Benefits of Memorising Poems

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Was memorising and reciting poetry a part of your primary school experience? It was for me, but it seems to rarely occur nowadays.

Yet, there appears to be a number of benefits from incorporating poetry and learning poems as a component of of a literacy program:

1. Development of phonological awareness

In a lot of poems, various lines end with rhyming words. Initially, children’s attention can be drawn to the words that rhyme. As they become more competent, they can exchange the words in the poem with another rhyming words.

Poems often have a rhythm based on the number of syllables in each line. Children can work out this syllable rhythm.

Some poems are based on alliteration. These poems can be used as the basis of activities designed to help students identify initial phonemes.

2. Development of prosody

Pitch, voice inflection, pauses, speed and volume are all important elements in reading and reciting poems. For children who have difficulty reading with expression, poems provide a vehicle for understanding the ‘power of voice’ variables and a way to practise this skill.

Different poems with different messages enable children to associate different emotions with speech and  behavioural patterns that reflect these emotions.

3.  Development of vocabulary

Poems lend themselves to repeated exposure to the same text. It can therefore be a useful medium for exposing children to and then helping them learn new vocabulary.

4.  Development of memorisation skills

The process of memorising and then reciting a poem helps children pick up patterns and sequences and appreciate the value of repetition in learning.

5. Development of public speaking skills

Reciting or reading practiced poetry to an audience helps students gain confidence in public speaking within a controlled structure. It also helps them learn to make use of gestures and facial expressions to connect with their audience on an emotional level as well as learning to project their voice.

Teaching Ideas

  • Begin with short and simple poems, so success can be experienced in a relatively short time frame. Rhyming poems with a standard structure tend to be easiest poems to learn.
  • Use poems to teach concepts such as parts of speech, metaphors, sensory imagery, personification and other literary devices.
  • Once students have learned a poem, use this as the basis of writing their own poems using a similar structure.
  • Use poetry as a way of introducing a topic or to activate prior knowledge.
  • Challenge students to create poems to memorise as a way of remembering facts.
  • Use a collection of poems on the same topic to expose students to different perspectives

References and Useful Resources

Tips on reciting poetry:

The Children’s Poetry Archive groups poems by themes

Extensive glossary of poetry terms

Type a word and find a rhyming word: Rhyme Brain

Simecek, K., & Rumbold, K. (2016). The uses of poetry, Changing English, 23:4, 309-313, DOI: 10.1080/1358684X.2016.1230300