Learning a poem off by heart

Home learning focus

To show understanding of a poem by learning parts off by heart.

This lesson includes:

  • one video about memorising

  • one video of poet Spike Milligan performing his poem 'On the Ning Nang Nong'

  • four activities


You might have memorised and performed a poem in class before. This is called learning a poem ‘off by heart’.

It’s a great way to really show you understand the poem and have some fun sharing it with other people!

It’s not always easy though. Watch this short clip for some tips on how to memorise a poem effectively.

Learn some tricks to help you remember a poem more easily.

Memorising a poem requires focus and practice, but there are things you can do that help.

  • Remember the story the poem is telling.

  • Focus on the rhythm of the poem.

  • Look at the rhyming words used in the poem.

  • Think of actions or images that could go with each line.

Watch the following clip, in which Spike Milligan performs his famous poem
‘On the Ning Nag Nong’ from memory.

Listen carefully as you will be having a go at memorising part of this poem too!

Top tip!

Spike Milligan starts reading at 22 seconds into the clip.

Watch Spike Milligan perform 'On the Ning Nang Nong'.


You may need paper and a pen or pencil for some of these activities.

Activity 1

Think about how Spike Milligan performed his poem, then answer these questions.

You could write your answers down on paper, discuss them or just think about them in your head.

1. What did you like about Spike Milligan’s performance? Why?

2. What do you notice about how he says the words in the poem?

3. Will you copy anything that Spike Milligan did when you perform this poem?

4. What do you notice about the rhythm and rhyme in this poem? Do you think this made it easier or harder to remember the poem?

Activity 2

Read the first six lines of ‘On the Ning Nang Nong’ yourself, then copy them out carefully onto a piece of paper.

On the Ning Nang Nong
Where the Cows go Bong!
and the monkeys all say BOO!
There's a Nong Nang Ning
Where the trees go Ping!
And the tea pots jibber jabber joo.

Now draw pictures around your writing of the images that come into your head for each line.

For example: Next to the first three lines, you might draw a cow, a monkey and whatever you think a ‘Ning Nang Nong’ looks like!

Activity 3

Now try and memorise these six lines.

Remember: There are things you can do to make this easier.

  • Think about the story the poem is telling. Your images from Activity 2 should help with this.

  • Focus on the rhythm of the poem.

  • Looking at the rhyming words used.

  • Think of actions to go with each line.

For example: You could put two fingers up on each side of your head like horns for ‘The cows go bong’.

Cover one line at a time and see if you can remember it. Then keep going until you can do all six without looking.

Take your time and keep practising. Memorising takes time and focus.

Activity 4

Have a go at performing these six lines from memory.

You could perform it for someone at home, perform it to yourself in the mirror or you could even get an adult at home to video it and show some of your friends or your teacher. Make sure to get permission from an adult before you film yourself though.

See if you can get all the way to the end of the six lines without looking at the words!

Top tips!

  • Stand up straight and face forward.
  • Speak clearly and say each word carefully.
  • Don’t rush!
  • Change your speed and volume as you are performing. Changing from slow to quick and loud to quiet can make your performance more dramatic!

Where next?

In this lesson you have learnt how to show understanding of a poem by learning parts off by heart.

There are other useful articles on Bitesize to help you understand poetry.

There's more to learn

More lessons for Year 4 and P5
More from KS2 English
KS2 English
Bitesize games
Poetry resources and ideas
The art of remembering by heart