At what age would you expect a child to be asked to learn this off by heart?(97 Posts)
...and be asked to recite it in front of the class?
The Hare and the Tortoise
Rushing is useless; one has to leave on time. To such
Truth witness is given by the Tortoise and the Hare.
"Lets make a bet," the former once said, "that you wont touch
That line as soon as I." "As soon? Are you all there,
Neighbor?" said the rapid beast.
"You need a purge: four grains at least
Of hellebore, youre now so far gone."
"All there or not, the bets still on."
So it was done; the wagers of the two
Were placed at the finish, in view.
It doesnt matter what was down at stake,
Nor who was the judge that they got.
Our Hare had, at most, four steps or so to take.
I mean the kind he takes when, on the verge of being caught,
He outruns dogs sent to the calends for their pains,
Making them run all over the plains.
Having, I say, time to spare, sleep, browse around,
Listen to where the wind was bound,
He let the Tortoise leave the starting place
In stately steps, wide-spaced.
Straining, she commenced the race:
Going slow was how she made haste.
He, meanwhile, thought such a win derogatory,
Judged the bet to be devoid of glory,
Believed his honor was all based
On leaving late. He browsed, lolled like a king,
Amused himself with everything
But the bet. When at last he took a look,
Saw that shed almost arrived at the end of the course,
He shot off like a bolt. But all of the leaps he took
Were in vain; the Tortoise was first perforce.
"Well, now!" she cried out to him. "Was I wrong?
What good is all your speed to you?
The winner is me! And how would you do
If you also carried a house along?"
Never in the UK system.......
But if it had to be done, I'd say around 7 years old. When i used to be in primary school in Hong Kong, I used to have to learn and recite passages by heart...I think my memory was best at 7 years old.....I would not be able to do that now.
We had to memorize stuff like that from about 8/9 yo here, shorter stuff in earlier years. And at that age slightly shorter stuff in Irish too.
Dd is 7 and not a huge amount of memorizing tv happening yet tbh so it's probably changed a bit since I was in school.
Lead characters in the Y3 play had more lines that that to learn (realise that's not quite the same thing) so I'd say from 7/8 upwards would be ok.
We are not in the UK and where we are, there's a deeply ingrained culture of rote learning.
i find it surprising on many levels:
-- the concept of rote learning
-- the level of language
-- the length of the piece
......I am struggling to learn it myself. And DD struggling, too. 16 days to go before Recitation Day.
I have an appalling memory. When I used to have to remember great big chunks of text for exams I used to cut it up into small chunks which I could remember easily. Then I'd create a an initial for each small chunk and a mnemonic for all the chunks together. When I'd get to the exam room at turn your paper over time I'd scribble all the mnemonics down manically. Then during the exam (at my leisure, I'd expand them as required.) I did acting and had to remember lines too, but that was so long ago I can't remember how I did that. I've heard memory experts saying things a bit similar to my mnemonic idea where you write nothing down. But imagine each chunk to be associated with somewhere you're familiar with, (like your house.) Then as you progress through your house you identify each object and with it the chunk of text. I've never tried it. But I can see how it might work.
It's a difficult and clumsy piece to learn, if it was rhyming all the way through it'd be easier but the rhymes are very irregular.
And what country is this?
Crikey, what country are you in? And is it to be learnt in English?
Also, is it 'rapid beast' or 'rabid beast'?
No way at 5. Just no way. They are setting her up to fail. And for what?
Well, we are in France.
The piece is in French, that's the translation I found on the internet, but it is a pretty good representation of the level of difficulty, the rhyme scheme is irregular in French, too.
I would approach the teacher as if this was a very funny misunderstanding and expect him/her to clarify it and have a good old chuckle that anyone would expect a 5 year old to learn something like that.
Thought so, that's why I asked about the language. Does she go to a local primaire?
I'd be thinking of ways to let the school know it isn't going to happen, to be honest. Poor DD
5! dd occasionally learns little rhymes at nursery 4-6 lines - she is almost 4 and finds it fairly easy. But this is very difficult. What's the point of it? I mean there are things that it is useful to know by heart, but this cannot be construed as useful, surely? If they want them to be able to memorize, surely there are better things to do it with (I am slightly old-fashioned and do think that there's a place for the skill of rote-learning - e.g. it's handy to be able to do it - but it isn't a way of teaching anything but how to learn by rote, IYSWIM)
I think the point is to get used to having to remember great big chunks of things for school. My understanding of the French system is that it's big on remembering lots of stuff.
