Homeschool Poetry and Drama

Who has time for Poetry or Drama, Paola?

Maybe you WANT to include poetry and a bit of drama BUT you barely make it through the day. After all with all the other IMPORTANT subjects, you know, the ones that really matter like math and grammar right?

I would be so bold as to say that poetry and drama can actually be more important than the core subjects.

Did you really say that, Paola? Yup.

I have always included poetry and drama in my homeschool, even for my little ones. I am convinced that they are necessary, foundational skills in the development of children’s basic language skills. 

homeschool Poetry

Poetry Builds Strong Language Foundations

My absolute, go to favorite poetry collections are Harp and Laurel Wreath edited by Laura Berquist and Favorite Poems Old and New compiled by Helen Ferris. Both are lovely, with plenty of poems to choose from and divided up by subject matter and level.

In particular I recommend choosing poems that are age appropriate to not overwhelm children, or make it too challenging. It is a gift to respect the natural stages of development of each one of your children. It is also super valuable to keep these learning sessions fun and short. Try avoiding too much repetition, as can actually be a hindrance to memory. 

Children delight in memory work and do so with such skill that amazes adults. Too often we adults have lost this innate ability.  I have seen first hand, how profoundly poetry creates a solid foundation and readiness for higher level language skills.

It is super helpful to remember that we are building up their storehouse of rich language that will help facilitate their writing skills further down the road.  Poetry involves sophisticated language patterns that, once learned through memory, actually create a highway to higher thinking. 

homeschool boy

Make it Fun and Keep it Short

It is especially effective when you make these memorization sessions fun and encourage your child to put in a bit of drama into each recitation, as expression through drama is another valuable skill that helps creativity. 

A great way to have children “own it” that worked for our family is to paste a copy of each learned poem in a blank book and then illustrate it on the accompanying page.

This gave our children a real sense of accomplishment and mastery as well as providing us with a treasured keepsake. Just as important is to keep those learned poems fresh by having one day a week for recalling them to keep them fresh in their minds throughout the year.

You will be astounded by how many they learn and how many they continue to know by heart!

homeschool step

So how to go about it?

Here is a clear and easy process for a child to learn poetry that has worked for my family and the many I have had the honor to coach.

You begin by reading aloud the poem to your child, include the title and the author. Next, on the following day add the first four lines. Express for your child the rhythm, meter, and subject matter and you will find a more engaged listener. Remember to say these first lines out loud for your child and then ask them to repeat what you just said.

Do this only two or three times, keeping it light, easy and fun.

Repeating lines too many times can actually hinder memorization. Move at their pace.  Then on days three and four begin by asking them if they remember what they learned yesterday. If they do not remember anything, then go ahead and help them along. Say it once and ask them to repeat it. 

You will be working on each poem for a few weeks adding new ones as you go along and continuing previously learned poems at least once a week.   

kids drama

Add in a bit of Drama

I have added a bit of drama and even fun props through the years to our poetry! Drama provides expression in a form not included in the writing and reading components of a traditional language program. 

For example, I had my children actually perform the Aesop’s fables they memorized. We use Milo Winter’s version of Aesop’s Fables for Children, (the “Read and Listen” edition).  The illustrations are beautiful and the retellings are well done with rich language and descriptive vocabulary.

I would have my children look over the pictures in the book, and pick out one of the fables, as there is no need to do them in any particular order from any collection. The stories are short enough for little children to begin to appreciate poetry, rhythm, meter, and expression. As an added bonus, Aesop Fables are a great way to be able to recall enough information to put on a mini play.

Try to enlist other family members in the performance, letting the child lead but offer help. You can practice your performances to show family or friends, once you have a few stories under your belt.  Our children also loved doing plays of the classic Mother Goose rhymes, which can be substituted for the Aesop Fables any time.

Perhaps you are reading aloud together. Well, you could also add in a bit of drama to your daily read alouds, with different voices, emotions, and even asking the children to take turns reading aloud with expression.  We would always read aloud Shakespeare or Greek and Roman plays, each family member taking a different part! It was often hilarious and oh, so memorable.

If you aren’t reading aloud (even with children who are reading to themselves) there are so many benefits. I discuss them here in my blog, How to Make Read Aloud Time Work. 

Saint Colimba

Patron Saints for Poets

Our beautiful Catholic faith is filled with beauty and poetry from the Psalms to the Song of Songs. We have the gifts of the “music” they create in our souls.

We even ave a Patron Saint for poets to share with our children, Saint Columba. 

It’s fitting that Columba is venerated as patron saint of poets; Iona Abbey was a vital institution in the production of literature in Scotland. Like other monasteries, the monks of Iona would have taught reading and writing to the brothers within their community.

In 575 Columba spoke at the assembly of Druim Cetta in defence of poets facing criticism from the Irish ruling class. He’s also often credited as a poet himself (although we can’t know for certain if the poems traditionally attributed to him are truly his work). More than that, though, it’s fitting because to my eye St. Columba strikes quite a poetic figure: the man who sailed into Scotland from across the sea and taught languages.

-Alex Aldred, writer-in-residence with Historic Environment Scotland

Both poetry and drama add that essential element to paving the way for connection to God. They play to our imagination, to recall images, thoughts, expressions at will, which is a fundamental skill to achieve active relationships with others, with God and with our mind and soul. This “skill” requires much practice, and can start in the early years with your preschoolers, and last all through the high school years! 

The memories you make together and the enjoyment you have together with poetry and drama truly results in making all of us become the life long learners we are call to be by God.

Recommended Poetry and Drama Books

Harp and Laurel

Harp and Laurel Wreath edited by Laura Berquist (Ignatius Press)

Favorite Poems Old and New

Favorite Poems Old and New compiled by Helen Ferris

Aesop Fables

Milo Winter’s version of Aesop’s Fables for Children, (the “Read and Listen” edition) 

Now, it’s your turn…

Are you adding poetry and drama? How are you doing it? Comment below…


Get updates for the next post!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *