Delight in Learning: A Contagious Condition

May 21, 2021 | Posted by Jennifer


As a dyslexia tutor, one of the ways I connect with other tutors who do the same thing is through social media. I am in a few groups that are made up of some great professionals, and I gain a lot of knowledge from the ideas and conversations that take place in them. Recently a fellow tutor posted that she has a student who has a very weak vocabulary. In fact it is so weak that it impedes the child’s reading and comprehension. The tutor wanted ideas that she could use to help this student grow her vocabulary.

Recommending she add the program Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization (LDP), I shared with her how it has helped my own students who struggle with weak vocabulary and syntax. Another tutor questioned how I had students who actually liked poems. She confessed that she had yet to have a student who liked them. I considered her question for a bit before I responded. On the off chance that you find yourself in her same position of not having a student who enjoys the subject, maybe my thoughts will help you feel more confident about introducing poetry to your students.

One of the first things I would mention relates to the program itself. Pick a strong one. In LDP all of the poems were especially selected to engage students. They are syntactically correct and highly entertaining. In the introduction to the program, Andrew Pudewa describes why poems in general are such powerful teaching tools:

Find any good poem and evaluate it for vocabulary and grammatical structure; you’ll quickly see that poems are almost always high quality language—even the simple, fun ones … Finally, most poems have richness of meaning; they are concentrated thought. Even simple limericks can give opportunity for questions and reflections. Quality humor requires intelligence. Poems that tell a story often have an unexpected twist or embedded moral, while poems that play with words also play with ideas. Emotional poems can help us understand our own complexity of feelings. (10)

The poems students encounter in LDP embody all of these aforementioned elements. Some are humorous. Others relate stories. Some share a moral. Many accomplish all of these things simultaneously.

In my response to my colleague, I shared the very first poem in the Level 1 collection. It goes like this:


Ooey Gooey

Author Unknown


Ooey Gooey was a worm,

A mighty worm was he.

He stepped upon the railroad tracks.

The train he did not see!

Ooooey Goooey!


This simple poem is quick to memorize but is long on learning points. The vocabulary is fairly simple, but it offers an opportunity for you to discuss with your young pupils what the word mighty means. What actually happened to the mighty worm Ooey Gooey? You can even talk about the irony of the situation. Is he truly mighty? Why is he named Ooey Gooey?

The materials are certainly part of the equation to engage students in a subject, but that’s just one element. Another critical component is the teacher herself.

Have you ever taken a class that you initially thought would be uninteresting only to find out that because the teacher was obviously excited about the subject, you became interested in it as well? I know I have! In college I needed to take three science classes as a part of my gen-ed requirements. My first class was biology, which I dispatched with an acceptable grade but never felt overly excited about. My second class I was positively dreading: astronomy. To my delight and surprise, I found that I actually enjoyed it. My professor clearly loved the subject. She was especially excited because earlier that year the Hubble Space telescope had been launched, so she would regularly regale our class about the telescope’s latest challenges and triumphs. I never saw a professor become as animated over “red shift” as she did. She positively oozed enthusiasm for her subject, and her ooze spilled over to her students. Completely taken aback at the end of the semester when I learned that I had earned the second highest grade in the class (a class of approximately two hundred students), I was chagrined to think I had dreaded the course and positively depressed that I had elected to take it pass/fail!

This runs both ways though. If a teacher can inspire you to become interested in a subject you didn’t think you would enjoy, a teacher can also kill the joy in a subject you previously did like. My Romantic poetry professor nearly did this to me. He never appeared interested in his own subject, and when he lectured on Blake, Wordsworth, or even Keats or Lord Byron, he did so with the resolve of a man who had grown decidedly out of love with Romanticism and with a voice that sounded bored with itself. Frankly I found it a struggle to stay awake for the lecture and counted my B in the class as a great achievement. I’m thankful I didn’t lose my interest entirely, especially because of the work I currently do.

Fast forward many years, and I now find myself in the position of teaching English language arts. Thankfully, I still adore poetry. I subscribe to poetry journals. I bring in poems to share with my classes. I even write them on occasion. For me to add poetry to my low-vocabulary tutored students, well, that’s a bit like me having a spot of Christmas every tutoring session! I can’t help but share my enthusiasm with my students because I am truly super thrilled to share the poems with them. I’m so excited, I wear down their defenses, and they become excited about them as well. Andrew Pudewa describes this phenomenon in his article “The Art and Science of Motivation,” where he addresses the four forms of relevancy. This particular one falls under the category of inspired relevancy.

If you are facing teaching your students a subject they struggle in and you just aren’t excited about, I enjoin you to find a high quality resource to use for your instruction as well as to find something about the subject that interests you. Sometimes that small spark of interest you display will grow into something of more substance. You can investigate LDP for free by visiting At the link you will be able to download the first five poems from Level One along with their MP3s. The PDFs include the pertinent pages from the Teacher’s Manual as well as the pages from the Student Book. Additionally a copy of Andrew Pudewa’s audio presentation “Nurturing Competent Communicators” will be added to your account.

To help you gain more traction in sharing the poems with your students, LDP features a handy appendix section entitled “Lesson Enhancements.” By the way, a portion of this appendix covering the first five poems is also included in the free poetry download. Consider this section to be your teaching assistant at the ready. It offers suggested activities that help you to discuss the poems with your students as well as to overlap the poems in other instructional areas. As an example, for the poem “Ooey Gooey” one of the enhancements offered is to spend some time learning about various types of worms. Suggestions that touch on science, writing, character development, literature, and vocabulary are just a few of the areas that are described.

Delight in learning really is a contagious condition. Before you know it, your excitement will have spread to your students, and you’ll be animatedly discussing Ooey Gooey and his sad predicament: Is his demise caused by fate, negligence, or just plain old bad luck? Whatever conclusion you and your students reach, have fun with it. It’s just the first of many great poems in that level. There’s lots more fun to come!


Work Cited

Pudewa, Andrew. Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization. Institute for Excellence in Writing, 2016.


Jennifer Mauser has always loved reading and writing and received a B.A. in English from the University of Kansas in 1991. Once she and her husband had children, they decided to homeschool, and she put all her training to use in the home. In addition to homeschooling her children, Jennifer teaches IEW classes out of her home, coaches budding writers via email, and tutors students who struggle with dyslexia.

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