Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
Though quite the mouthful, Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization – A Mastery Learning Approach is aptly titled. If followed diligently, this program will indeed expand language fluency in both children and adults. I know this to be true because it has worked for our family.
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We first added Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization to our homeschool when our oldest child was in third grade. We had dabbled in poetry memorization, but mastery wasn’t on our radar until we heard Andrew Pudewa speak at a homeschool convention. In under an hour, Mr. Pudewa convinced me that my children were capable of memorizing and actually retaining dozens of poems, a feat I had not previously considered possible or necessary.
As of January 2021, our oldest child knows thirty-five poems by heart and is making steady progress on James Leigh Hunt’s The Glove and the Lions. His younger sister recently completed Level One and recited all twenty poems for our family. Our third child has had the benefit of hearing his older siblings practice their poems and is cruising through Level One much more quickly than we thought possible. Though not formally in the program yet, our youngest child already repeats lines from some of the simpler poems just for fun.
How the Program Works
The idea behind Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization is simple. Learn a poem by heart. Then add a new poem but continue reciting previously learned poems so that all poems remain in the brain. As the repertoire grows, recite older poems less frequently but still often enough to retain them in memory.
When learning a new poem, you can read the poem, listen to it, or combine both options. The CDs and MP3 audio files included with the program are indispensable as they provide correct pronunciation, tone, and rhythm. The audio version also makes it easier to learn through repetition.
How We Use the Program
With our oldest child, we did not begin Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization until the third grade because we didn’t know about it before that time. Although our younger children formally start poetry memorization when they can read independently, the reality is that they begin internalizing the poems at a much younger age just by hearing an older sibling’s daily practice.
Each of our children has a poetry folder that holds printouts from the student manual of all mastered poems in addition to the poem they are currently learning. They study these on school days, recite as much as they can of the new poem, and then recite some of the poems they already know.
Contrary to the recommendation in the program, my children don’t practice all mastered poems from their current level each day. However, they do recite all mastered poems one to two times a week in addition to working on the poem they are currently learning. We practice the current poem first, recite a selection of mastered poems, and then repeat the current poem.
Why We Recommend Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization
Even though our children are only in the first two levels of Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization, the benefits have been substantial. These poems have become a shared treasury for our family, they have brought a familiarity to poets whose names we otherwise wouldn’t remember, and they have naturally expanded our vocabularies.
A Shared Treasury
Because we homeschool our children, they have a shared treasury of favorite homeschool books and resources. Thanks to our literature-based curriculum, our shelves are packed with novels that they remember affectionately each time I to reread them to a younger sibling. The poems in this program have become another shared treasury for our children.
Poets Become Familiar Favorites
Thanks to the curated list of poetry in this program, many of the authors have now become familiar favorites. When reading other poetry books during our homeschool day, our ears readily perk up when we hear the names of some of our favorite poets like Lewis Carol, Robert Louis Stevenson, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and Christina Rossetti. We’re more apt to listen intently to their other works because we now think of them as friends.
Vocabulary Expands Naturally
A natural consequence of memorizing poetry is an expanded vocabulary. After completing Level One of the program, my kids can understand many new words simply by memorizing them in the context in which they are used. From the poems in Level One, my children now know and understand these words: commend, ingenious, notion, arrant, induced, relinquished, implore, voyage, penance, plague, persevere, crag, azure, lyric, and opportune. Since each level includes poems of increasing complexity, their vocabularies and ability to use these words in the proper context will continue to expand.
You can’t get something out of a child’s brain that isn’t there to begin with.Andrew Pudewa, founder of the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW)
Without Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization, we would still be memorizing poetry sparingly and with no expectation of retaining any of it for the long term. Instead, we have set the standard high, and our children are rising to the occasion.
Frequently Asked Questions
To quote Andrew Pudewa, who is the founder of the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW), the short answer is this: “You can’t get something out of a child’s brain that isn’t there to begin with.”
For Andrew Pudewa’s long answer, refer to the Introduction in the Teacher’s Manual. You can view this introduction by clicking on the Samples tab of the Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization product page. The introduction includes the prerequisites for effective communication and answers the questions “Why Memorization?” and “Why Poetry?”
There are eighty poems in levels one through four and twenty speeches in level five. The last poem or speech in each level is a personal selection to allow for customization of the program.
