To recite or not to recite? Most of us grew up with recitations, rhymes, jingles, songs, and mnemonics to learn the planets, math facts, presidents of the US, and more. But what about language arts and grammar? Do these “tricks” work well for a subject that needs APPLIED once it is memorized? I mean, once you learn the presidents, you can easily figure out where to fit in history. Math is all about facts and figures. But language arts/English/grammar recitations are different. Memorizing and reciting are not enough when it comes to parts of speech, punctuation, and more.
So how DOES recitation fit into language arts concepts? I have written over 50,000 pages of curriculum over the past nearly twenty years (over a hundred book)—and yes, I do have recitation/memorization in many forms throughout them. (See more about this in my Think Fast Grammar Quizzes below!)
If you can’t wait until the end of the tips to see some of my darling students doing some of our recitation, click here! 🙂
So, yes, I have some definite opinions about how and when to use these amazing memory tricks:
1. Don’t use recitations that severely limit the number of items taught.
For example, a preposition song that teaches thirty preps is fine to start with, but that should just be a starting point. Expand from there using other means since there are over two hundred total prepositions by some grammarians’ counts!
2. Use tricks that teach the part of speech in the context that it will be used whenever possible.
For example, I teach subordinators with a Subordinator Check Sentence that reads, _________ the submarine went down, we could still/not see it. This teaches subordinators (before, after, when, since, though, if, although, etc.) WHILE it teaches that they are SUBordinate (they make that part of the sentence less). My Preposition-Check Sentences both teach the REASON for prepositions (a spatial one and a time one). (See my Preposition Download and video here.)
3. Use tricks that are easy to remember.
I remember learning presidents in a sing-song, much-too-fast, barely discernible fashion. I can’t recite one of the presidents from that song today! The syllables were all jumbled, and it was nearly impossible to sing. While it was fast and furious, it wasn’t a good learning tool.
4. Use different tricks for different levels.
For example, I start out teaching The First Six Subordinators Learned in Rhyme for my elementary books then move on to the aforementioned Subordinator-Check Sentence. I do similar tricks with prepositions. I start students out with a little toy and bathroom tissue tube, then we move on to the check sentences.
5. Use various modes of learning.
Recitation of dozens of prepositions (and my kids singing the Be, a Helper, Link Verbs Song) is darling, but not all students learn through oral channels (even if it rhymes and is cute). Having songs, jingles, check sentences, written quizzes, and a myriad of other tricks will ensure that all students’ learning types are tapped into.
6. Use tricks at the time the student is being taught to write with that part of speech.
I’ll be the first to admit that it is darling to see children recite almost anything, but application is the purpose for all memorization in language arts. Whenever possible, attach the recitation or memory work to the skill being used. I use a Teach-Practice-Apply method in all of my language arts teaching. That is, I teach the concept. I have them practice it through trick, songs, etc. Then they practice it in context of sentences (i.e. finding the prepositions in sentences—never out of context, please!). Then they apply the concept by using in writing through my Checklist Challenge. (See my Checklist Challenge packet here!)
Yes, recitation and all manner of learning parts of speech and language arts skills can be utilized at nearly every grade. I have found way more success by applying the tips above in my books, downloads, and teaching. And I still get to watch sweet kids sing my songs and recite my rhymes. Sigh….happiness.
Check out some of my downloadable language arts products here:
Love and hope,
P.S What grammar concepts are you struggling to teach right now? I’d love to help you out!
Note: All of the products mentioned in this post, along with our How to Checklist Challenge product and video and How to Outline product and video, are available at our Members’ Area.