By- Kelli Drummer-Avendano

April is National Poetry Month, which is all the more reason to include one of the oldest forms of expression in your language instruction. Besides the enjoyment and creativity poetry brings, it’s a useful tool for all language learners, from the new beginner to the seasoned expert. 

1. Authentic input

Exposure to authentic material is paramount when learning a new language, even at the novice level. For this reason, poetry is an ideal source. First, it’s relatively easy to find original poems online. Second, poetry comes in varying lengths and degrees of difficulty, from children’s nursery rhymes to classical literature. Keep in mind, however, that you should adapt the activity according to the level; therefore, even beginner classes can be exposed to upper-level poetry. 

2. Culture

Immersing students in the culture of the target language is another reason authentic input is valuable. Poetry is present in almost all cultures around the world, making it both meaningful and relatable to students. Additionally, the form a poem takes can also be culturally significant. For example, the haiku could be studied as a product of Japanese culture, as well as the décima from Latin America.

3. Grammar in context

When students learn grammar in context, they see that it’s not a separate entity from the language, but rather a piece of the whole communication puzzle. Poetry provides the opportunity for students to see authentic uses of the grammar concepts they are studying and to analyze how they works together with the vocabulary to convey a certain message. 

4. Listening, reading, speaking, and writing

Students can practice all the forms of communication guided by poetry—all you need is one poem. First, read the poem to students and have them listen for key words and phrases. Then, divide the poem up among groups of students to answer comprehension questions. In the same groups, have students read the poem out loud to practice pronunciation and intonation. Lastly, students can create their own poems by following the form and outline of the one they studied or by writing about a similar theme.

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