Teaching English through Poetry Lauren Harrington Lecturer: EF Boston

Teaching English through Poetry
Lauren Harrington
EF Boston
Teaching English
through poetry
The aim of this lecture is to provide:
• Inspiration
• Approaches and techniques
• Practical ideas
First of all…
• Teach English through poetry, not to
teach the poetry itself
• You don't need to be a literature expert
to teach English through poetry
• Just have a love for the poem you are
• Enthusiasm is the key.
Some pros and cons
• Time-consuming
• Copyright rules
• The wrong poem is worse than none at all.
• The right poem can foster a love of English.
Things to do:
• Explain the reason you are teaching
• Some students may need extra
• Reassure students that their needs are
being met.
• So why teach poetry?
• Poems are versatile
• Poetry can be a catalyst
• Students find a poem a welcome change
• Poems can be
– involving
– motivating
– memorable
Why teach poetry?
• Challenge
• Daily interactions with native speakers
• Poems are authentic texts
• Poems are often rich in cultural references
Language enrichment
• Discover new vocabulary in an authentic text
• Search for clues to the meaning of the word
• Focus on stress, rhythm and similarities of sound
• Improve pronunciation
• Promote freer verbal expression.
What should you teach?
• Take into account:
• interests
• language level
• maturity level
How …?
… will you use the poem?
… can you introduce it?
… can you make it more accessible to your
… can you make sure they understand it?
Pre-reading activities
• worksheets, quiz, a questionnaire
• sentence stems
• statements to be ranked and discussed
• predict endings to verses
• events occurring after the end of the
Warm-up activities
• background music
• show pictures
• get students to think
Reading the poem
rehearse and perform
read the poem
play a recording
identify the stresses and pauses.
clap out the rhythm
speaking activities
talk with a partner, in small groups and as a class.
share ideas.
monitor and feed in ideas and vocabulary
give feedback
personal response
discuss the characters and theme
debate the moral issues.
Beyond the poem
• Role plays
• Interviewing a partner
• Dramatizing the poem
• Compare poems on related topics
• Encourage students to develop their own
Responding in Writing
Add more lines or stanzas
Parallel writing
Write a letter to a character
Write what happened before or after
the poem
• Switch between formal and informal
• Fifty word summary
Writing activities
Diary entries
Radio plays
Newspaper articles
Newspaper advice columns
Synonyms or antonyms
“ Poetry is a search for ways of communication; it must
be conducted with openness, flexibility, and a
constant readiness to listen.”
Fleur Adcock
One more thing…
• You can't fake enthusiasm.
– If you enjoy the poem you are teaching,
your students will most likely enjoy it as
Further reading
Literature in the Language Classroom Collie & Slater 1987
Using poems to develop productive skills by Christina Smart,
British Council, Hungary 2002