Memorize poetry and learn vocabulary: “There is no frigate like a book” by Emily Dickinson

argenrechallengeStudents learn a great deal from memorizing poetry.  Repeated readings build fluency, familiarity with vocabulary, and appreciation of language.  The act of memorizing helps students learn how to teach themselves.  Memorizing poetry is a great activity for National Poetry Month.

“There is no frigate like a book” by Emily Dickinson is a great poem for your class to memorize.  The poem sets the tone for a language arts class because of its theme of “reading takes us places.”  The structure and rhythm of the poem are very much like a nursery rhyme, but with more sophistication.  The poem has some challenging vocabulary, but students can handle it.

I got the idea for memorizing this particular poem from my younger sister’s AP English teacher, Tom Meschery.  Fun fact: he was the first Russian to play in the NBA.  Seriously!  He played in the NBA, and was a rookie teammate of Wilt Chamberlain’s during the game in which he scored 100 points. Mr. Meschery, besides being an inspiring English teacher and NBA player, is also a poet.  What a guy!  Click here to read an article about Tom Meschery.  His most recent book of poetry is Some Men.  His book of basketball poetry is Over the rim.

Mr. Meschery challenged his AP English classes to memorize “There is no frigate like a book.”   Every student did.  You can imagine how grown-up my third graders felt when I told them that memorizing the poem was a high school assignment, but I felt they could handle it.  A bribe of candy when they completed the task and bam!  Every third grader learned it.

Below is the poem with vocabulary words at the end.  Click here for a printable pdf of the poem with vocabulary.  I formatted it to fit on half a sheet of paper so you can conserve resources.

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry –

This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!
–Emily Dickinson

frigate: a fast and heavily armed naval vessel of the late 18th and early 19th centuries
courser: a swift and strong horse, frequently used during the Middle Ages as a warhorse
prance: to spring from the hind legs, to move by springing, like a horse
traverse: the act of passing through, or a crossing
oppress: to burden with cruel or unjust impositions or restraints
toll: a payment or fee charged for some right or privilege, as for passage along a road or over a bridge
frugal: not wasteful, economical, inexpensive
chariot: a type of carriage (as in horse and carriage)
bear: to hold up or support

Comments Off on Memorize poetry and learn vocabulary: “There is no frigate like a book” by Emily Dickinson
Posted in Fun With Literacy,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Apr 7, 2014


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