Teaching English using Poetry

Posted on Jul 29 2015 - 5:49am by Zdenda

Have you ever used poetry to teach English in your class? If you have you can probably confirm that it was not a great success. The majority of your students were probably bored and didn’t share your passion for the poem. And thus they found your lesson boring and useless.

Therefore, it may seem that using poetry for teaching is a waste of time. So, how about if I offer you a poem your students will love and remember for a long time? Do you think it is impossible? Well, try the following lesson plan and see if you don’t change your mind.
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Using poetry – Teaser

Introduce the topic. Tell your students that you are going to play a video for them. Play the following video till the time 0:50. Then ask your students whether they want to see the whole thing. I am sure their answer will be YES.


Using poetry – vocabulary

Explain that they need to know a lot of vocabulary in order to understand and enjoy. To introduce and teach the vocabulary I use the following method which I call Remembering Tables. Print out the following worksheet. Each student needs to have his/her own worksheet.

Eugene poetry vocabulary

I usually print both pages on one sheet of paper, but you can print it on two different sheets of paper, too.

Make sure that the students are looking at the same page as you and read the words in the first table aloud. Ask your students to repeat the words after you. Then ask them to read the definitions. If you teach a monolingual class, ask them to translate the words. If you teach an international class, check your students’ understanding of the words by using concept questions.

Once your students understand all the words, tell them they have 20 seconds to remember them. When the 20 seconds are up they have to cover the table on the left and complete the table on the right by filling in the words. Once they finish they can check and complete their answers using the table on the left.

Do the same with the second, third and fourth tables, but increase the time given to remember the words to 30, 45 and 60 seconds.

Do both of the pages with your class and then you can move to the following task:

Using poetry – Speaking

I love using the following activity to practise the new vocabulary. Print out or display the following questions and ask your students to complete them using the new words:
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  1. What time did you __________ the school today?
  2. How do you feel in ________________ places? Do you like it when there are many people around you?
  3. What would you like to ______________?
  4. When was the last time you gave somebody an ____________? What were you sorry about?
  5. What do you think about _____________? How often do you read a poem?
  6. Have you ever performed on a _______________? How many people watched you?
  7. Can you describe your ________________? What are you like?
  8. What is your _____________? How often do you do it?

The correct answers are: 1 enter 2 crowded 3 give a go 4 apology 5 poetry 6 stage 7 personality 8 passion.
Next, I ask my students to choose 3 questions they would like to ask me. They ask me the questions and I answer as well as I can.

Then the students work in pairs and ask and answer the questions.

Using poetry – Video comprehension

Now it is time to play the whole video. Turn on the closed captioning if you feel that your students’ level of comprehension is not high enough for them to understand all of it.

Ask your students to read the comprehension questions first, and check that they understand the questions:

1. How old is he?
2. What is his job?
3. What is his passion?
4. Why does Piers buzz him?
5. Who thinks that Eugene is a loser?
6. What do girls do when Eugene enters a room?
7. What do the judges say at the end?
8. Is Eugene happy at the end?

Using poetry – Finish

To finish the lesson, it is ideal to practise the new vocabulary and do a speaking activity.

Start with the speaking activity. It is a simple role play. Ask the students to work in pairs. One of them is going to play the role of Eugene and the other is a reporter. It is one week after the show was broadcast, and the interviewer wants to know what has changed in Eugene’s life. Thus the interviewer asks questions and Eugene answers as best as he can.

To practise the vocabulary, you can use the following crossword and a fill-in-the-blank exercise. The students can do the exercises at school or at home. Please print 2 pages on one page for best results.

Eugene poetry crossword

Eugene poetry crossword key

Using poetry – Conclusion

This lesson plan is based on a video of Eugene performing his poem in the talent show called Britain’s Got Talent. In this lesson, students will learn 25+ new words and phrases, and they will get a chance to use the phrases at school. To make the lesson even more concentrated on poetry you can ask your students to write their own poem in English.
Here is a brief summary of the lesson plan:

1. Video teaser
2. Vocabulary – memory tables
3. Speaking – complete the questions and ask your partner
4. Video + comprehension questions
5. Speaking – role play
6. Vocabulary revision

I hope that this lesson serves as a great demonstration of how to use poetry to teach English and that your students will remember a lot of real-life vocabulary.

Teaching English Using Poetry

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