How (and Why) to Help Young Children Memorize Poetry

Guest Post by Charity Hawkins of The Homeschool Experiment:  A Novel

When your kids memorize poetry, you know they are learning vocabulary, spelling, reading skills, and grammar. All they know is that it’s fun.

The private elementary school I attended required twenty poems to be memorized each year, first through sixth grades. What a wonderful way to teach reading and grammar! I think the rich literary environment of this school was part of what helped me fall in love with beautiful writing. I want to do the same for my children.

Here’s how we do it at our house.

1. Put a poem up on the wall.  I used to tape it on the wall. Now I use a clipboard because it’s easier to switch out, and I can take it off the wall to pass it around if needed.

2. Say the poem with your children a few times a week. Usually we recite it together at a meal when I first hang it up. Then I forget about it for a week, then we say it again, and so on.

Sometimes I’ll have my kids check me, which they delight in doing, especially when I mess up and they get to correct me. Then they want me to check them.

 3. By the end of the month, they probably know it. If they don’t know it yet, I might leave it up for a few extra days or weeks and try to work on it more. I don’t require them to recite it perfectly. I just want them soaking in the richness of the words. Usually they can say it.


That’s the method:  Stick a poem up on the wall. Your kids learn it. It’s amazing how much just soaks in. If you wanted, you could record a tape for them of you reading the poems, and they would sink in even faster. But if not, and if you barely remember to say the poem with them, they still learn an awful lot.

I am teaching an art and poetry class at our homeschool co-op this year, so I had to get our yearly list all lined out ahead of time. If you don’t know where to start, you are welcome to use this list.

Our Poems for this Year (daughter 6 and son 8, and 3-year-old picking up whatever he happens to)
(I’d say kids ages four and up can do this pretty easily. If they are younger or having trouble, start with the first stanzas only. Oh, and with younger kids we add motions.)

August – Friends, Dorothy Aldis
September – Barefoot Days, Rachel Field
October – Wynken, Blynken, and Nod (partial) ; Eugene Field
November – The Pilgrims Came, Annette Wynne
December – God Gave Me Eyes, Olive Burt
January – Stopping By Woods (partial) , Robert Frost
February – Manners, Florence A. Richardson
March – Kind Hearts, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
April- Rain, Robert Lois Stevenson
May – Little Things, Ebenezer Cobham Brewer

Word Format (so you can change things around if you want)
PDF Format

And remember, if you like this idea but are overwhelmed with life right now, just keep it in mind for future years. There is always another year.

What is one of your favorite poems of childhood? Do you memorize poetry with your children?


Guest Post by Charity Hawkins, author of The Homeschool Experiment: a novel. You can learn more about the book and read the first three chapters at .



  1. I like this idea of memorizing poems. Besides the poems you listed above, do you recommend a certain book of poems or resource to find good ones for kids to read?

  2. Such a great idea! Great way to expose children to different styles of writing and great memory, grammar, vocab (all as you said) practice! We just started homeschooling this week, so this is great to keep in mind for when I finally find our grove and am comfortable adding more! I love this idea!

  3. I loved reading poems as a child! I have an old book from “Childcraft” with lots of poems in it that I enjoyed reading and memorizing. However, it was the poems I memorized in middle and high school that stuck with me most.

    My favorites are:

    His Plan for Me by Martha Snell Nicholson
    Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost
    This Present Crisis by James Russell Lowell (We memorized it in sections since it’s so long!)
    Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
    The Village Blacksmith by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
    A Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
    Hiawatha’s Childhood by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
    Many of Shakespeare’s Sonnets
    Sonnet 43 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
    Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost
    I Am Nobody, Who Are You? by Emily Dickenson
    A Dream Within A Dream by Edgar Allen Poe
    Death Be Not Proud by John Donne
    The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred Lord Tennyson
    The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
    Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelly
    If by Rudyard Kipling (I was actually saying this one to myself yesterday when it came to mind.)

    Here’s an excellent website with memorizable poems. Some are more age appropriate than others in terms of difficulty.

  4. Thanks for this idea. I’m a third grade teacher struggling to know how to foster a love of poetry in my students when I don’t have that same love. This encourages me to give it another shot!

    1. Andrew Pudewa says to start with a short funny poem just to get them, especially the boys, interested. On my list (in the post above) I used “Friends” by Dorothy Aldis, about two friends that end up being toothbrushes and teeth. The third graders in my co-op enjoy the motions! The one for November is Thanksgiving-related, so you could use that to jump off and talk about the Pilgrims, the journey, the new land, etc. Whatever you choose, you can do it! Thanks for teaching those precious children!

  5. I love this idea. What a great way to encourage literacy skills across age levels. We started this month with your Thanksgiving poem and plan to continue on through this year. My kids, who are 10, 8, 5 and 2 are really enthusiastic about it. Thanks for the great idea!

  6. An English teacher gave us the book “Cow at Apple Time.” It’s just fantastic with great at work. I never learned to enjoy poetry much, but the book has been a good start for my daughter and I.

  7. I have a 2 year old and we have been reading nursery rhymes for about a month before bed. She loves our story time and last night she began reciting Goosy Goosy Gander. I was so surprised and delighted! But I have also noticed tonight she was not as interested in the nursery rhyme book. Do you have any interesting titles for a 2 year old?

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