Teaching Exceptional Language through Poetry with IEW ~ A Review

Through the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we’ve received yet another amazing product from Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW).  This time, it’s centered around poetry and memorization–all with the aim of producing speakers, writers and thinkers who use the English language exceptionally.  (Or, one might say, excellently!)

IEW Poetry banner

Institute for Excellence in Writing very generously provided all the resources which make up (plus one!) Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization.  There are so many products which comprise this curriculum.  I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

What is Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization?

How does a student become a great and effective communicator?

Andrew Pudewa believes that for a person to become an excellent communicator, he must have “a large database in his brain of reliably correct and sophisticated language patterns” (Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization Teacher’s Manual, p. 5).  Now what exactly does that mean in real life?  The people at IEW would say that this isn’t accomplished through hours of grammar drilling or filling out worksheets.  Rather, IEW believes that students gain this extensive database through hearing exceptional language spoken aloud.

And where and how can this  happen?

The answer is simple…and it may already be something you do in your own home.  It is just this: reading aloud great books and literature; and memorization of great poetry and speeches, which is where Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization comes in handy!

 

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What is included in this curriculum?

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization is composed of both physical products and digital downloads.  Here’s what we received:

  • A physical, spiral-bound Poetry Memorization Teacher’s Manual
  • A 5-CD set recording of all the poems and speeches in the curriculum, in a vinyl CD binder
  • A teaching DVD of Andrew Pudewa’s presentation of Nurturing Competent Communicators
  • Downloadable MP3s of the 5-CD set
  • Downloadable Poetry Memorization Student Book, which can be printed at home
  • Downloadable MP3s of the following lessons:  On Listening; On Reading; On Speaking; On Writing; Ten Thousand Times and Then Begins Understanding; Nurturing Competent Communicators; Mastering Learning

IEW was also kind enough to send reviewers a physical, spiral-bound Poetry Memorization Student Pages, but normally the PDF download only is included in this set.  You may purchase the Student Book separately, by clicking on the book link.

IEW Poetry 2

The Poetry Memorization Student Pages book contains 5 sections of poems (with 20 selections per level).  Poems start at the very simple and pithy, and progress in difficulty over the course of the book.  For example, in Level One, the student will memorize poems like Ogden Nash’s Celery; Hilaire Belloc’s The Vulture; Edward Lear’s There Was An Old Person Whose Habits; and Who Has Seen the Wind? by Christina Rossetti.  Level Two’s poetry includes such selections as How Doth the Little Crocodile by Lewis Carroll; Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade; Some One by Walter de la Mare; and others.  Through Levels 3 and 4, poems become longer, with deeper meanings and insights to express, until finally when the student reaches Level 5 he’s ready for meaningful historical speeches, lofty ideals, and the best that man can offer in the language of words.  Some of the incredible speeches in this level are Henry V’s St. Crispin’s Day Speech (Shakespeare); Elizabeth I’s On the Eve of the Battle with the Spanish Armada; Friends, Romans, Countrymen by William Shakespeare; We Shall Fight on the Beaches by Winston Churchill; and The King’s Speech by King George VI, among many other rich and powerful speeches.

In addition, IEW has included certificates at the end of each level, so that students can be recognized for their completion.  They also recommend holding a presentation where the students can perform all they’ve learned!

 

IEW Poetry 1

The CD set‘s 5 audio CDs contain every poem and speech in the curriculum, dramatically performed, so that students can hear what the possibilities for performance are, and to aid them in their memorization.  IEW has also included a DVD recording of Andrew Pudewa’s excellent talk, Nurturing Competent Communicators, which will inspire you to pursue the things which will yield excellent results in your child’s education.

The Poetry Memorization Teacher’s Manual includes every poem and speech in the curriculum; meaningful instruction on why memorization and great literature are important; instructions on how to implement this program; and reference materials at the end of the book.  This is a vital part of the program!

The MP3s will equip the homeschool mama or teacher who’s seeking to build fantastic language skills in her students.  They are so inspirational!  In fact, I recommend that you listen to these and watch the DVD before your child begins to memorize his first poem.  They really do provide all that you need to teach this with success!

 

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How we used this curriculum

I have to admit this to you: I was terribly intimidated by even the idea of Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization.  My son, the student I homeschool, is 14 years old.  So the idea of a) starting a course entailing the daily recitation of up to 20 poems a day (in the  Level One section) while we were already in sort of an overly-full daily schedule, and b) asking my child to memorize what I was sure he would consider “babyish” poetry to begin with, seemed like a certain “fail.”  And honestly, adding that to my (and his) daily work seemed so stressful that I could hardly contemplate it.

However!

Institute for Excellence in Writing knows that homeschool mamas are already women with a lot on their plate.  So they’ve included in this curriculum not only a great program and very clear instructions on how to use it; but perhaps even more vital, they’ve provided what amounts to a training course for teachers/homeschoolers in the DVD, the MP3s, and the Teacher’s Manual.  These are filled with things you’d go to a homeschool conference to hear!  Topics such as:

  • Mastery, and how it’s built in a subject
  • The reason exceptional language use doesn’t just happen in American culture; and how a parent can circumvent that
  • Why the Suzuki music program is so consistently and tremendously successful
  • What memorization accomplishes in the brain
  • What reading aloud can do for your family
  • What is the best way to build vocabulary
  • and more!

One other very special caveat (and really, this was only a note in the sidebar of “How to Teach the Program” in the Teacher’s Manual) was the other thing that helped me to move past the intimidation I felt.  It says, in essence, to let older students select the first poem(s) they work with.  Once they’ve moved through memorization of that and see the benefits and joys of the program, THEN you can start them back at the beginning with the simple poems.  Oh, this made all the difference in the world for us!

So Jackson began with Carl Sandberg’s Fog (in Level Two), then William Blake’s The Tiger (Level Four).  He truly loved Blake’s poem and enjoyed Sandberg’s.  At this point, he prefers to practice and perform them aloud while I am not in the room (the struggle of the only child), but I know the more he memorizes, the more comfortable he’ll be and the more “normal” the whole recitation process will feel.

I have noticed that he is paying attention to, and pointing out when he runs into it, “sophisticated language” (thank you, Mr. Pudewa, for your Nurturing Competent Communicators talk!  Clearly Jackson was listening while I was watching that!).  He already had a good command of excellent English.  However, I love that as he’s working through this, his mind will continue to build those great pathways of language; and help him to think upon beautiful things.

 

IEW Poetry 5

My recommendations:

Here are some things I wish I had known when I began Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization.  May they encourage and inspire you to jump in!

  1. Don’t be intimidated by this curriculum!  Although there is a LOT in it…you don’t have to do it all in a day.  Plus, there is reason and purpose for every poem and every step of action.
  2. ENJOY this!  The poems do start out silly.  But the further you go, the more beautiful and meaningful the poems and language are.
  3. Remember the desired goals of your homeschooling.  Do you desire your children to be masterful users of the English language?  Do you desire beauty and lofty ideals for them?  This curriculum will definitely move them along in those directions!
  4. And last but not least:  start early!  We got this just in the nick of time—as Jackson is preparing to enter 9th grade in the fall—which actually does give us enough time to complete this entire program.  But you can start as early as preschool or grade school, easily!

You may purchase Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization from Institute for Excellence in Writing.  I recommend it highly–and don’t put this off!  Memorization of these beautiful words will help your children in every area of their lives, whether intellectual, emotional, academic, or even spiritual.  This is worth the time you’ll need to put into it!

 Enjoy! –Wren

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