You can find the entire list of poems and speeches in the Samples tab of the Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization product page. Select the “LDP Poem/Speech List Sample.pdf” file.
“Poems in this program were chosen with several criteria: humor and enjoyment, vocabulary and linguistic quality, classic and cultural literacy, character and message.” – from the Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization Teacher’s Manual (p. 16)
This is the recommendation. Although many of the poems in Level One are simpler, they are entertaining and clever. There are also some lengthy poems in this level like My Shadow and Godfrey Gordon Gustavus Gore. Completing Level One will build confidence and endurance for some of the longer poems in Level Two like The Spider and the Fly.
The program recommends practicing multiple times a day and repeating this process daily. For Level One, in addition to learning the current poem, all previously learned poems should be recited daily. Upon graduating to Level 2, all mastered Level 2 poems are recited daily in addition to alternating half of the Level One poems every other day. For higher levels, the poems are further broken down so that older poems are practiced less frequently but are not forgotten.
In our household we use a more relaxed schedule. We practice on a regular basis during school days, but we don’t include weekends. We also haven’t maintained the program over summer breaks yet, but I hope to practice more in future summers. The great thing is that even with the long summer break, the kids have still remembered the poems that they mastered up to that point.
You have the flexibility to find the schedule that works best for your circumstance. This program does take time, but consistent practice truly does make perfect.
This is up to you. Just make sure that the current poem is completely mastered before moving on to the next one. For my kids, I have them spend a minimum of a week on a simple poem just to make sure they know it by heart before moving on to the next poem. I allow them to learn the poems at their pace rather than trying to force a time limit for memorization.
Yes, you may substitute a poem or speech at any time to fit your needs. Just don’t tell my kids that, or they’ll be begging to throw out the difficult ones.
Memorizing poetry intrinsically creates a great sense of achievement, but long or difficult poems can certainly be discouraging. My oldest child balked at the length and complexity of The Spider and the Fly. Even after he mastered it, he dreaded the days when he had to recite it. He would grumble before he even began the poem. The funny thing is that he knows it so well that he often completes it without even realizing it.
An additional encouragement that we recently added to our program is a simple reward of quarters for completed poems. We add up the number of stanzas to find the total value of the poem. Thus a poem with five stanzas is worth $1.25 when mastered. This inexpensive reward has motivated our children to learn their poems more diligently.
We also hold a simple recital at the end of a level, present a certificate of completion, and celebrate the accomplishment.
There is no prescribed time limit to complete the program. The poems vary greatly in complexity and length. The levels in this program do not equate to any specific length of time. You or your child should work at your own pace.
For our family, my hope is that my children will complete all five levels by the time they graduate high school. No matter how many levels they complete, they will walk away with a great sense of accomplishment, a vast repertoire of poetry, and a brain filled with “reliably correct and sophisticated English.”
To learn more about sources of reliably correct and sophisticated English, listen to Andrew Pudewa’s talk titled Nurturing Competent Communicators. The DVD version comes with the purchase of Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization.
Absolutely not. The poems and speeches in this program are suitable for anyone. Each level includes material that is increasingly more complex. Young children won’t be ready for the higher levels right away, but they will be by the time they have completed the previous levels. Adults will find plenty of challenge in this program as well.
The back of the teacher’s manual states that Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization is appropriate for students two years of age through the twelfth grade. How can a child as young as two years of age learn poetry? The answer is audibly. You can either recite the poems aloud with your children each day, or you can play the CDs that come with the program.
As an adult who is benefiting from this program just by listening to my children practice each day, I would argue that this program has no age limit.
(1) A spiral-bound teacher’s manual that includes five levels of poems and speeches, a memorization plan and schedule, an appendix with brief author biographies, and an appendix with optional lesson enhancements for each poem.
(2) Nurturing Competent Communicators on DVD
(3) Five CDs with audio recordings of the poems and speeches in the program
(1) Student manual in PDF format.
An optional spiral-bound student manual is also available.
(2) MP3 files for each recorded poem and speech
(3) The following seven audio MP3s
* Nurturing Competent Communicators
* Mastery Learning, Ability Development, and Individualized Education
* Ten Thousand Times and Then Begins Understanding
* On Listening
* On Speaking
* On Reading
* On Writing
Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization is a challenging program that sets the standard high. With diligence and perseverance our children have risen to the occasion. Without this program to guide us, I wouldn’t have believed that any children, let alone my own, could accomplish so much.