Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Recitation and Question Time

I had been interested in the idea of Recitation for a long time.   It comes up often in older textbooks, the kind you find in Google Books, and it was apparently a key element in the old-fashioned schoolroom, probably at least partly because paper and books were relatively scarce and when dealing with a one-room schoolhouse or a large number of students it is easier to evaluate their understanding by oral means (plus having the older or more advanced students recite is a learning factor for the younger or less learned students-- call it the Trickle Down or Peer Learning Effect).

Robert Harris, One Room Schoolhouse
Memoria Press is one modern curriculum that makes extensive use of Recitations.   Almost every resource they sell has a recitation set attached to it, and I just recently found that they sell their grade-level recitation plans as individual sets (you can get PDF download versions too)

You can also find a thread on Simply Charlotte Mason forum talking about recitation and memorization.  

Here is a post on Recitation from a Charlotte Mason perspective. 
Here's another one.

Memorization programs like Classical Conversations and Classically Catholic Memory depend heavily on oral recitation.  

I have been depending more and more on this method as a way to avoid busywork and make sure the kids remember what I taught them and revisit it again and again.    It's very simple to do.  All you need is a page of questions and answers.   It's helpful to vary between some you know your kid is comfortable with and some that are newer and more unfamiliar.   The proportion probably varies according to the child's temperament.    I usually make a checkmark by the ones the child has an easy time with and we only recite those occasionally for reinforcement.

One-Room Schoolhouse
One Room Schoolhouse

Almost any Quizlet quiz can be used as the base for a recitation.     Basically, just search for whatever you think your kid should learn.  Quizlet allows you to study it, spell it, copy it over to your own account (so you can edit for typos or add/remove questions), and print it out as flashcards, tables, or tests.

In the past few weeks I have been going through the 1st grade Memoria Press recitation with Paddy.   Some of the questions are easy, but others aren't.   Asking him the questions is a quick way to see if he has any knowledge gaps (for instance, somehow he never learned that the English alphabet has 26 letters, though he knows that the Latin alphabet has 24).

The Happy Family by Ferdinand Georg Waldmuller

I don't call this Recitation in his weekly checklist -- rather, I call it Question Time.    Memoria Press recommends doing this in a formal manner, to teach elocution and public speaking etiquette, but I haven't really done it this way, though I probably eventually will start up a Public Speaking mini-course and do a few of our recitations in this format.  

Yesterday our group Meeting Time wasn't going particularly well, because the older boys wanted to talk and were going off topic, so I decided to ask the first grade questions to all of them -- 21 year old son who still lives at home, senior, and 5th grader.    I thought that whether they were bored or not, it would give me a chance to pick up the momentum and move on to the next part of the day. 

Instead, all three of the boys LOVED the question series.   They kept asking me to come up with more questions, and they started making up their own.   We did this for nearly an hour all told. 

Their relish for this game reminded me of when I was growing up and my Dad started a game he called Quiz at the dinner table.   He started by making up his own questions, then got some quiz books.   We had a great time, doing something together as a family that we could all participate in together.   But what I remember most is getting the approval of my Dad (who was type A and a perfectionist who rarely praised anything) when I got one right that he didn't expect anyone to know.    The quiz format gave him a way to show us approval and focused attention, which I know he wanted to be able to do.    He would tailor some questions towards the individual (my littlest brother got questions that he could answer, for instance) and some to the family in general.

I am sure that in some settings, this Q and A style would be intimidating, but in the home, it seems to be a good way to approach a topic interactively.     

1 comment:

  1. We've implemented Poetry Recitation night once a week this year and it has been a huge hit!! We've been totally amazed with just how much the children have been capable of memorising. Actually last week I got up and rattled off some stanzas from memory and am inspired to join in the fun next time.


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