Our mornings often begin in our sunny breakfast room. Around that table we eat, pray, sing, and enjoy our beauty subjects. One morning, we began to recite our memory verse and my three year old chimed in perfectly sharing 12 verses from memory. At the end, we sat quietly for a moment considering the beauty and holiness of that little moment.
Recitation sounds victorian and odd to many of us (unless we are still fans of Anne with an e and understand the novelty of it all), but it is a key component in our sons' education. But why?
Let me explain.
What is recitation?
Have you ever stopped a podcast or changed a radio station because the person speaking wasn't capturing your attention? Or how about being so moved by how a person shares their message at church or in a class you took that it made you sit quietly afterwards like we did above, just enjoying the moment?
These situations are products of how the words were delivered. When a speaker learns to share in a manner that evokes emotion, interest, or response from the audience, they have mastered a special communication skill.
Charlotte Mason shared thoughts on recitation and its execution in Home Education on page 253:
I hope that my readers will train their children in the art of recitation; in the coming days, more even than in our own will it behoove every educated man and woman to be able to speak effectively in public; and, in learning to recite you learn to speak.
Recitation and committing to memory are not necessarily the same thing, and it is well to store a child's memory with a good deal of poetry, learnt without labour...
The whole parable should be read to them in a way to bring out its beauty and tenderness; and then, day by day, the teacher should recite a short passage, perhaps two or three verses, saying it over some three or four times until the children think they know it. Then, but not before, let them recite the passage. Next day the children will recite what they have already learned, and so on, until they are able to say the whole parable.
At its core, recitation is the art of speaking beautifully for the benefit of the hearer:
The child should speak beautiful thoughts so beautifully with such a delicate rendering of each nuance of meaning that he becomes a listener to the interpreter of the author’s thought.
-Home Education page 223
So now we have her thoughts about the matter, but what does it mean for us today and how do we use these ideas in our homeschool lessons?
Around the age of 6, our children begin formal lessons. Right away, we include a couple forms of recitation:
- bible memory verses (about 12 verses per term)
During our first lessons, I take time to read the poem or verse aloud. That's it. I carefully share it with them, articulating clearly and fluently the words. I deliberately omit my own passion or emotion and allow that to be the child's prerogative.
Once they feel ready, I have the child stand up and attempt the piece. Here is what that looks like:
- The child stands with nice posture
- The child introduces the piece via the title and the author
- The child reads or shares from memory the parts they know (a younger non-read repeats after me)
After reading, I mention any words that need to be corrected as well as talk about any places they did exceptionally well or need to speak louder, etc.
We do this three to four days a week for poetry and five days a week for their memory verse. At some point, usually around 4-6 weeks, they memorize the piece. It is a natural part of speaking it over and again in a beautiful manner.
Additional benefits of recitation.
When learning to recite, our children are provided a printed copy of the piece they are working on. We have noticed that this actually aids our early readers! It's an added benefit of them going over a piece several times a week for many weeks. Repeated reading is a technique often used in literacy programs, and it is included quite effortlessly in our homeschool via recitation lessons. We have found that our children soon recognize words from their recitation pieces in other work they do too. Consider it a sneaky reading lesson!
Also, recitation helps our children become more comfortable receiving feedback and correction. In order to recite beautifully, the words must be articulated quite clearly. At times, this requires some assistance and correct during and after the piece is practiced. Our kids have become comfortable with this process and are even learning to respectfully support one another in this way.
Recitation is the perfect public speaking practice! Having children learn to communicate well, and in front of others, is helpful as they have opportunities in various other ways to speak before an audience.
Additional resources and thoughts on recitation.
Currently, we use and love the A Gentle Feast resources. Within, we are provided recitation options for all grade levels according to Miss Mason's suggestions.
If you would like to read further about recitation:
- Parent's Review Article by Arthur Burrell
- Starting a Recitation Gathering The Mason Jar podcast