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.
Recitation lists by year:
For further reading on the subject of memorization and recitation:
- Poetry Memorization: Methods and Resources
- Introduction to Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization (PDF)
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