IEW’s Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization (Crew Review)

IEW Poetry Review
Can you still quote lines from your favorite childhood movies?  Have you ever found yourself adapting quotes from books or movies in the course of regular conversation?  I know I have.  When we memorize something, we make it our own and can draw upon it to help us communicate effectively.  When I started learning about the Institute for Excellence in Writing‘s poetry memorization program, it made so much sense to me.  Children memorize naturally, so why not use that skill to help them develop their language skills?  We received the Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization program materials and the additional Student Book to review, and I can already see that its benefits are going to be long-reaching.

About Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization

Before diving into the Teacher’s Manual, IEW suggests watching (or listening to) Andrew Pudewa’s conference talk on “Nurturing Competent Communicators” (included in both video and audio form).  In this teaching, Mr. Pudewa shares about his own foreign language learning experience and how he discovered the benefit of memorizing to help him grow in his ability to speak fluently and well.  His main point is that no matter how effective we are at teaching writing, “you can’t get something out of a child’s brain that isn’t in there to begin with.”  Memorizing poetry and speeches helps build a mental “database” of “reliably correct and sophisticated language patterns.”  Once those patterns are in your brain, you can access them as you write or speak, adapting them to fit the needs of what you are trying to communicate.  Vocabulary, idioms, and various grammatical patterns can be drawn upon at will.

The Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization program consists of 5 levels of material for memorization.  The first four levels each have 19 poems, plus suggestions for a 20th selection, which the student gets to pick.  The fifth level has famous speeches and includes historical information about each one to help give context.  At the end of the book, the appendices contain short biographies of each poet, as well as optional “lesson enhancements” if you want to do more with each poem than just memorize it.

The Introduction in the Teacher’s Manual further explains the motivation behind Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization as well as describing the process of “mastery learning” following the method developed by Dr. Shinichi Suzuki used by violin teachers around the world.  The concepts he drew upon for music education can be just as effectively applied to memorizing poetry.  As the student adds to his repertoire, he continues practicing the pieces previously learned, so that by the end of Level 1, he is able to perfectly recite all twenty poems.

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization IEW Review
The Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization set includes:

  • Teacher’s Manual (200 pages, spiral-bound softcover)
  • 5-CD set of the poems read by Andrew Pudewa
  • DVD of Andrew Pudewa’s conference talk on “Nurturing Competent Communicators”

The Teacher’s Manual also has instructions for downloading the 170-page Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization Student e-book and 7 Audio MP3s:

  • Nurturing Competent Communicators
  • Mastery Learning, Ability Development, and Individualized Education
  • Ten Thousand Times and Then Begins Understanding
  • On Listening
  • On Speaking
  • On Reading
  • On Writing

A physical copy of the Student Book is also available for separate purchase.  However, IEW’s generous copyright allows you to print multiple copies of the included e-book for use within your immediate family or classroom, so it’s not necessary to purchase the student book unless you’d rather have it printed for you.

Our Experience

I really wasn’t sure about this program when we were asked to review it, but I have the highest respect for Andrew Pudewa and the Institute for Excellence in Writing, so I was willing to give it a try.  I’m SO glad I did.  From within the first few minutes of watching the “Nurturing Competent Communicators” DVD, I started getting excited about diving into poetry memorization with my children, particularly with Ian (8) and Elijah (6).

Student PageI started by explaining what we were going to do and showing them the booklets I had printed for them of the Level 1 poems in the Student e-Book.  (IEW generously sent us a spiral-bound softcover physical copy of the Student Book for our review, but since I was planning to use the program with two children, I wanted them to have identical materials.)  I thought they would enjoy coloring the illustrations, but I found we really didn’t use the Student Book at all in any form after the first day because we did most of our memorization either around the kitchen table during meals (with me reading from the Teacher’s Manual) or in the car.  I LOVED having the audio CDs to take along with us so the kids could review their poems (and start working on new ones) as we drove around town.  The volume level was a little low, so we had to crank it up (and be careful when we switched to a different audio source or we got blasted), but overall they were a great way to practice.

My boys love almost all the poems they have memorized so far.  (They’re about a third of the way through Level 1).  There’s a great variety of short and long, humorous and contemplative, and we haven’t found any we don’t like.  The boys both really enjoy reciting them (especially for Daddy in the evenings), and they often argue about who gets to go first on each one.  It’s been very rewarding for them, and I’m amazed at how quickly they’ve both mastered the poems.  I love that this program is a long-term project for our family.  There’s plenty of material here to keep us memorizing for the next few years, and I’m sure we’ll find other poems the boys will want to add to their repertoire.

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization is a great complement to IEW’s core product, Teaching Writing: Structure and Style, which I’ve been going through this year as the boys have participated in a writing class using lessons based on this method.  I’m thankful for the chance to add poetry memorization to our linguistic toolbox, and IEW will continue to be our family’s go-to source for quality products to help us as we seek to raise up skilled communicators.

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization IEW Review
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