beautiful and useful.

Poetry answers so many questions in life and inspires us to be better people. It is also entertaining.  When we’re driving in the car or going for a walk or even waiting our turn to get our hair combed and people are bored or frustrated I can begin reciting a poem and my children will usually calm down and say it with me.  Or is it me that is calming down?

Either way it works.

We have been memorizing for years but it’s only been the last couple years that I have really gotten serious about it and I have learned a few tricks that I thought I would share. I’ve been working on this post for a year now so here you go.

Listen

The most important step is to listen. Before you ever start memorizing a poem, read it every day for at least a week to get familiar with it.

Do It Together

We all memorize the same poems. As the older children are learning their poems the littles hear them so often that by the time they begin learning it they’ve heard it hundreds of times. The big kids do all the work and the littles get all the reward.

Most of us learn two new lines at a time. Some of us learn four. And some of us love poetry so much that we scribble down all our favorite poems and memorize them in our free time.  Some of us are even writing our own poems. Such happiness this gives me as a mother.

Don’t Force It

I don’t make anyone memorize anything.  Anyone that doesn’t want to say a poem is welcome to listen quietly. They can sit with us and crochet or play with a toy but I find that they all love the memorizing and no one ever complains about doing it.

Daily Practice

If you really want to get good at something it must be done every day.  Not every other day.  Not week days.  Every day.

Of course we don’t practice our poems every day without fail but I can definitely tell a difference when we do.  We learn so much more and forget so much less when we say them every single day.

The trick to saying them every day is to say them at the same time every day.  For years we always said them at night as part of our evening activity.  It worked because we’re all together and everyone is tired and ready to relax.  Lately though we have been memorizing our poems in the morning along with the rest of our studies.  Probably because my littles are getting older and they have longer attention spans now.  Mornings definitely work better for my brain.

I have a picture of all our poems on my phone so if we are away from home we can still work on them.

Recently I started using a picture of my current poem as the wall paper on my phone so I see it every time I turn my phone on.  That’s been a good reminder to practice it throughout the day when I have a couple free seconds.

Poetry Binder

I type up each poem on a single sheet of paper so it’s easy to see and I put it in a page protector.  They are organized from easy to difficult so that all the children can begin reciting with us and sit and listen when we get to the poems they don’t know. Listening is just as important as reciting so no is wasting their time when we work on poems.

I write each person’s name on a sticky note and keep it on the poem and line they are working on so I can keep track of where everyone is.

Daily Review

We spend a fraction of our time learning new poems and most of our time reviewing old poems.  The review is the most important part.  If you’re not reviewing old poems you don’t know them.  I know over 400 lines of poetry word for word because I say them every day.  Even poems that I memorized years ago.  It’s amazing how fast we forget and start making mistakes if we go a few days without practice.

I have read about different systems for review but they were all too complicated for me so I will tell you what we do that is simple and easy.

Every day each person says the poem they are currently learning.  Once they have it memorized perfectly they get to put their sticker on it.  Each person in the family has their own stickers so we all know which poems we have passed off.  Someone has owls, dogs, sea creatures, bugs, etc.

I have put smilie face stickers in four different colors on each of the poems and every day we say a different color for our review.  One day we will say all the blue poems and the next day all the green poems.  We end up saying or hearing about a dozen poems a day and we get through our entire collection every four days.

Now for my fabulous super secret memorizing tip.

Speed

If you can say something at breakneck speeds then you really know it.  If you can’t, you don’t.

We started off timing each other as we said the poems which made memorizing even more fun and exciting.  I know you don’t believe me.  Memorizing. Poems. Fun. Exciting.  True story.

We timed each other for a long time and then I discovered the art of clapping.  We play clapping games while we say the poems which also helps teach us coordination and rhythm. This is my all time favorite way to practice but some of my children got sick of it and won’t do it with me anymore so now I have to sit and clap with myself.  Sad.

Really Really Like It

Seriously. If you decide to memorize a poem you’d better like it enough to hear it every day for. the. rest. of. your. life. You might think My Shadow by Robert Louis Stevenson is cute but it’s not a poem you want your children to memorize. Trust me.

Poetry Journals

Our poetry journals are the icing on the cake. Everyone has their own journal with all of their poems written in it in the most beautiful handwriting we can manage.  They are an invaluable treasure.

Poets

I just ordered some new poetry books because we are on the hunt for our next perfect poem to memorize. Not only do we memorize poetry but I have my children read poetry every day as part of their studies.

Robert Frost and Percy Bysshe Shelly

Or you could try Shakespeare

Or Robert Louis Stevenson for young children

Or…

William Blake

William Wordsworth

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

John Donne

T.S. Eliot

Walt Whitman

Wallace Stevens

Emily Dickinson

Anne Bradstreet

H.D.

Sylvia Plath

Ezra Pound

Lord Byron

Tennyson

Yeats

John Keats

Robert Burns

Elizabeth Bishop

Alexander Pope

Go for it.

2 thoughts on “How To Memorize Poetry With Children 

  1. Dearwyn

    Love love loved the blog. What beautiful ideas! Poetic words and music flow and describe in a way nothing else seems to.They fill the soul like flowers, mountains, flowing water and waves, dear creatures that we share the planet with, and of course good, kind people. I felt the same way as you originally did about poetry and then read the Robert Frost poem, “Stopping by Woods On a Snowy Evening”. I love snow and horses and pine trees and frozen lakes, but even more I feel the words, “I have promises to keep
    and miles to go before I sleep.”
    Yes our souls are touched and you have inspired us to bring more of it into our lives. Thank you once again!

    Reply
  2. Margie

    This year my students are studying some of T.S. Eliot and Walter de la Mare. It is a wonderful thing to have them as part of my own mind as well! The Scribe by Walter de la Mare is a favorite for sure!!

    Reply

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