Review by Stacy Zeiger, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2014
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Poems by Heart from Penguin Classics

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Memorize and record your favorite verses, line by line

Subjects & skills
  • English Language Arts

  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: Progress tracking supports memorization; recording features allow kids to self-assess.

Cons: The small selection of free poems is a bit limiting.

Bottom Line: Memorization activities are a great way to help kids learn to recite poetry, but be prepared to pay for access to your favorite poems.

The practice of memorizing poetry has become less common in schools, particularly in an era where the Common Core State Standards focus on critical thinking and analysis. However, teachers can still incorporate poetry memorization in the classroom, particularly as a way of getting students interested in poetry and helping them understand rhyme, rhythm, beat, and other sound elements that poets use. Teachers can use this app in combination with other components of a poetry unit. Memorizing poems may also have a place in a drama classroom or other classes that promote public speaking. By memorizing poems, students can gain confidence in their speaking skills and transfer that confidence to other public speaking tasks.

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Poems by Heart from Penguin Classics introduces students to the concept of memorizing poems. The free app comes complete with a few free poems, each one with a different level of difficulty. Students have the option to purchase additional poems either individually; as part of themed packs such as holiday, lovestruck, or life wisdom; or in larger volumes of poems. Once students select or purchase a poem to memorize, they can begin the process. The app divides each poem into sections and allows students to have it read by a male or female voice. After hearing and reading the poem or a section of the poem, it asks students if they want to learn a particular section. Selecting "learn this" brings up a fill-in-the-blank exercise where students must select the correct words to insert into a portion of the poem. As they get each section correct, more blanks appear in the poem. Once they feel like they've experienced success with the exercise, students can practice reciting the poem either in practice mode, where they recite the poem line by line, or expert mode, where they must read the poem at a professional pace. They can then listen to, save, or discard their recordings.

For students who want to memorize poems, the app does a good job of scaffolding the process to help students master one section of the poem before moving on to the next. At each level, students fill in the blanks for the portion of a selected poem and earn a score. While earning a higher score, advancing in rank, and seeing "very good" or "not bad" displayed on the screen may motivate some kids, the generic feedback might not be enough to motivate discouraged or disinterested students to keep going. However, those who power through and successfully complete the exercises will gradually build confidence in their knowledge of the poem and their ability to recite it in public. In addition, the recording feature is a great way for students to self-assess and reflect on their performance.

Unfortunately, the app solely focuses on poem memorization, not analyzing the meaning of the poem, which may limit how much students can learn. The small selection of free poems further limits the app's learning potential. Adding at least one more free poem at each level could give students a chance to gain confidence in their memorization abilities before deciding whether to purchase additional poems.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Small selection of free poems limits the ability to explore the benefits.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Memorization activities and poems increase in difficulty.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

More help files and poem analysis would be helpful additions.

Common Sense Reviewer
Stacy Zeiger Homeschooling parent

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