You need people with experience of the French system. I knew they were big on rote learning, but that at 5 is
My DD (shy) narrated the entire nativity at her prep school aged 6 with no notes. She did. She's not there now....she's at a state primary..(lot less pressure)
A child CAN do such a thing but it's a lot of work.
Learn it one line at a time.
She can memorise a line....then once it's in her head fully...you add the next ad infinitum,
French verb conjugation and grammar being what it is, you have to learn by rote, ther's no other way.
So the move away from rote kearning as a conceot has never happened here. So i was prepared for rote learning......i just wasn't prepared for this level of rote learning at age 5.
It is all to be learned at home, (they don't practise at school, AFAIK) so we are in for a crappy two weeks whilst I hassle DD to learn it.
I studied French literature to degree level and I love French literature. So i can't believe I am coming over all anti-French lit, but I think this is stoooopid to expect of a 5 yo.
We are learning it in small chunks, two / three lines at time.
Grrr, phone. Looking at my 5 year old as I type... Hmm, probably not but give it a year and she would be able to do it. She's managed to learn several pages of song lyrics for her nativity play, so can learn things by heart. But I think the language of this piece is too difficult for a 5 year old to remember.
mushroom, learning it one line at a time is fine, except that when you stand up in front of the class there is a small risk that it all just goes out the window. I think that's the reason why some people choose a memory aide.
OP - I don't understand your point about French grammar and verb conjugation? Surely if you speak a native language (presumably your DD is bilinguial, or close to?) then why do you need to rote learn grammar rules? For writing purposes obviously you need agreement, but that's a fairly simple rule without exceptions, so can't see the need to rote learn? I'm just curious!!
I was wondering that too rhetorician. Spanish schools don't use as much rote learning, and their grammar is quite similar.
Well, english verbs don't require any rote learning because the conjugation is very simple:
But in French:
The first three sound the same so you can't hear the spelling change, so you have to learn it....by rote! French children sit in classrooms reciting verb conjugations every day for years!
As for grammar, they have to learn the rules for direct object pronouns and indirect object pronouns (for example) off by heart.
It is not comparable to english grammar at all.
No, but that's only a tiny part of teaching methodology. There's really no need for so much rote.
We expect our yr 3 children and upwards to learn poems by heart for poetry recitals in their class, the best from each goes on to compete in the whole school competition.
FFS, I am not defending the French system!
I don't agree with rote learning, as I said way upthread:
i find it surprising on many levels:
the concept of rote learning
I am simply trying to let people know that - for right or wrong - you have to leanr French this way if you are in the French system!
When I say "they have to learn the rules for direct object pronouns by heart", that's not me propounding the rote-learning as a good thing. It is me reporting what happens in French schools!
No no, I don't think anyone said you were! It's an interesting thing though, how France have gone down a totally different route. Interesting for me anyway, I'm an MFL teacher.
So moyenne section? Really? I didn't think they did any rote-learning like that in maternelle?
From CP (7) onwards DS did (and still does) a lot of poetry learning and both DS have v. good memories partly because of this.
Sounds tough for age 5 (but DS2, also 5, coming up for 6, grande section) learns most of his brother's long poems and songs off by heart too.
I think actually pre-reading they have a better memory too.
I thought you were saying "there's no need for so much rote" as if I were endorsing it. I'm not!
Trinity - my school expects children to learn a poem by heart from Y1 for a competition - but the diff is it's a poem of their choice, and is therefore a suitable poem.
Also, why are they giving homework in maternelle?
At our school hw starts in CP.
Are you sure they are not doing it at school?
Just asking because even DS1 (CE2) normally nearly knows his poems to learn by the time he gets home because they go over them a lot at school first and then over a couple of weeks.
No, not at all, just debating the merits of their system!
She is not in maternelle, she is in CP:
PS: age 3
MS: age 4
GS: age 5
CP: age 6
She is 5 and will turn 6 in a few weeks.
In the UK, she would be in Year 1.
not saying that French grammar is the same as English at all - just that the learning of this kind of stuff is for writing purposes only. Curious as to what the practice is in countries where they speak inflected languages (Germany, for example).
That's absolutely bonkers. In Scotland we usually ask the children to memorise a poem in Scots for St Andrew's Day and/or Burns Night.
P1 would have something like this:
As I gaed doun
The stackyaird dyke
I stuck a stick
In a bumbee's byke.
Sic a stishie
Sic a steer
Sic a bizzin
Did I hear.
