I do not know about you, but I never liked learning things by heart at school. 

There was this list of new vocabulary we had to memorise and only used it for a dull and meaningless repetition to get a good grade.

There were silly texts in workbooks emphasising one grammar structure time and time again ... It was important to know that Nick's T-shirt was blue, and if we had said it was red (no matter the sentence was put together correctly), it was altogether wrong.

There were poems to be memorised for the sake of memorisation ...

There was never any sense pinned to whatever memorisation we were doing ...

I hated it. It was a waste of my time and energy and I was sure my brain was able to do more challenging things.

I was right.

And I was wrong.

Learning by heart can be useful providing we put the learnt to some use. 


For a learner, whose first language has a 'simple' pronunciation (each letter produces only one sound and there are no sounds with combined letters), English spelling can be somewhat confusing. (There are, however, languages with even more confusing spelling.)

On the bright side, there are more or less fixed rules on how a specific combination of letters is pronounced. Sadly, there are always exceptions.

To learn the common connections between the sounds and the letters, the memorisation of syllable-sounds can be really useful.

'Playing Drums' with syllables. They can be
real words or a nonsense combination. 

We practice some at our workshops ...

Let's say we would like to practice the spelling of the sound /i:/

For a start, we put together some syllable rhymes:
  • with one-syllable words (like see-fee-he-bee-lee-key);
  • with syllables taken from longer words (like pree-mee-stee-cree);
  • with mixed syllables ...
    • either with the combination of single sound-letters (like he-key-lee-see-fee)
    • or with combined letters (like she-chee)

... we create a list of syllable rhymes ...

... we make a list of syllables for children to create their own combinations ... 

... and we play who can pronounce the rhymes correctly while smiling, in a deep voice, with pursed lips, or when we mix the syllables up ...

When children come across new words in songs, rhymes or texts, it makes the reading easier.

(Tounge twisters are an upgrade to this activity.)


At some point, children are asked to say something about themselves, or tell about the story they've been working on, or describe a picture they have drawn ... For that purpose, it is good that children know certain expressions by heart. 

To put those expressions to meaningful use, they can do a presentation.

Let me tell you
something about myself ...

It is not only the words they say that count. 

If children want to present the topic confidently, they need to have control over their voice (speak clearly, use pauses, stress the correct words) and they need to be in control of their bodies. 

They can only put together a structured and fluent presentation if they know the expressions by heart, have confidence in making eye-contact and feel comfortable in their exposed posture ... (in other words, they need to be in control of their body and they have memorised the language).


Learning poems (or songs) by heart is an excellent way to combine playing with sounds and expressing their body language through a presentation. 

Some great poems for children aged 8-11 can be found in the book 'Off By Heart' by Roger Stevens.

I hope the article has given you some ideas on how to incorporate memorisation in playful, meaningful and enjoyable activities.

If not, read through my other blog posts, where I talk about creating activities ...

... or you can visit some of the C00lSch00l workshops ... (if you are not a Slovenian, you can read about the workshops here).

Subscribing to my blog or mailing list, you'll be notified about every new article and event regarding C00lSch00l's YFLL.

You can also contact me at info@c00lsch00l.eu. Looking forward to your comments.

Wish you a sunny April.


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