Friday, December 17, 2010

Poetry Speaks: "'Twas the Night before Christmas"

I have a mind that latches onto catchy verse and rhythm. Commercial television is hell for me, because I accidentally memorize every jingle--just ask me and I'll sing for you the "Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame-seed bun" song, and the Empire Carpet telephone number song (588-2300, Empiiiiiiiiiire!), and the Alka-Seltzer jingles, both old and new. I memorize every theme song to every television show, and every legible lyric to pretty much every song that I've ever listened to more than four times.

I also like to memorize poetry.

I wanted to share my love of poetry with my girls, and I also wanted them to begin early on to practice memory work as much as possible--an excellent memory is an invaluable ability, and the possession of an excellent memory will aid their lives and give them joy in who knows how many ways.

And so I've started this month with the plan to introduce to the girls one long poem each month. The poem has to be available in a picture book format (which many excellent poems are), because the key component of their memorization is the inclusion of this book every single night as part of their bedtime stories. For the first couple of weeks, Matt or I read the book out loud to the girls together. After the girls seem to start being familiar with it, we begin to do the book with each girl indepedently at bedtime, inviting her to recite the poem while looking at the pictures, and prompting her when necessary.

Driving around in the car is also a good place and time to ask a kid to recite, or to start reciting, myself, and we can all prompt each other. The girls adore this, by the way--it's very fun to show off what you know, don't you think?

With our current poem, "'Twas the Night before Christmas," I've shown the girls a couple of cartoons of the poem, and I downloaded for them an entire "'Twas the Night before Christmas" coloring book to color--both activities were nice, but not really critical. Much better was our visit to the Santa Claus storytime at the public library--one of the librarians recited "'Twas the Night before Christmas" to the auditorium full of children, and my kiddos, mistaking it for another of the sing-alongs that we'd just done to "Jingle Bells," recited the entire poem along with him. Loudly, to the amusement, fortunately, of the other moms around us.

Another nice benefit is that Willow has asked about the parts of the poem that she didn't understand, and so I got to explain metaphor with "the moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow," and simile with "as dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly."

Now that both girls have the poem almost memorized, they both enjoy reciting it while I videotape them, and then watching themselves. They do this over and over and over. It's at the point now where perhaps I'm secretly getting a little tired of "'Twas the Night before Christmas," but the girls are most definitely still in the groove, so on we go!

I really had meant this project to encourage Willow to memorize each poem, and Sydney, as always, was intended to just go along for the ride. I am deeply surprised, however (and thrilled!), to discover how much Sydney has, in fact, picked up. And so, for your consideration and Christmas cheer, I bring you Sydney's recitation of "'Twas the Night before Christmas":

Next month, I think we're going to do some Robert Frost. Or do you have a suggestion for something else that we'd like?

1 comment:

Laura and Kelly Allen said...

We read Robert Frost's Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening every night before bed. Short (my daughter is only 17 months), but wonderful. The illustrations are gorgeous too. So lovely. If you have suggestions of others great poems for littles, I'd love to hear them.

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