Category Archives: Poetry

Haiku: a humble but mighty tool in ESL

photo: Sahil Pandita on Unsplash

Reduce, reduce, reduce. Make every word count. I repeat these instructions every day in my EAP classroom. Session after session, I hand out exercises to reduce wordiness and replace empty, abstract words with those that are strong and specific.  

And yet, the students have a hard time going “beyond the exercise” to apply these skills to their writing. They continue to fill their pages with in the event that, “as a result of,” and “in our society today” as well as abstracts such as “the meal was good,” “the lake was beautiful,” and “the people looked happy.”  

I needed to find an authentic writing form that would encourage rich, yet spare, prose. And then it struck me—the haiku. The Japanese poem is inherently concise and relies on specific, sensory words. A win-win! 

So, I initiated a “holiday haiku” activity. First, I explained the basic form: one line with five syllables, the next with seven, and the third with five. Secondly, I divided the class into small groups to brainstorm specific, image-worthy words that evoked their celebrations back home. This second stage worked beautifully. Not only did the words flow, but also the students enjoyed sharing their cultural traditions.  

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Spring and Online Learning and Poetry anyone?

image source: bigstockphotos.com

In these strange and isolating times, many ESL instructors have navigated a truly steep learning curve of technical knowledge to teach online. Whether your online class looks the way you want it to or not, I applaud your efforts. I bet learners in your class are also very thankful for you!

Some of you might know that April is national poetry month. The theme this year is A World of Poetry. What a great opportunity to create poetry with your online class! Below are some resources and ideas to get you on your way.

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Where I am from

Copyright: Jennifer MacKenzie-Hutchison. All rights reserved.

Last week, I read over my students’ poems and was reminded how much I love my job. As teachers, we need to savour these pleasures and summon them during the more tedious moments. My students, mostly from Asia, are in a year-long EAP foundation program at Ryerson University. I asked them to write a poem based on “Where I Am From,” by George Ella Lyon.

The scholastic objective was to get my students to explore their identities, but my personal objective was to learn more about their families, their ambitions, their countries…their lives. In class, we went through the author’s life, stanza by stanza. We examined the details, the imagery, and the metaphors. Then my students went home and wrote their own versions.

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April is Poetry Month!

image source: susangaylord.com

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. Continue reading

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