I got a stang
Frae a big bumbee,
And jings ! that stang was sair.
Never will I
Herrie a byke
Gif I leeve for evermair.
P7 would have something more like:
The deil cam fiddlin' thro' the town,
And danc'd awa wi' th' Exciseman,
And ilka wife cries, "Auld Mahoun,
I wish you luck o' the prize, man."
Chorus-The deil's awa, the deil's awa,
The deil's awa wi' the Exciseman,
He's danc'd awa, he's danc'd awa,
He's danc'd awa wi' the Exciseman.
We'll mak our maut, and we'll brew our drink,
We'll laugh, sing, and rejoice, man,
And mony braw thanks to the meikle black deil,
That danc'd awa wi' th' Exciseman.
The deil's awa, &c.
There's threesome reels, there's foursome reels,
There's hornpipes and strathspeys, man,
But the ae best dance ere came to the land
Was-the deil's awa wi' the Exciseman.
The deil's awa, &c.
A group might be asked to memorise Tam O'Shanter, but only about 20 lines each.
Ok - I see, she's end of the year - I forget because DS2 is January-born so will soon be six, and is still in maternelle.
To be honest for CP I'm not at all surprised, that's when DS1 started learning full-on long poems every couple of weeks.
But as I said, they certainly practised them a lot in class beforehand because he pretty much knew them when they were set for h/w.
We found the transition from GS to CP a struggle for DS1 (September-born), suddenly tons of h/w, learning to read, rote-learning, lots of writing...
We had a lot of tears over homework that year.
If it's any consolation CE1 (same teacher) was MUCH easier, and he is finding CE2 a breeze too.
I think parents (and teachers) have big expectations of CP so it tends to be a heavy year. Sorry for your DD
If it was practiced at school regularly, I think the majority of children could do it in year 1.
When dd2 was in year 1 each class learnt one of the Revolting Rhymes by heart (the Roald Dahl ones) which are, I'd say similar to slightly longer. They did a lot of reciting it together in class but didn't bring it home at all.
At the beginning of year 4 they were all told to learn a poem (any poem) and recite it to their class. About half the children chose to do the poem they'd learnt in year 1-not just the top quick learners, but all abilities.
But I'd not really want them to have to learnt things of that length for homework. If the child wants to learn it, fine, but the thought of trying to get ds (in year 1) to learn it at home sends my hair grey at the thought. He could manage it, but would be very resistant!
My DS recited something about half that length in school at age 4. I think he could learn that now age five. But he has a good memory for this sort of thing...can't tie his bloody shoes or remember clean pants
we're in france too and mine all learned poetry by heart from CP, that lenght maybe, but never that difficulty. Even up to CM2 they wouldn't have that length and difficult, one or the other. So, depends on the school.
It's not only the length, it's the complexity of Language. There's a lot of very old fashioned vocab in this one and the style is a world away from the humour of Dahl.
As far as I know, they do no practising at school. This is the third poem we have learnt this term and all the learning has been done at home.
We have spent quite a bit of today on this. 3 bursts of 10 mins, trying to get the first 4 lines learnt.
DD is not impressed.
Well, DD1 did the whole of 'The Night Before Christmas' when she was not quite 5. She was still at nursery then (I deferred entry to primary until the term she turned 5 due to childcare reasons). She did fine.
But this poem is several levels above, and most of all DD was doing her bit because she wanted to perform.
I think there is an enormous difference between learning essential grammar by rote and learning endless swathes of text. I learned French and German this way, and if you add in a fundamental understanding of how a language works (knowing what verbs, adverbs, adjectives, clauses etc. are) plus punctuation, you're actually equipped to learn pretty much any language. It certainly enabled me to learn Arabic in my 20s.
Learning poetry off by heart on the heart hand strikes me as mostly useless - OK, it trains memory, but that's about it. It certainly doesn't train anyone to appreciate the beauty of poetry - they could do that just as well by studying a poem, understanding it, and then reading it out loud - with the understanding adding expression.
I am very glad my DDs are not in the French system, I would not be happy about this and I'd be just as stuck with it as the OP is.
I would be impressed if 11yo DD could memorise that poem.
I'd faint with shock if my 8yo could learn it all.
My French DH keeps saying to me, "it doesn't matter if she doesn't understand it, she just has to learn to say it" which makes me feel worse, not better.
Yes, OP, I agree about the language, I hadn't thought of it that way.
