How to Teach Language Through Poetry

Table of contents

The use of literature in the EFL classroom through three different perspectives. Exploring poetry as a strong option.. Most of the time literature is mainly related to reading and writing, but it may play the same meaningful role in teaching speaking and listening if we design creative activities. Teachers can use literature in the classroom for different purposes such as reading aloud and dramatizing a poem, teaching pronunciation, and many other activities. There are many advantages of using literature in the EFL classroom.

To talk about the general advantages of literature can be a broad approach thus; we will not focus on them. Instead, we will have a look at the benefits from three different perspectives: literature as genuine and authentic material, as a good language source and as a bridge to get the learner interested and also, we will mention poetry as a strong option to develop students’ skills.


Literature is authentic material that makes students travel to foreign countries and fantastic worlds. This keeps our students motivated and promotes favorable attitude toward learning.

Poems, novels, and stories can bring powerful emotional responses to the classroom. Furthermore, students can relate their own real lives to the stories they read. Literary texts help EFL students to improve language learning. However, literature by itself is not enough; teachers need to use imaginative techniques for integrating literature work with language teaching. It is also necessary to bring motivating methodology and to choose the right material to keep students interested.


Language is the most prominent feature of literature.

Through literature students learn about syntax and discourse, different structures, functions, and the different ways of connecting ideas, all these help students to develop their writing, listening, reading and speaking skills. As they use literature they learn about language structure without even noticing, this helps to develop their communicative competence, what as we know, is the ultimate aim of English learning.


In the classroom the use of literature encourages learners to get involved ith the stories they read or hear; the understanding of the words becomes less important as they get involved in trying to figure out what is happening with a character or the end of a story. Students may also like using literature if the activities are oriented towards enjoyment and creativity instead of memorizing or following grammatical rules. Literature can be seen as the bridge between the learner and the culture of the people whose language they are studying; in order to get the learners interested in the culture, we have to carefully select the literary texts according to their interests and level of comprehension.

Why do We Use Poetry With the Language Learner?

Poetry is a short piece of imaginative writing, of a personal nature and laid out in lines. In this sense, poetry is a product of the language and a tool to teach it, a tool to teach grammatical clues and a product when students make a composition of any topic. Most of the poems include metaphors. Students can use cognitive skills by making comparisons between two different things and finding their similarities. The figures of speech used in poetry such as metaphors, similes and personifications help students to have a better understanding of the use of language in an unconscious way.

Poetry is a way for teaching and learning basic skills. It can be used as an enjoyable and a rewarding tool with the properties of rhyming and rhythm. It helps students to easily learn with the supra-segmental aspect of the target language, such as stress, pitch, intonation. Using poetry while teaching English can have many benefits:


  • It encourages creative writing.
  • It helps students appreciate sounds words and patterns.
  • It develops phonic skills.
  • It makes students express feelings and opinions.
  • It provides a great opportunity to play with language. It reinforces the ability to think and to experiment with students’ understanding of the world.
  • It helps to acquire vocabulary, creativity and imagination.
  • it reveals, restates, reinforces and affirms those things which we think are true.
  • It gives the chance to discover and explore the use of the language.
  • It generates collaborative activities (pair and group work).

Poetry and the four skills We can develop the four skills while using poetry: Poems are good to reinforce grammar structures and to improve writing abilities, bringing out creativity and rhythm in the classroom since students have to use their imagination to write.

Also, poems help to develop oral and mental capacities. They should be read aloud to reinforce the student’s phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, and vocabulary as well as to sharpen their receptive language skills by learning rhyming, sounds, stresses, pauses, alliteration and syllables. Ideas for using poetry in the classroom:

  • Discussing the theme of a poem and writing out personal experiences related to the theme.
  • Deducing meanings from the context.
  • Completing a paraphrase of a poem (cloze-style).
  • Choosing the best paraphrase among a few. Predicting what’s coming next after reading only one verse at a time.
  • Ordering jumbled stanzas or lines in the correct sequence.
  • Rewriting a part of a poem in one’s own words and ideas to offer different messages.
  • Filling an omitted word, phrase, or line in relation to its context.
  • Discussing similarities and differences between poems of the same subject or theme.
  • Identifying any aural or musical qualities in the poem (rhyme, alliteration, and simile).
  • Reading aloud poems (choral reading) and making a song. This teaches intonations and stress. Using visuals images such as paintings to help pupils envisage settings, historical periods, etc.
  • Imitating o parody the style of poem.
  • Acting the poem: mime, role play, performance, etc.
  • Making a peer or group composition, writing together.


Using poetry in the classroom is a great tool, but we cannot forget that we have to choose the right material, so students can maximize their learning. It has to be interesting and adequate for each student level, reading about new things is usually interesting for students. Learners will benefit from literature; we are responsible of putting in touch our students with material that catches their interest, so they want to read and listen more, which turns out in further and richer learning.

Also, it can create opportunities for personal expression as well as reinforce learner? s knowledge of lexical and grammatical structure giving the opportunity to develop their communicative and cognitive skills. Many teachers think that including poetry in the EFL classroom can be a very heavy and useless work. However, we have analyzed some of the benefits that working with poetry can bring to the learning process. Also, we pointed that not only it is useful but also, students can have great fun if we choose the correct activities and poems.

Useful Websites

  1. www. readwritethink. org/lessons/lesson_view. asp? id=391
  2. www. poetryteachers. com
  3. www. poetry4kids. com
  4. www. poetryzone. co. uk
  5. www. michellehenry. fr/poems. htm
  6. www. poemhunter. com
  7. www. tooter4kids. com/classroom/poetry_in_the_esl_classroom. htm
  8. www. teachingenglish. org. uk/think/literature/poems_prod. html
  9. www. youtube. com/user/b4uguy#g/u

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