Recitation and memorization are an important part of a Classical Education.
While many people would argue that memorization isn’t necessary in our age of information where everything is available with the click of a mouse, I disagree. Memory work is so much more than just memorizing a boring list of facts to have stored away for a future date. Here’s just a small list of what memorization can do:
- provide a rich vocabulary
- train the brain for critical thought processes
- strengthen the brain
- build complex language patterns
And sometimes it’s just handy to have some things memorized (like prepositions)!
Recitation goes hand-in-hand with memorization. The act of standing and reciting poems or historical information cements that information in your brain. It also provides other valuable skills. Recitation can:
- strengthen communication skills
- develop solid presentation techniques
- provide a strong foundation for later rhetoric-level skills
Memorization and recitation does not have to be boring (especially in the elementary years). Creative Ways to Memorize from Sola Gratia Mom is a great round-up of ideas for adding some fun and creativity to daily recitation time.
So how can you implement a daily recitation time into your day?
My favorite method is the Scripture Memory System from Simply Charlotte Mason. We change the system slightly by using a binder and tabbed dividers instead of an index card box. But the system works very well. You’re constantly reviewing previously learned material so things always stay fresh.
Now that we agree on the importance of memorization and recitation and we have a system in place, it’s time to decide what to memorize. My one goal for our daily recitation time is to make it relevant. If we are studying ancient Egypt we recite a list of important pharaohs. If we are learning about astronomy we memorize the names of the planets and the types of stars. As Susan W. Bauer says, we are creating “pegs” for learning.
When I’m planning our school year I take some time to choose things for memory work. I type them up and put them in our binder behind a tab marked “new work”. When TJ has fully memorized a piece and it gets moved out of the daily section, she chooses something new to memorize from that section. There are a few resources that we like to use (and some that always seem to be at the top of everyone’s list) when we’re choosing new things to memorize.
- Living Memory by Andrew Campbell
- Grammar Stage Memorization by Hannah Wilson
- Favorite Poems Old & New by Helen Ferris
- Committed to Memory by John Hollander
- The Harp & Laurel Wreath by Laura Berquist
- Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization from IEW
With a simple system in place and a bit of planning at the beginning of a new school year, adding a daily recitation time is not difficult and will provide numerous benefits.
For further reading on the subject of memorization and recitation:
- Poetry Memorization: Methods and Resources
- Introduction to Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization (PDF)
First Grade Memorization
When I heard about the Scripture Memory System I thought it sounded perfect for our needs and it really has been! It’s become an indispensable part of our morning routine. We use (a modified) version of the system to memorize Scripture as well as poetry, French, history, and science.
I knew that I didn’t want to be writing things out on index cards; instead I decided to use a binder and just print everything from the computer. We use the same dividers – daily, odd & even, and days of the week (minus the weekend). I also added four dividers – one for each week of the month – before the numbered dividers.
Each morning, as part of her routine, TJ pulls out her binder and goes through the appropriate sections for that day. Once a month she recites her daily work aloud without using the binder and we move things and add new items as needed. This system has worked so well for us!
Here’s what she memorized during her first grade year –
Hearts are like Doors
The Purple Cow
Days of the Week
The Young Lady of Niger
History and Science Topics:
Important pharaohs of Egypt
Seven wonders of the ancient world
First 20 emperors of Rome
Systems of the body
French days of the week
Personal information (address, phone numbers, etc.)
Second Grade Memorization
TJ has a daily recitation time each morning when we work on Scripture memory work, poetry, history or science lists, and any other miscellaneous topics. The following is a list of things TJ memorized during her second grade school year.
I Corinthians 13:1-8
Books of the Old Testament
Books of the New Testament
The Little Man
The Parts of Speech
History and Science Topics:
Types of stars
Planets in our solar system
Phases of the moon
Parts of the sun
Rulers of England (to Elizabeth I)
Canadian Provinces and Territories
State of being verbs
Third Grade Memorization
This system has continued to work very well for us and I plan to continue using it in the future. Here’s what TJ memorized this year:
The 10 Commandments in Verse
A Slash of Blue
Hurt no Living Thing
A Time to Talk
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
A Tragic Story
All Things Beautiful
The Land of Nod
Presidents of the United States (the first 18)
Fourth Grade Memorization
While reading about Classical education, one of the first things that made an impression on me was the many references to memorization, recitation, and daily drill. And the more we streamline our school day the more important these skills have become.
Here’s a list of what my daughter memorized during her 4th grade year:
- The Height of the Ridiculous
- The Lake Isle of Innisfree
- Bed in Summer
- Learning to Read
- Afternoon on a Hill
- How Doth…
History & Science
- First 11 Prime Ministers of Canada
- Rulers of England to Elizabeth II
- Presidents of the United States
- Canadian National Anthem
- Latin Conjugations & Declensions
- Days of Creation in French