They'll learn it phonetically without any knowledge of the meaning, which seems pointless.
In your translation, I would say that it is full of vocabulary that I wouldn't expect a 5 year old to know - I mean, who takes a 'purge' in this day and age? So if it is similar in French, I would expect it to be very hard to learn - and that is without even considering the length of the piece.
Yup - French system seems crap to me...
OP, what would happen if you refused?
Mine is in year 1 But in Italy so 6/7. . They have short poetry /ryhmes. But. O way anything like this. I would also prefer my child to understand what they are learning.
Rosa - how do they learn verb conjugation in Italy?
italian verbs are hard, as I recall
Wait, is she in a local primaire? How odd. DS is in CM2 and just had to learn Eluard's 'Liberte', which is long but fairly simple. He never had to memorize a poem of that length or that vocab complexity. In CP they were doing short, simple ones.
It's way too much for a 5yo, imo.
Can you get a recording of it, and play it every time you are in the car?
My DC learned TS Elliot's cat poems like that. (Inadvertently, they were listening to the poems for pleasure, not with the object of learning them off by heart.)
Weirdly, my 7yo, who can hardly read and write could memorise it, if we worked long and hard enough on it.
My eldest DS could have (if he'd wanted to at 5/6, but he is very able at recalling what he has read) DS2 would be hard pushed at 9yo.
Just a tip about memorizing poetry. Try starting from the END, not the beginning (alongside a lot of reading the whole thing through, without trying to learn it on those read throughs). This way, when they come to recite, they are most confident about the latter parts and get more confident as they go rather than starting to panic as they forget the end bits.
I would think that most of my Y4 class would manage it, as would DD1 (aged 7) but that is because they are used to learning things off by heart in Literacy. Lots of schools will use Pie Corbett's method which involves children learning a text before using it as a scaffold to write their own - that's a massive simplification of what the process entails but it starts with the children hearing the text told/recited to them followed by the creation of a graphic text/story map (very bad drawings/symbols to represent key words in a sentence/phrase). The children then use the text map to read the text and actions are added to further aid recall. Have a look at this school's website for an example of a text map.
It's a great way of teaching sentence structures and language patterns and is particularly effective with children who are struggling with English grammar. Although it feels rather alien to children on the first occasion that this method is used, they soon get to grips with it and end up with a whole range of texts that they know off by heart.
My class have recently been learning one entitled 'How a jellyfish stings' and it starts like this...
Jellyfish are invertebrates. This means they do not have backbones. They have circular bodies without a head and tentacles that hang down into the water.
They live in water and swim or drift with the currents of the sea. They are found throughout the world though they prefer warmer water.
Jellyfish attack their food using their tentacles which are covered with tiny stinging threads known as nematocysts. If any creature touches one of these nematocysts it will explode outwards etc. etc. etc.
Perhaps helping your DD to devise symbols with which to rewrite the poem will help her to recall it? The actions may also be worth exploring, if only because it's active (and can be fun!) which may appeal to her. When I use this method with my classes we often play 'tennis' with a text - batting the words to each other e.g.
How's she getting on?
DS1 (8) just tried to learn Away in a Manger today and found the words really hard!
Have you tried singing it?
Away in a manger or the OP's original poem ?
Away in a Manger, I think.
Not sure what tune you would set OP's poem to.
It seems pointless to me. Is it a Gove idea?
I was brought up (abroad) having to learn by rote from a very early age. My children (in the UK) as far as I know have never had to learn anything by rote except for school plays, and I wish they had.
It's great for exercising your memory.
Frankly it's not that difficult. I'm sure it would be easier for your child if you didn't give her the vibe that you think this is too much, or out of order, or that the whole educational system you've put her in is so shit.
As for the level of vocabulary, a challenge is good. I feel sorry for these kids who are only ever given stuff to read or to study that adults feel are 'right for their level'.
At 5, St Augustine was already studying Latin and Greek. Why do we insist that our children should be treated like idiots?
I think you have got me quite, quite wrong.
I am neither anti-education or anti French system, but thanks for comparing my DD to Saint Augustine. That's a first.
After an intensive weekend of practising, we are halfway through. And I say "we are halfway through" deliberately, because it really is both of us!
I guessed a French School as soon as I saw the OP. That poem is really long and difficult. My DC's were educated overseas in a traditional style school but were never asked to do something like that. My DC's happily memorised entire episodes of SpongeBob
You'll get there very soon then.
Are you doing it one line at a time?
