Thursday, March 28, 2019

Memoria Press: Poetry for the Grammar Stage {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

I think that every homeschool family has certain companies that they come back to year after year. One of the companies that keeps popping up in our family is Memoria Press. Memoria Press is a classical Christian education program with materials that cover all subject areas. They are perhaps best known for their Latin programs (Prima Latina, Latina Christiana, and more). I have used several of their products with Lauren, and most recently she is using their materials to work through a literature study of Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater.

Recently, we had the opportunity to use Memoria Press's Poetry for the Grammar Stage Set, another part of their literature options. For classical educators, the grammar stage is roughly defined as kindergarten through 5th or 6th grade. The product description notes that "poems increase in difficulty as students move through the book over a four-year period." Since Lauren is at the upper end of the grade recommendation, I introduced these materials with the intention of working through the poems all at once -- sort of a unit-study on poetry to make up for all the years that I didn't add poetry into our other language arts work.

The Poetry for the Grammar Stage Set ($42) consists of three softcover books -- a poetry anthology, a student guide, and a teacher guide. The materials cover 32 separate poems ranging in difficulty from fairly simple, single page poems such as The Hayloft by Robert Louis Stevenson to longer, more difficult works such as The Bells by Edgar Allan Poe. The Teacher Guide lists places where they would naturally fit with other Memoria Press materials, either literature, history, or science studies.

I flipped through the books and saw a familiar framework of a printed copy of the poem followed by vocabulary and comprehension questions. I thought that they could fit in nicely during the part of the day when Lauren works independently. Thankfully, I noticed a single page of notes titled "How to Teach a Poem" at the beginning of the Teacher Guide. It was then that I realized that these materials were not well-suited for a student who prefers to work independently. The Poetry for Grammar Stage Set required me to actively teach much of the materials (regardless of whether Lauren wanted to be working on her own).

We adapted the materials a bit so that Lauren could work independently but I could still teach the materials. On the first day, I read the poem aloud to her. Depending on the time available that day, I sometimes had her also read the poem aloud. For our initial reading, we usually used the copy printed in the Poetry for the Grammar Stage Anthology. The poem is also printed in the Student Guide with space for the student to draw an illustration and blank lines to use the poem as copywork. 

Then, instead of discussing the poem right away, I set her loose with the questions regarding the material. I hovered nearby doing housework or whatever so that she could ask me for help as she completed the work. She was more open to me explaining the rhyming structure or terms such as alliteration once she saw a question that she didn't know how to answer. Then, on the next day, we discussed her answers to the comprehension questions. She wasn't willing to discuss the poem on the day I introduced it, but she was willing to discuss the questions and answers after she had made an attempt to do them on her own. It wasn't the way Memoria Press suggested in the teaching instructions, but it managed to work for us.

The Poetry for the Grammar Stage set would be better used in a setting where the teacher and student discuss the materials together. At times, it seemed like it might be even better suited for teaching a small group of students where each student can contribute their ideas so that the group as a whole can discuss possible meanings and interpretations. It is possible to make it work with just a single student at home, though, and even possible with a student who is reluctant to discuss what she has read.

The thirty-two poems in the book increase in difficulty rather quickly. An older student with some poetry background and with strong reading comprehension skills could perhaps work through the poems at a pace of three to four per week to make a complete study on poetry. In most other cases, I'd recommend using this book as a way to introduce poetry one time per week (finishing the book in a year) or even introducing just eight poems over the course of a school year (finishing the book in four years).

Even though this program wasn't a perfect fit for my daughter who insists on working independently whenever possible, other Memoria Press products have been a perfect fit for her. I guess that's why Memoria Press remains one of the homeschool companies that I keep coming back to again and again.

If you're interested in learning more about other Memoria Press materials, please click the button below to read other reviews. The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine Homeschool Review Crew members have recently looked at their beginning reading materials, some of their Latin offerings, and other levels of poetry.

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