In honor of his recent birthday David is currently memorizing this classic poem by A. A. Milne:
When I was one,
I had just begun.
When I was two,
I was nearly new.
When I was three,
I was hardly me.
When I was four,
I was not much more.
When I was five,
I was just alive.
But now I am six,
I’m as clever as clever.
So I think I’ll be six
now for ever and ever.
John memorized the same poem in his first grade year and it’s one that has stuck with him. He is currently working on another A. A. Milne poem, At the Zoo. Which brings up the question of how do I choose poems for the boys to memorize?
Sometimes I pick a poem related to something else we are studying (John did part of a selection from Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! when we were studying medieval times in history). Sometimes it’s related to a holiday (Christmas Eve). Sometimes we pick a funny or easy poem after working on a more difficult poem (Snowball by Shel Silverstein after In the Bleak Midwinter). Sometimes I pick a poem based on a topic I know they like (birds or baseball or a favorite color). Sometimes I pick a poem from a particular poet I want us to study a little more. As John is getting older, I involve him a bit more in the picking.This last time I handed him the Forget Me Not book and our battered collection of all the poems of A. A. Milne and let him choose. He chose the poem about the zoo which somewhat surprised me but he’s having fun with it. From all that you should get that we don’t really have a system. I think like so much else in schooling and life, this is one of those things you just have to do rather than plan the perfect approach.
As for the process itself, typically I’ll either write the poem on a piece of posterboard and have the boys illustrate it or I’ll type it up for them to have as an easy reference. The first week we aim to read the poem about three times a day together out loud. Then after that we start working on remembering it, working line by line or dividing it into some kind of manageable sections. I’ll have them repeat the part they are working on once a day and each day we try and add a bit more. Then we work on being able to say it clearly and slowly and with expression. I don’t really worry about finishing a poem in a certain amount of time. Sometimes they surprise me and memorize a particular poem very quickly, sometimes we have a lot of other stuff going on and it takes awhile. I’d say on average we spend 5-10 minutes a day on this. It doesn’t take a lot of time.
For those who are are interested in more ideas of poems to try with their kids, this is the list of poems John has memorized.
“The Caterpillar” by Christina Rossetti
selection from “What is Black?” by Mary O’Neill
“We Thank Thee” by Ralph Waldo Emerson
“In the Bleak Mid-Winter” by Christiana Rossetti
“Snowball” by Shel Silverstein
“The Eagle” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
“The End” by A. A. Milne
“March” by Anonymous
“Daffodowndilly” by A. A. Milne
“Seaside” by Shirley Hughes
“The Months” by Sara Coleridge
“Squishy Touch” by Shel Silverstein
“Trees” by Joyce Kilmer
“Christmas Eve” by Christina Rossetti
selection from “Lowdy, the Varlet’s Child” by Laura Amy Schlitz
selection from “Horatius” by Thomas Babbington Macaulay
“All Things Bright and Beautiful” by Cecil Alexander
“Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Thayer
“Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“Christmas Everywhere” by Phillip Brooks
selection from “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
“A Slash of Blue” by Emily Dickinson
Poetry Friday is hosted this week by Mainely Write.