Why should we USE POETRY in the ESL classroom?



(Photo credit: http://bit.ly/15oMyws)

Often when I think about introducing a poem into the ESL class setting with a view to perhaps learning new vocabulary etc, I find myself a little afraid of how the students will respond because poems may look short and simple, but often are very complex.   But to my amazement often the students love it because:

  1. Sometimes it has some fun rhyming words

ESL students learn through many kinds of ways, and every way is as unique as the student themselves. Often rhyming can really help them with their pronunciation and it can be fun too.


  1. Their diction can be improved

Sometimes there is alliteration and that helps the students have fun repeating and pronouncing some of those difficult consonants. E.g. for Arabic it is always ‘b’ and ‘p’…


  1. Often there is a simple message

Even if you have to tell the students what the simple message is, they enjoy the fact that a simple story is told in a few simple lines.


  1. Often the students can relate to poems because they cherish them in their own culture

Most of all so many cultures have poems that tell many stories from the past as well as explain very beautiful concepts. In fact very often students come to school the next day with poems from their own countries and share them and explain their meanings and this makes it even more interesting for everyone (plus everyone is speaking English in the process!)


  1. Recitation helps expression

If the class is at a more advanced level, getting students to memorise and recite some of these short poems can be very helpful in terms of practicing ‘chunks’ of words with special meanings.


I wouldn’t advocate poetry in every lesson, but it really can bring something fresh and interesting to the class if the poems are short and have a mixture of humour and seriousness.

So don’t be afraid to give it a try and let me know what you think!






7 thoughts on “Why should we USE POETRY in the ESL classroom?

  1. The most important issue to have in mind when introducing poetry into the ESL classroom is that YOU like poetry yourself.
    I love poetry and use it in many ways, although I admit that, just like you, I am always apprehensive about the students’ reaction.
    As I mainly teach adults, I use short poems as a conversation starter or in conversation classes.The activities we do have rarely met an ill response, as I am always sure to choose topics that appeal to my students.
    In any case, I agree that there are many reasons why we shouldn’t avoid doing poetry in class.
    Thanks for the 5 reasons you’ve mentioned.

    • Thanks for your feedback. I think you are right, you have to like it and of course, understand the nuances of the poem itself. If you love it, the students will pick it up too…thanks for the reminder.

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