Rose Writing Center students memorize exquisite poetry using The Institute for Excellence in Writing’s Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization system. This practice introduces students to new vocabulary words, provides an opportunity for the development of foundational public speaking skills, and imparts essential reading comprehension skills.
- Building the Vocabulary Database. Memorizing a poem imparts beautiful new words in a student’s mind. Knowing sophisticated words is, of course, necessary for effective communication, but even more important is knowing how to use sophisticated words in a natural, reliably correct way. The best writers possess an automatic sense of when words have been combined correctly or awkwardly; such a talent is developed through building an expansive database of language information in the brain. Poetry memorization is an effective, enjoyable way to accomplish this goal.
- Imparting Grammar Knowledge. When a student memorizes certain phrases and sentence patterns, they become engrained in his mind and come out in his own speech and writing naturally. In particular, many bilingual students struggle with choosing the correction preposition, and the poetry program helps tremendously with that. Once a student memorizes “up the stair,” “with a fever,” “dwells on,” and “with which,” those phrases and patterns become established in his mind.
- Bolstering Reading Comprehension Skills. The poems we study in the RWC program are tough for even adults to comprehend at first glance, and the sentence patterns can be especially tricky to break down and understand. Students learn explicit strategies for comprehending complex sentences and they learn to relish the challenge of interpreting a sophisticated text.
- Practicing Public Speaking Skills. When reciting a memorized text, students practice making eye contact, maintaining good posture, and keeping hands at their sides or clasped behind their back, without the pressure of also thinking of what to say. Reciting memorized poetry enables students to focus on developing foundational public speaking skills.
- Building Academic Confidence. Memorizing and reciting poetry well require disciplined, dedicated, and consistent effort. Students regularly look at a four-stanza poem and exclaim that they could never memorize so many words; two weeks later, they are reciting the entire poem gracefully and accurately. These students experience a wonderful sense of accomplishment that builds their confidence and helps them to believe that they can learn anything.