Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization {a Schoolhouse Review Crew review}

Last year, I heard that Institute for Excellence in Writing was going to be revising their amazing Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization, and that they were wanting the Crew to review it.  That was very exciting news, as this was already a fantastic program. 

I couldn't want to see what changes had been made, as this is a program I had purchased and used in the past.  The changes are great.

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization  IEW Review
The big question with this program for many would be, "With all the real school we need to do, why waste time memorizing poetry?"

That is a good question.

Included in this set are three ways to answer the question.  My favorite is the DVD of Andrew Pudewa's "Nurturing Competent Communicators" presentation, but there is also written information in the Teacher's Manual, and one of the seven mp3 workshop downloads is a different presentation of "Nurturing Competent Communicators."

I always enjoy watching him speak, and "Nurturing Competent Communicators" is my favorite.  I have stated numerous times over the past decade that this is a presentation every parent needs to see or hear.  Regularly.

The basic idea is that you can't get something out of a child's brain that hasn't been put in there.  You want a child to speak Chinese, you need to put Chinese in their brain.  You want them to write coherently, using something resembling decent grammar and sentence structure?  Then you need to be putting some "reliably correct and sophisticated English" into their brain somehow.

How do kids acquire language patterns today?  The top sources would be television and other media, which doesn't tend to be a great source.  I'll leave it at that.  Another top source would be same-age peers, also not a great way to obtain sophisticated English.  Interaction with parents and other "busy adults" ought to be a good source, but like Andrew said, how much of my day-to-day interaction with my children is filled with such great statements like, "Seriously, you lost the book AGAIN?  And you have worn that shirt every day for THREE weeks!  It could stand by itself now.  Change.  And take a shower.  With soap.  I mean it."

Reading ought to be a good source of great language, but most good readers read fast, and they aren't internalizing the sentence structure or the vocabulary.

So what does that leave?  Andrew recommends, "Read out loud.  Read out loud to children in huge quantity." That is something I strive to do, and fail at too often.  Audiobooks are another recommendation.  I have to add that in the DVD presentation, he recommended the book Laddie by Gene Stratton-Porter.  We started doing this as a family read-aloud, and everyone is loving it.

The other big thing he recommends is to memorize poetry, and to keep repeating it so they never forget it.  You certainly can do that on your own... or if you just don't need one more thing to think about, purchasing this program is an incredible way to get started.

Okay, enough about the theory.  How does this program work?

IEW has created four levels, containing 19 poems each.  The 20th slot for each level is reserved for you (or your student) to choose a poem to memorize, and some great suggestions are given at each level.  A fifth level (new to this version) includes 20 speeches (or portions of speeches).

At each level, you have a CD of Andrew Pudewa reciting the poems.  You can also download the mp3 version of this, which is really convenient!  There is also a pdf Student Book (that you can print for each student in your household -- love, love, love IEW's generous copyright policies!) that includes the text of the poems/speeches, pictures suitable for coloring for each poem in levels 1-2 and some of the level 3-4 poems, tracking sheets, completion certificates for each level, and some background information for each speech.  You can see Trina working on the student page for the poem we just finished, At the Seaside by Robert Louis Stevenson.

The Teacher's Manual includes introductory material that talks about why you ought to memorize poetry.  Then you get into the actual poetry.  As you work through the poems, there are often notes about the poems.  For instance, our current poem is Rebecca, Who Slammed Doors for Fun and Perished Miserably by Hilaire Belloc.  There are notes in the teacher material explaining where Palace Green, Bayswater is, and explaining the expression, "Billy-Ho."  There is also a note about how this poem is illustrated in Cautionary Tales for Children by Belloc, and noting a link to the public domain book.

The Teacher's Manual also includes some Lesson Enhancements.  For Fog, the next poem we'll learn, there are suggestions to find examples of personification in the poem, to study Carl Sandburg, and to learn about fog.  Other poems in Level Two include suggestions for literature (read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland when learning Jabberwocky), music (watch a video of a specific Gilbert & Sullivan production when learning The Duke of Plaza-Toro), science, history (learn about the Crimean War while learning The Charge of the Light Brigade), government, etc. The lesson enhancements are completely optional, but I think it is very worthwhile to at least take a look at the literary devices and poetic elements sections, especially with older kids (upper elementary and up).

How are we using this?

We had memorized Level One quite some time ago.  Trina was two or three, so it has been at least seven years.  We started off by reviewing these nineteen poems, and I was truly surprised at how many of the poems Richard and Trina did remember.  We spent a day each on all but the last couple, and one of the longer ones in the middle.  Those we spent a couple days on.

We're now merrily working through Level Two.  We start off by doing the scheduled review, and then we listen to the poem a couple of times through, with me commenting on any of the notes from the Teacher's Manual.  We all recite it together a time or two, and we are done for the day.

The next day we review different poems, listen to the new one once, and recite it together a time or two.  I talk about some of the lit aspects from the lesson plan, we recite it as a group again, and we are done.

As the kids start being more confident with the poem, I have them recite it without the CD, and without me.  Usually someone is able to come up with the next words, even if not everyone knows them, and after a couple days, they are starting to sound pretty confident.  I have the words in front of me so that I can prompt them, if necessary.  But mostly I watch their faces to see how comfortable each of them seems to be.  Once it appears they all know it, I ask if they are ready to move on.  They are usually ready for the next one, and they do let me know.  If I have doubts, I will make them recite individually.  I'm also planning to do some of the other Lesson Enhancements, particularly with the elementary kids.

In Summary

I highly recommend this program.  The enhancements they've made in the new edition make it even better than it was before.  I am scheduling a task for myself to listen or watch Nurturing Competent Communicators at least once a month, as I know I need the inspiration.

A comment that Andrew made on the DVD about memorizing music really struck home, as I grew up with a piano teacher who said the same thing to me.  She didn't tell me to memorize the songs, she told me to "Learn it by heart."

I absolutely see the value in my children learning poetry by heart as well.  The rhythm, the vocabulary, the humor, the way the poets use language -- it gets into my kids.  Even the not-as-enthusiastic ones, as you can see in the video below:

I love that there is a combination of serious and light-hearted poems, short and long ones, and poetry with many different rhyming schemes, including no rhyming at all.  I love that there are over 50 poets represented in the 76 poems, plus a few more in the suggested poems for that #20 personal selection.

I didn't even talk about the speeches, since we didn't get that far, but I love those selections too.  We did start on the first one (Socrates' Apology, by Plato) as we are studying Plato right now.  The high school students are, anyway.  Not having the 4th and 6th graders do that.  There are some other perfect selections too, including the Gettysburg Address, Churchill's "We Shall Fight on the Beaches" speech, Reagan's Brandenburg Gate Speech, and some things that aren't exactly speeches, like the Preamble to the US Constitution.

After the twenty speeches (that are included in the CDs), there are another nearly-twenty speech suggestions, and over a dozen of Shakespeare's soliloquys. 

This is a program that you can use for years, and it is well worth using.

You can see what other Crew Members had to say by clicking the banner below:

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization  IEW Review

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1 comment:

purple squirrel said...

AH!!!! I LOVE this!!! :)
What a great job!
And.... Jonathan Bing was one of my very favorite poems when I was little... it was in a Book of Poems for the Very Young. I eventually found an abbreviated version of that book, but it didn't have Jonathan Bing in it! :(
Imagine my delight when I discovered a copy of the very book I had owned as a child at our library book sale last fall. Hurrah!!! :)

Well Done!!!! :D