Memorizing poetry: It’s a good thing to do, but where in your already full schedule can you add it? Bethany shares how she takes advantage of little moments throughout the day to build students’ awareness of poetry without creating burdensome assignments, and how she capitalizes on the opportunities for teaching expressive reading.
The other day, I heard one of my students out on the softball field. He was kind of repeating lines from the poem we had just said.
Recently, I read an article about poetry memorization. Last year, I had read poetry some to them so I thought about how I could use it more in my classroom this year. I started out with thinking about the importance of reading poetry to my students and modeling it being read well.
Well, it doesn’t work well when you have a poem and you say, “All right, everyone. I want you to memorize this poem,” and you hand out copies of the poem. Students are typically more or less excited about sitting down and memorize the poem. Like, “I have homework tonight. I have to sit down and memorize this piece of poetry.”
So the way I do it in my classroom is I find a poem that I would like to have my students memorize and I hang it from my classroom door. During transition times, I will say a line of the poem and they repeat it after me. What I find is that they typically will respond in the same way that I have said that line. They’re using my voice inflections, expressions, and so forth, which they enjoy because they get to say it like they’re crying or say it loudly, and it’s a part of doing it together. I would think about it as an”I say, you say,” type of thing.
The poem that we’re working on this month is called How The Leaves Came Down by Susan Coolidge. It’s one that goes with our season right now. They think about how the leaves came down from the great tree and how they were sad.
So, I have my students line up before we go out for recess, before we go anywhere pretty much, we line up and get ready to go. So, we might be waiting on a student yet, and then I’ll just start saying lines from the poem, and they’ll repeat them after me. It’s a way of using those down times where things can degenerate quickly if we’re not doing something profitable. They use them to memorize poetry, and it’s amazing how well they can memorize. They don’t even think about it that: “I’m memorizing a poem.”
My goal this year is to have about one or two pieces of poetry per month that we memorize. Then we occasionally come back and repeat the one from the month before. Then after that, what I did this past month was, I opened it to my students and I asked them if any of them would like to come up front and recite the poem for the rest of the class, and I had various volunteers that wanted to do that. I’m thinking more about, “How can my students present what they’ve memorized?” It could be at a parent event, or even to have some of my students go into the first and second-grade classroom and recite the poem that they’ve learned.
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CONTRIBUTOR: Bethany Peachey