Monday, March 24, 2014

One-Room Nation, Part 5

Remember Your Lines!

In a one-room school, you’ll learn mostly by memorization. As a student, you’ll work hard to remember and recite poems, stories, and other texts.

In the one-room school in Balsam Lake, WI, George Washington looks down upon 'scholars' reciting their lessons.

Once you ‘commit’ a piece to memory, you’ll say the poem or quotation out loud from the recitation bench, a seat at the front of the schoolroom.

The recitation bench is the long one in the foreground of this shot of the Marshall Center School in Cedar Rapids, IA.

Here are a few poems from one-room schoolhouse days for you to commit to memory and recite.

The first is taken from a book often found in one-room schoolhouses, a McGuffey Reader. The poem will probably seem mighty familiar:

The Little Star

Twinkle, twinkle, little star;
How I wonder what you are,
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky!

When the blazing sun is set,
And the grass with dew is wet,
Then you show your little light;
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.

 Then, if I were in the dark,
I would thank you for your spark.
I could not see which way to go,
If you did not twinkle so.

And when I am sound asleep,
Oft you through my window peep;
For you never shut your eye,
Till the sun is in the sky.

William McGuffey created a series of "readers" used in American schools in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The second poem is by Mary Mapes Doges, best known for her novel Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates (1865): 

When I Am Big

When I am big, I mean to buy
A dozen platters of pumpkin pie,
A barrel of nuts to keep them handy,
And fifty pounds of sugar candy.

Here are a few quick tips for your recitations: Read the poem out loud (keeping your voice at a whisper if you’re at school) over and over again. Cover the first line and see if you can remember it. Once you can, then cover the next line, and so on.

The rhyme should help you remember line endings. But practice, as they say, is really what makes perfect.

NOTES: "The Little Star” is from McGuffey’s Second Eclectic Reader, compiled by William McGuffey (1879), available online as part of Project Gutenberg. Mary Mapes Dodge’s poem was published in 1904.


Could you survive in a one-room schoolhouse eighty or one hundred years ago? One-Room Nation, an on-going segment of the Story-Slinger blog, tries to answer that question in a few dozen posts. Unless otherwise noted, the text and photos in One-Room Nation are the property of the blogger, so please contact the Story-Slinger if you wish to use them.

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