Happy Monday TESL ON members! Did you know that April is National Poetry Month? I don’t know about you, but I love poetry! Although most of us may not use it very much to teach English to our students, many are aware that it can be a good way to teach the rhythm of English. However, I think there are so many more ways that we could use this rich form of the English language. That’s why I’ve tried to put together a list of online resources to inspire the poet in you to share the beauty of the English language. A word of warning, however. Like a rich chocolate desert, poetry is best served in small portions.
To start, here is a link to an earlier post about teaching English with poetry written by John Stevens, called Live Poets Society. Here John gives a lesson that will help students in learning pronunciation such as reduction of unstressed syllables in words and suprasegmentals. The students also learn vocabulary as they use a thesaurus and rhyming dictionary to create poems that conform to specific styles. It sounds like a great lesson, and I hope to have an opportunity to use it this month!
A lesson that I have used with great success with upper intermediate students comes from the website, Film English (see the link to the lesson below under Resources). This lesson begins quite simply with the alphabet and culminates with students recognizing the rhythm and rhyme of English through listening to a poem and then writing their own poem. While the poem that we listen to is a story and therefore quite long, I keep the challenge to writing 8 lines with an aa bb cc rhyme scheme. I offer suggestions of themes they can write about to help them get started and give lots of encouragement that they can do it!
I have found that the use of poetry in the classroom builds a sense of community. The whole class is in it together and as students share their poems at the conclusion of the lesson, there is a lot of encouragement and support for each other. Each person brings their own unique personality to the creative process which gives the final moments of the lesson a wonderful mixture of laughter and reflection.
Another great way to use poetry for critical thinking is to write a few lines from a poem on the board. Give your students time to digest it and then have a discussion about its meaning. Give them some background on both the poet and poem that the quote comes from and have students write a reflective paragraph on it.
To conclude, I will leave you with a quote from my all time favourite poet, Emily Dickinson. Now here is a poet who provides rich opportunity for sharing!
In this short Life
that only lasts an hour
How much – how
little – is
Enjoy poetry this April with your students. Let us all know what you did and how it went!
The post by John Stevens from April 2015. Live Poets Society.
Film English: Missing U. Lesson by Kieran Donaghy. A fun lesson that starts with the alphabet, moves on to text message writing, and ends with writing a poem. http://film-english.com/2013/09/18/missing-u/
Poetry Foundation: a great resource full of classic and contemporary poets. They even have an App you can download! https://www.poetryfoundation.org/
Here is a link that gives some great tips and ideas in using poetry for reading instruction and to develop oral language skills. http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/introducing-and-reading-poetry-english-language-learners
From the same website, here is a link for using poetry to teach writing. http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/writing-poetry-english-language-learners
There are also tons of Spoken Word and Slam poetry websites. This could be a fun way to play with idioms and slang. Here are two websites that look interesting:
If you search on youtube there are lots of examples of spoken word poetry performances.