Monday, May 16, 2016

Poetry Memorization with Institute for Excellence in Writing

Poetry Memorization with IEW - A Schoolhouse Crew Review of Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization on Homeschool Coffee Break @

Memorizing poetry is something that I thought would be nice to try, but until recently I didn't see how or why to make it happen. I've adjusted my view thanks to our being able to review the program Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization from Institute for Excellence in Writing.

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization  IEW Review

We're familiar with the writing programs from Institute for Excellence in Writing already, thanks to a couple of previous review opportunities that have led to us making use of the Student Writing Intensive program and Fix-It! Grammar regularly. (See our previous reviews of Student Writing Intensive Level C and Fix-It! Grammar and Student Writing Intensive Level B.) They have an award-winning approach to teaching writing, grammar, literature, and more, so I was sure we'd enjoy trying this latest offering from IEW, Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization. It's an easy-to-use system of memorizing poetry, along with some excellent information about how and why to do so.

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization  IEW Review
In addition to the Teacher Manual, the package includes a downloadable copy of the Student Manual e-book; a set of audio CDs of Andrew Pudewa reciting each poem and speech; a DVD of the workshop presentation Nurturing Competent Communicators by Andrew Pudewa; and complimentary downloads of these audio MP3s:

  • Nurturing Competent Communicators (this is the audio only of the DVD)
  • Mastery Learning, Ability Development, and Individualized Education
  • Ten Thousand Times and Then Begins Understanding
  • On Listening
  • On Speaking
  • On Reading
  • On Writing
We also received the spiral-bound Student Manual from IEW, which is sold separately.

Although it's not necessary to listen to all of those files or view the DVD before beginning the program, I highly recommend listening to or viewing Nurturing Competent Communicators at the least. This workshop explains the compelling reasons why memorizing poetry can have a positive impact on a student's vocabulary and writing; and why memorization and recitation was such an effective educational tool until about sixty years ago. Andrew Pudewa also explains the mastery learning system and how it's applied in this program. If you're familiar with the Suzuki method of music education, that is Mastery Learning. In the DVD, Mr Pudewa discusses the mistaken belief that we have held that if students are well-read, they will also be able to write well. That is not proving to be the case, and he makes the case that the quality of student writing is limited by the quality of the vocabulary and language to which they are regularly exposed. And in today's world, kids get most of their linguistic input from entertainment media, peers, and adults who are busy and distracted; and even many of the books they are exposed to could not be considered a source of language that is "reliably correct and sophisticated". The suggested solutions include reading good literature aloud to and with our kids, even when they are able to read on their own, and expanding their knowledge of sophisticated language by having them memorize poetry. I loved the word picture of the neuron connections in our brains being strengthened through memorization as increasing the "RAM" we have in the CPU of our brains!

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization  IEW Review

How did we use it? Before I got started on the actual poetry memorization with Kennady, I viewed the conference DVD and studied the material presented in the Teacher's Manual. All the information about how to teach the program is in the Teacher's Manual, and it's very straight-forward. This program makes it easy for parents to help their children memorize poetry with a kid-friendly student book full of carefully selected poems, and the CDs of Andrew Pudewa reciting each so it can be learned by reading and by hearing. For us, the very fact that we could listen to poetry recited by Andrew Pudewa made this something that we really wanted to try!

We kept the CD and the Student Manual in our car, and almost every time Kennady and I went for a drive, we worked on our repertoire of memorized poems. We started by reciting all the poems we'd learned so far, then we listened to the new poem several times before trying to recite it ourselves. Yes, you read that right - I memorized every poem right along with Kennady! Actually, I'm delighted by how much fun we have doing this! Kennady was a little skeptical at first, and the first few times she was reluctant to put much dramatic effort into her recitation, but as we went along she became more animated. We are enjoying a bit of friendly competition too, as we attempt to outdo each other in how quickly we can master each new poem and how well we can recite the repertoire without mistakes.  I thought I might be at a big disadvantage, being *ahem* considerably older than my daughter, and not being able to read the poems as we learn them, since I am driving. But disadvantage or not, I am keeping pace with her and "win" my share of our little challenges!

Poetry Memorization with IEW - A Schoolhouse Crew Review of Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization on Homeschool Coffee Break @
Reciting one of our favorites so far: The Yak by Hilaire Belloc

Of course, it may take some time before we can see for sure if there's a noticeable improvement in Kennady's writing, but I think it's fair to expect that. After all, I have already heard her use a few grammatically correct phrasings that were memorized as part of a poem in her everyday speech rather than the colloquial and less sophisticated usage that she might have chosen before. Many of the poems in Level One (where everyone starts, regardless of age or grade level) are humorous and especially appealing for children, and we are already very fond of the selections from Hilaire Belloc. Most of the material is new to Kennady, and a fair amount is unfamiliar to me, although I recognize several poems in the upper levels of the program that I had memorized when I was a child. Examples include In Flanders Fields and Grandfather's Clock, and bits and pieces of other selections; which I suppose goes to show that once committed to memory, these poems certainly have staying power!

Because we're doing almost all of our recitation and memorizing while driving, we really haven't been keeping track of our progress in the chart provided in the Student Book, which I think would be more important for younger students, or if we wanted to make sure we were including this in our homeschool record-keeping. We are actually doing it more for fun at this point, although I will include it as a component of Kennady's Lit grade.

Poetry Memorization with IEW - A Schoolhouse Crew Review of Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization on Homeschool Coffee Break @
never too old to do some coloring, at least sometimes when we
bring the book in from the car where we do our best memory work

What we liked best:

  • well, I loved the Nurturing Competent Communicators presentation! Loved it, as in I think that every educator should hear it.
  • we love the CDs that allow us to hear the poetry being recited, and recited well. It's enjoyable listening, and makes it really quite easy to memorize the poems. 
  • the surprise thing that we love is how much fun we are having! This truly does not "feel" like school.
  • with five levels totaling ninety-six poems and speeches, ranging from four-line Ogden Nash verses to Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky to great orations from Shakespeare's plays and from historical figures, there is plenty of material here to keep students honing their memorization skills for several years.
What I need to mention:

  • you may need to do a little convincing up front if your kids are older and don't already adore the sound of Andrew Pudewa's voice. Fortunately, it takes just a few minutes a day to get started, and chances are they will get over their reluctance.
  • be prepared to test your own memory prowess against your kids! We found this to be great fun to do together and Kennady relished an opportunity to correct me when I flubbed a line, or gloat just a little when she mastered a poem in fewer attempts than it took me. And in fairness, I admit that I fully enjoyed "beating" her at the game on occasion too!
Poetry Memorization with IEW - A Schoolhouse Crew Review of Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization on Homeschool Coffee Break @

Our bottom line: Even though we fully expected to be impressed with anything and everything from IEW, we were still pleasantly surprised by how much we are enjoying the process of memorizing and reciting poetry. This program is making memory work a fun challenge while building our confidence and skill, and providing laughter and camaraderie too.

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization  IEW Review

Would you like to enjoy the benefits of memorizing poetry the IEW way? Here's what you need to know:
Visit the website: and learn more about Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization and what is included.

Pricing: Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization Teacher's Manual and CDs set is available for $65. We also received the spiral-bound Student Manual which is available for $19. Visit the IEW website for more information and all current pricing.

Recommended Ages: Suitable for students of all ages, K-12.

You can follow IEW on Facebook, on Pinterest, on Twitter @IEW, and on YouTube.

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more information and to read other reviews. 

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization  IEW Review

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