What I used to do was one line at a time, and add them on to the previous ones (so you'd say out loud 5 perfect lines, then 6 perfect lines etc.), and never ever start on a new line until I knew the previous ones perfectly.
Once your daugher (and you) see that you can do it, it won't feel so daunting the next time.
I feel for you! Been there, tears and all...
Have you spoken to other parents to see how they feel about it?
Have you asked the teacher what the learning objectives of this exercise are?
we are doing two lines at a time, then moving on, but then trying to build up links between sections, because, from expereience, DD can learn all the couplets fine, but then has trouble stringing them together.
we have a regular meeting with teacher on Sat am....let's just say, I will be raising this issue with her!
I don't think kids have to learn things like this from memory anymore. We used to learn parts of the bible and hymns off by heart in primary school but DS has only had to learn some Christmas carols so far!
Seems too hard for 5 to me - and I've got a very bright, yr 3, 7 yr old who has memorised poems for school several times now. He'd manage something a little shorter, half his class wouldn't.
Gosh, that seems difficult.
Personally, I think the best way to learn it, is for you to read several lines out again and again and she will pick it up. Doing it just before you go to bed is probably the best time - then you will get the 'latent' learning coming in.
When dd was about 3, she could recite the whole Peter Rabbit story off by heart, although she did have the pictures to look at for a prompt, she turned the pages at exactly the right time and it looked like she could read (she couldn't), but then when I got the CD story for the car, she could recite it too. She had literally heard it so much.
Have you thought of reading it out, recording it and playing it for her.
Best of luck.
Oh I remember doing this same text in (french) school. To the best of my memory, it must have been in CE2 or CM1 though, not CP.
We're abroad too. I've just dug out dd's poetry book from last year (3ieme primaire - 8 yrs) and the poetry she had to learn by heart includes:
Couleurs d'Automne by Jean Claude Brinette, En Sortant de l'ecole by Jacques Prevert and Het fluitketeltje by Annie M G Schmidt
I consider dd's school to be fairly rigorous so I agree with the others that in terms of length, vocabluary and the sense of the piece it is a bit too advanced for a 5 year old. Give it two or three years and it would be fine though!
I am coming back to give you an update after our meeting with the teacher this am.
Well, she right away mentioned the poetry and said, "this year, it's an exceptional class, I thought I would give them something really stretching, and they are all so pleased to be doing something as hard as this. I have told them the story and I get them to retell portions of the story using their own words and they love reinterpreting it. It is a class that is really flying, so I knew they would be up for it. It's so exciting for them to discover that there's more to books than Tchoupi [similar to Spot in English] and to know that this was written hundreds of years ago. Bravo to your children for being at this level now."
I slunk away, reader, feeling both delighted and humbled.
Ahh, that's humbling, you're right!
You'll probably feel much more positive about practising with DD now and at least you know the teacher's intentions are good.
about happy ending!
Can you set it to music?
Long pieces are much easier to learn when there's a tune to follow.
I'm glad to see the teacher is expanding on the poem in class but personal opinion is rote learning is useless - I experienced French uni where the teaching methods bemused visiting students.
For the record, we are also in France and my DD1 had to learn the same poem off by heart in CE2 or CM1 (age 8/9)...
DS is in CP and does much shorter and easier texts than this.
I wonder if the whole class are thrilled to have something so hard?
(hello twostraightlines and Happy Christmas)!
I slunk away, reader, feeling both delighted and humbled.
Shame you didn't ask why, if the children are all so advanced, they are not just learning it in class. It seems, if your DD is typical, there needs to be tremendous adult support for the children to learn it all. The teacher seems oblivious to the angst probably going on in each individual home in order to get this thing learned.
My DD (in CE2) gets much shorter pieces than this to learn by heart - though she does have to learn by heart in both French and English. In her English class they are currently learning 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, though they don't have to recite it individually - it's a group exercise where the verses are shared out among four children.
They do that thing where they learn poems by heart and then write a poem of their own à la manière de. DD loves doing that!
(hi jamais, thank you and happy Christmas to you too!)
i learned long scots poems in primary school for recitals and we got a couple of lines stuck onto a coloured card to learn, then the next two added the next time etc. till it was all stuck in couplets onto the card... seemed to work for me at the time... just a suggestion.
why would you have to hassle DD to learn it, practice it together and it can be fun. It is possible to enjoy learning if they see adults enjoying it to.
At that age they are capable of learning whole songs without even trying...
Join the discussion
Please login first.