Poetry Selection

I posted last week about how we’ve simplified our homeschooling curriculum this year, and today I wanted to share with you some of the resources we use for poetry memorization.

As I mentioned, our poetry memorization is largely the kids’ responsibility. I assign them a poem for the week (or over several weeks, depending on how long it is), and then they help each other memorize all week, and then recite for their Dad on Friday. Sometimes I will choose the poem for them, sometimes I let them suggest poems they’d like to memorize.

This year, they’ve learned:

O Captain, My Captain Walt Whitman
Ozymandias Percey Shelley
Gettysburg Address (before we visited Gettysburg, of course)
The Porcupine Ogden Nash
Bed in Summer RL Stevenson
Auntie’s Skirts RL Stevenson
The Grasshopper and the Elephant Fred Brown

We haven’t had much rhyme or reason to our selection this year. I’ve picked ones that I’ve enjoyed (Whitman and Shelley), and I’ve let them pick ones they enjoy. Some are longer, and some are very short.

Way down south where bananas grow
A grasshopper stepped on an elephant’s toe.
The elephant said, with tears in his eyes,
“Pick on somebody your own size.”

The kids love these short ones, and it allows them a measure of success at poetry memorization without having to spend many hours working on it.

We have several poetry anthologies that I’ve been choosing from.


My favorite is actually The Pocket Book of Verse, which I picked up at a garage sale years ago. It has a lot of classics, and is usually where I pull my selections from. On my wish-list, though, is this anthology by Garrison Keillor that I saw while perusing Barnes and Noble’s rather sad poetry section a few weeks ago.


When the kids are choosing their selections, they like to pull from these books. Their favorites are A Child’s Garden of Verses (we have two versions, one illustrated by Gyo Fujikawa, and the other by Tasha Tudor), or AA Milne, or A Child’s Book of Poems, or the Goops (which is a hilarious anthology on manners), or the Flower Fairies books.

Our family also spends a little bit of time just reading poetry. I usually try to do this during afternoon snack time, which means it doesn’t necessarily happen every day, but happens frequently enough that they are familiar with some poetry. This year, we have really enjoyed Belloc’s Cautionary Tales for Children (another hilarious anthology on manners) and Ogden Nash, along with the Poetry for Young People series.

Next year, we will be trying out The Institute for Excellence in Writing’s Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization, which is a year-long poetry memorization plan. After listening to Andrew Pudewa talk about the value of memorization, I’m excited to try the system he recommends. The kids are already familiar with a lot of the poems in the book, but it will be good to memorize them.

For another resource on poetry, this podcast over at the Read-Aloud Revival has some great recommendatons for poetry.

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3 Responses to Poetry Selection

  1. Christy says:


  2. Andrea says:

    This is a wonderful idea. My private elementary school (a Mae Carden school) had us memorize a poem a week for all six years. I loved it and think it was critical to both my intellectual and aesthetic development.

  3. Allison says:

    I love your practical suggestions! Thank you!

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