Institute for Excellence in Writing offers some wonderful products, so I am always happy to try something new from IEW. For the past month or so, Emily has been working on Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization, which is, as the title indicates, a program for memorizing poetry. The program is useful for all ages, even non-readers, and includes several components:
- The Teacher’s Manual explains the benefits of memorization, which include developing confidence, strengthening the mind (including building new neurological pathways), and improving the ability to learn and memorize from any content area. The Teacher’s Manual explains how to implement the program and includes 96 poems and speech to memorize, divided into five levels. It also includes explanatory notes or definitions in the margins of many of the selections, short poet biographies, and optional lesson enhancements. Purchase of the Teacher’s Manual includes download links for audio MP3’s of seven of Pudewa’s talks and the e-book version of the Student Book.
- The Student Book includes the same selections of poetry. Each poem is on a separate page, many with illustrations. Each level has a chart for keeping track of progress and practice sessions. The Student Book is available spiral-bound as a separate purchase, or may be downloaded free with the purchase of the teacher’s guide. (We were given the spiral bound guide for this review, so it was wonderful not to have to print it out!)
- The CD/DVD Set includes 6 discs: 5 CD’s with the poems read aloud by Andrew Pudewa and one DVD with a talk on “Nurturing Competent Communicators.”
Until this year, Emily had done almost no memorization. She has always been rather uncooperative about doing so and I haven’t pushed it. Several months ago, she realized that she could memorize, and could do it very easily and has been learning whole chapters of scripture. I knew that the Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization program would be enjoyable for her and take advantage of her current interest in memory work.
First, I watched the included DVD, “Nurturing Competent Communicators,” which gave me a lot of motivation to incorporate memory work into our lives. This is a talk given by Andrew Pudewa, that explains the importance of good literature to the development of communication skills, including writing. He explains that memorizing good literature, especially poetry, improves focus, helps with building brain connections, improves writing skills, and has many more connections to other learning areas.
We have listened to the first cd several times to become familiar with the poems from Level 1. Later, when I read them, I can “hear” Pudewa’s voice and intonation when I read each poem! The first day, Emily memorized the first two poems, “Ooey Gooey” and “Celery.” On subsequent days, she skimmed through the poems she had already memorized and studied a new one for about 3-5 minutes. Then she would recite each of the poems that she has memorized thus far. She has already almost completed Level 1. When she starts Level 2, in addition to reciting the Level 2 poems, she will practice the odd numbered Level 1 poems on odd days and the even numbered Level 1 poems on even days. Through Levels 3, 4, and 5, she will continue to practice the poems from earlier levels occasionally to keep them fresh. Each level includes a chart to direct this practice.
The poems for Level One are all poems that would appeal to young children. They are fairly short, easy to understand, and most are funny and rhyme. They are all older poems, so many are familiar, such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Swing,” and “My Shadow.” Others are new favorites for me, such as “The Yak,” by Hilaire Belloc.
As a friend to the children, commend me the Yak;
You will find it exactly the think;
It will carry and fetch, you can ride on its back,
Or lead it about with a string.
The Tartar who dwells on the plains of Tibet
(A desolate region of snow),
Has for centuries made it a nursery pet,
And surely the Tartar should know!
Then tell your papa where the Yak can be got,
And if he is awfully rich,
He will buy you the creature—or else he will not
(I cannot be positive which).
Level 1 is a great warm-up for any age because the poems are simple. As the levels progress, the poems become longer and more difficult and will appeal more to older children. Level 4 includes selections like “The Tiger,” by William Blake, “The Quality of Mercy” from The Merchant of Venice, by William Shakespeare, and “Lockinvar,” by Sir Walter Scott. I am looking forward to Emily reaching the higher levels and at the rate she is progressing, it won’t be long. A younger student would be expected to take several years to complete memorization of all 96 poems and speeches.
We have used Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization solely for memorization. Because Emily is memorizing the poems so quickly and because we otherwise have a very full schedule, that works well for us. For families who want to spend more time with each poem, the Lesson Enhancements in the Appendix include instruction on literary and poetic devices, additional literature tie-ins (such as Treasure Island to go with Robert Louis Stevenson’s poems, or At the Back of the North Wind to go with Rosetti’s “Who Has Seen the Wind?” Map, art and science activities are suggested for some poems. I think we’ll be likely to use more of this resource when we get to the more difficult poems.
Emily has enjoyed using Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization and I have seen significant results in only 5-10 minutes a day. Although the program is quite simple (and is easy to just pick up and do), having the sequence of poems laid out for us with a practice chart ensures that poetry memorization actually happens! I wish we had discovered the program years ago.
I’m adding this program to my list of IEW programs that I love! If you’d like to read more reviews, visit the crew blog.