Recitations: Some Lessons

One of the lessons that helped shape our minds and memory, while we were still in primary school is, without any doubt, recitations. Recitations helped me to stay focused in class and remember almost every word spoken during lessons. The subject, which was compulsory from Grade 1 to Grade 3, was known as Oral Language and Recitation. That time I did not even realise that it was a subject, but it sure helped and continues helping me a great deal!

The strategies employed by teachers of those days, in rural schools, was very easy considering that resources were either limited or not available at all. Memory exercises came in the form of songs. For example, when learning the rainbow colours consider this two-line simple song:

Red, orange, yellow, green

Blue, indigo, and violet.

Children who hated school were somehow touched by this song in Silozi below:

Ya sa keni sikolo

U tundamena buhobe

This meant that “the one who does not attend school, just likes eating food. The song infuriated many and brought them back to school – to learn to read and write. That was the ultimate goal! Steinberg [et al.] (2011, p.284) states that a comprehensive research evidence by the National Reading Panel concluded that comprehension is an essential component of early reading. The two specific elements required by comprehension, according to the research are:

“1. Oral reading fluency – being able to read aloud smoothly, accurately, and at a good speed

2. Vocabulary comprehension – understanding words and text meaning.”

Recitations not only make learning fun and memorable, but they also push us to discover new things, which is why teachers included recitations such as: The Wood-cutter, The Teapot, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Betty Bought a Bread, and several others. They encourage every student to do better. Suttor (2012) echoes this sentiment when she mentions that recitations enhance the educational experience of a student. “Recitation of poetry improves vocabulary of students. The auditory component of recitation of poetry allows language to engrain itself in the student’s knowledge” Suttor (2012). Even better, recitations helps in developing confidence. Presentation should begin at an early age, and what a better way to start than recitations in early grades!

Lastly, let me leave you with my favourite recitation, Betty Bought a Bread:

Betty bought a bread,

But a bread that Betty bought

Was bitter.

To make bitter-bread better,

Betty bought some butter.



Steinberg, L., Bornstein, M.H., Vandell, D.L. and Rook, K.S. 2011. Lifespan development: infancy through adulthood. International edition. [Sydney]: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning

2.      Suttor, M. (2012). The educational value of reciting poetry. Available from: [Accessed 2013 May 30].


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