Recitation Q&A

What is Recitation?
“Cultivating the spirit and the inner man toward a virtuous and hopeful orientation toward life and society using timeless truth and documents which will produce theological anchors, hope, and guidance for life.”

Think back to your early education. Did you memorize the pledge of allegiance? God Bless America? Home on the Range? Any poetry? Bible verses? Many of us can recall educational days when memorizing quality material was a part of each morning. This and more is what we are returning to in what we at Coventry affectionately call “Recitation.”

Led by Mrs. Barton and Mrs. Brown, recitation is a strategic 10 minute period that begins the Grammar school day. During this time two objectives are being accomplished. First, we are specifically training the brain to retain by reciting memorized material. (See the importance of memorization as a part of a classical educational philosophy by clicking on this link.) A certain body of material is worked with each week and month, being recited over and over again until it is mastered and has automatic recall at a prompting by the leader. The second objective is to impart a body of quality content – poems, wise sayings, historical monologues, hymns etc. – which we believe should be a part of every child’s education.

We have a three year cycle of content in the categories of Bible, Theology, Hymnody, Classic songs and Rhymes, Poetry and Wisdom. Over the course of 3 years students will master approximately 200 pieces of information. The aim is to furnish the young minds of our students with a rich storehouse of literary and theological material which echoes and affirms classical and biblical virtues: that which is good, true and beautiful. By memorizing through singing, reciting, chanting and talking about these works day in and day out, year after year, this body of knowledge and beauty becomes embedded in their hearts and minds. It furnishes for our students moral and ethical categories, beauty and inspiration in the midst of a broken and dreary world, and anchors of truth for their souls and hearts in confusing times.

The material covered in recitation also serves to support and complement that which is learned and memorized in the classroom. Recitation is a rich and living experience which we are privileged to lead!

In addition to classic and historic material, we are pleased to use some newer works, specifically questions from the New City Catechism which have been set to original music by one of our staff members, Sarah Brown, who is a recording artist and composer.

What does it Look Like?

The grammar school is gathered in the auditorium or chapel and for 10-15 minutes is led by the Teacher through a series of works they are currently memorizing. The leader stands at the front of the room, or may walk up and down the center aisle, helping to make eye contact with the students. Some works the leader begins, and they chime in with the rest after the cue. Some works, like wise sayings, the leader actually says the first part of the saying and the students chant the remainder. Sometimes, the leader should take a few minutes to talk about the meaning of the section of material they’re working on, using a dialectic approach. This is incredibly valuable, important and rewarding for both the leader and the students! It is paramount that they not only memorize but that they understand what they’re memorizing and its SIGNIFICANCE. It is meant to be conducted efficiently, moving through material rather quickly, from one piece to the next. It concludes with prayer and is followed by a very silent and orderly dismissal.

Recitation is a unique time for the Leader (principal, teacher, etc) to instill meta-level ideas and inspirations in the students. This is the time to discuss bigger ideas, tying ideas together from their subjects, classes, personal lives, thoughts about where they’re going in life, how God loves them and has created them for great purposes, instilling in them that THEY need to be responsible for their education – what they learn is up to THEM, personal ownership for their own lives and choices, painting a picture of a better world…This happens in little bits and pieces every day during this little window of time.

Material/ Content

  • The purpose of the kind of material we choose for recitation is to cultivate the spirit and the inner man toward a virtuous and hopeful orientation toward life and our society. To that end, we choose poetry, hymns, civic speeches, scripture verses and theological documents which will produce anchors, hope, and guidance for life.
  • All Titles by Cycle and Subject provides a preview of the titles.
  • All the material will be cycled through 2 times in their grammar school experience so even if they don’t master it all in one year, they’ll come back to it again.

Our Bible selections have been chosen:

  1. To give practical and theological anchors
  2. Basic information about the Bible and major lists/ names
  3. Genesis 3 – because it contains the entire biblical narrative of the fall – which is responsible for every broken condition we observe and live under on this side eternity. Emotionally, spiritually and intellectually this is essential for children to understand the roots of the reality in which they live. And categorically this is essential for children in order to understand theological and biblical concepts they will encounter later on. It also contains the very first promise and prophecy of the Saviour who will restore everything to perfection.

Our Theology material has been selected specifically to give children a strong theological foundation as expressed in Reformed/ Biblical traditions. Classic church texts (i.e The Prayer of St. Francis), catechism questions and answers from the New City Catechism, Creeds and Prayers and The 10 Commandments are included. The aim is to give students roots in classic theological creeds and doctrine helping to secure a sound lense through which to understand the church, the Bible and their world. The catechism questions have been specifically selected to articulate a thorough explanation of the Gospel.

Our hymns have been selected for their:

  1. Strength of content, melody and doctrinal soundness
  2. Historic place in the Christian church throughout America and much of the world
  3. Themes which provide a well rounded understanding of God’s work in the world
  4. Themes which will help shape their understanding of God and of his love and care for them personally
  5. Christmas songs which are less known but communicate important truths of the Biblical story and which are part of our cultural heritage.

Given the cultural state of theological ignorance as well as personal despair that many children live with, we feel giving them hymns which focus on understanding who God is, who they are and how they are loved by Him is one of the best gifts we could give our students. We believe we are providing a great spiritual service to them in building these timeless hymns into their memories.

Classic Songs and Rhymes:
These rhymes and songs have been carefully chosen for the functions they serve. Feel free to adjust as necessary, keeping in mind the purposes for which they’ve been chosen. They represent a combination of works which do a number of things:

  1. Challenge the memory and the ability of the brain to hold onto information (i.e. This is the House that Jack Built)
  2. Introduce the ear and mind to rhyme and meter in a simple, delightful way.
  3. Establish cultural reference points (i.e. Early to bed, early to rise)
  4. Underscore American history (i.e. Yankee Doodle, I’ve been Working on the Railroad)
  5. Provide a little levity and physical gestures (i.e. This old man)
  6. Provide material which is easily accessible for younger grades (K-2) and reinforces basic concepts such as counting (i.e.One two buckle my shoe)
  7. Provide early examples of literary devices like alliteration (i.e. One Misty Moisty Morning)
  8. Provide moral warnings (i.e. Tears and Fears)
  9. Provide wisdom (i.e. Bear Hunt – “you have to go THROUGH challenges in life – you can’t avoid them!”
  10. Introduce them to a foreign language (i.e.Frere Jacques)
  11. Introduces them to classic American tunes which have even been used in art music (i.e. Tis the Gift to be Simple – used in Copland’s symphonic work “Appalachian Spring”
  12. Stretches the mind by a riddle in poetry (i.e.Old Mother Twitchett)

Selections have been chosen to expose students to key documents and songs from American history.

There are many forms we can use to inculcate in children all the virtues which ought to shape their lives and hearts. Prose, dialectic teaching, rebuke, story, essay, logic…But poetry is a medium which uses rhyme and meter and the beautiful use of language to teach many of the same things. It particularly uses beauty and drama in the construction of language to elevate the soul and awaken a different sensibility. This complements the other forms of learning but is more enriching.

Our selections are oriented toward younger minds and ears, but nonetheless, they serve the same functions. Specifically we’ve chosen works which reinforce moral and character lessons as well as reflections on the seasons of the year.

The aim of these sayings is to impart wisdom considering the subjects of identity, perseverance, kindness, faithfulness, thankfulness, hard work, discipline, respect etc.
The sayings come from the Bible as well as authors from ancient times to modern day.

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