Monday, 12 May 2014

Poetry In the ESL Classroom (free ppt download!)

Many of us ESL teachers don't attempt to teach poetry in our classroom because, well, it's seems to be a difficult route for any second language speaker- heck, even native speakers struggle with poems!

However, as a lover of literature and amateur poet myself, I crave the day I can finally teach poetry to secondary students - but for now, my little elementary ESL students will have to make do! lol
But really, poetry is for everyone, it's really not as difficult as we think.

In our last lesson "What will you do for the talent show?" the textbook includes the phrase "I will read poems." This was the first time I had seen poem in the textbook and I got the idea to do a poetry based lesson soon after. Poem in Korean is "Si" - 시.

Before the poetry lesson we had just finished learning the "What will you do?" rap song. This was the perfect way to introduce poetry as I decided to use the rap as the first poem we could analyze as a class, especially as they were already familiar with the lyrics. (Click here for: What Will You Do? Rap Lesson)

Here's the powerpoint slides so you can imagine how the lesson went:
Free PowerPoint Download Link: Poetry Lesson PPT

So first I introduced the idea of rhyme, my co-teacher only translated the word 'rhyme' but I've had another poetry type class - where I taught alone - and it was easy to communicate the concept of rhyme. As the words have the same sounds and you can just use examples until they understand. 
The students got it in a flash and I told them to look at the rap lyrics in their notebooks and give me more examples of rhyme in the rap. There are many in  my class rap so it was easy and the students all participated and understood. 

After finding rhymes I showed the class some different types of poems. Shape poems are excellent to show as they are just as much about the words as they are the shapes. And of course, the shape quickly communicates what the poem is about. A great way to start poetry for ESL (Adults or kids!) or elementary level in general.  Here are the slides:

 You don't need to read the poems, it was just important to show that there are different forms of poetry. And notice, I purposely chose shape poems with little words to them. I did this so that the students wouldn't feel intimidated by lots of words and so they could assume that shape poetry can be simple and easy.

The next slides I included where about Acrostic Poems! This was the aim of the lesson as these poems are the easiest to write, especially when introducing poetry for the first time.
Again, I chose simple examples to show, and illustrations never hurt!

I also showed them how acrostic poems could also be formed with the root word in the centre and the lines formed around said word. This again, shows that these are indeed doable even with lower level students.

 And last but most importantly, always ALWAYS when introducing poetry - write a poem as a class. Doing a poem together before having the students write their own is soooo important. It shows that the task they are about to be given isn't so daunting. It can inspire them to be more creative, it encourages participation and speaking . It's just one of those tick all the boxes teacher things to do!

So I had this slide projected on the white board and we wrote a poem as a class:

I taught this lesson to 3 different 6 grade classes and my coteacher and I were impressed by each class and their very different acrostic poem. Here's the poem that 6-1 came up with:

Singing songs is fun
I like to sing songs
Norebang is fun too
Great! Let's go sing.

Now as you can see I have centred the lesson on our current topic - What will you do for the talent show? - I absolutely recommend that you do this also when teaching poetry, make the poems the students write about the topic you're currently studying or just finished. That way you are ensuring that students are using vocabulary they know and it's definitely a way to revise and good for assessments. 

So here are some of the great acrostic poems by the 6 graders... I was so proud of my little poets!



  1. Acrostic poetry is a great way to start poetry in the classroom - at any level of language. Brilliant.

  2. This lesson is really awesome. It's a fantastic way to introduce rhyming/rapping/poetry in a creative, fun way. Thanks a lot and keep up the great work! :)

  3. I typed in "acrostic poem esl lesson" and you popped up and I love this, even though am so late I wanted to challenge my students and try something new for the third graders I love it