Teaching English Through Poetry to Adolescents

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Today, teaching English language assumes many different shapes. Teaching methods vary from teacher to teacher. However, we can find one common feature these methods do share. They all are tinged with communicative competence objectives. Using poetry in the classroom may undoubtedly add to a broad spectrum of classroom activities that communicative approach offers. Poetry being a part of literature offers tremendous potential for ESL/EFL linguistically, culturally and aesthetically particularly in light of the current emphasis on teaching ”communicatively” and the need for a deeper diversion to language learning as put by Stern. For hundreds of years, the role of literature in the foreign language curriculum was unquestioned. Literature being the highest form of expression was believed to be the sole way by which the students could appreciate language. It was the only way to get acquainted with a nation’s culture and its people. Even though the literary language was often above the level of the learner, and the vocabulary load unbearable, class preserved in their laborious word-by-word translation. Literature is like the magpie of varieties of English by stealing legitimately from other Englishes in constructing its messages and undoubtedly can constitute a powerful vehicle in effective teaching English, yet it is still not fully explored and taken advantage of. ”Poetry has got a strong oral element and musical quantity, which together with its emotional and imaginative impact constitute the basis of human communication”.

(Collie and Ladousse 1993:3)

In the first chapter, I will attempt to show poetry as an invaluable vehicle for teachers for whom innovation and enrichment of classroom activities do matter. Also I will show that poetry is a unique form of language used to communicate, and prove that its study as a form of language used for communication develops in the students ”a sharper awareness of the communicative resources of the language being learned”. Poetry as a form of language is universal among all human beings. No known language is without it - as put by Maley and Duff. It offers a wide range of possibilities, which also makes a significant facility in teaching difficult aspects of both receptive and productive skills. The second chapter will show us different techniques that a teacher may employ while using poetry in the classroom. The techniques are miscellaneous and do fall into the four skills category for the sake of readers’ convenience. This chapter is a sort of helpful manual or a guide that leads a reader through the world of plentiful poetry drills. The last third chapter describes a research done in the chosen classroom, in High school. It shows results of poetry based activities on students’ language progress or approach. Finally, in the appendix there is a questionnaire that shows us the students language likes and dislikes and also their preferences.


1.0. Defining poetry

“Poetry is what gets lost in translation”
(Robert Frost) Poetry is probably one of those words for which one clear and concise definition is rather difficult to generate. It is because of its language substance that does not need to tally with grammar and semantic rules. Hence while interpreting a poem - readers must often read between the line. Poetry is a language ornate characterized by particular wording and sentence - clause system bound up with rhythm and rhyme rules. Let us now look at the other various definitions of poetry. “According to Cambridge International Dictionary of English - poetry is: a piece of writing in which the words are chosen for their sound and the images and ideas, often ending in rhyme”. Webster College Dictionary defines a poem as a composition in verse...
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