Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Poetry in Language Learning

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Poetry is a great way to teach kids vocabulary and the flow and rhythm of a language. Over the years I have had students memorize poems (from elementary to the high school level) and have found it to be worth the effort.  The key is to pick poetry that is accessible to language learners (especially if they are elementary school age) and that has a decent vocabulary base so that they can increase the number of words they know.  Memorizing poetry also embeds in a language learner the structure or grammar of the language. 

Here is how I go about teaching a poem...

First I use half index cards and write one to two words on each card of the poem.  Depending on the length of the poem it may take quite a few cards.  If you are teaching a large group I would use full-sized cards so that they can be taped up on a wall (See activities below).

I store these cards in order according to their stanzas. I use an index card holder with dividers to keep them all in order.

There are a myriad of ways to use these cards:

*Lay out the poem cards (or maybe just a stanza or two if the poem is longer). Have the students read the poem. Then take away a couple of cards and have them read it again filling in the words that are missing. Keep taking cards away and having them say the poem until there are no more cards left. This works extremely well to help with memorizing!

*Put the poem in order. Give the students the cards all mixed up. Can they put them in the correct order?

*Lay out in order only a few of the cards from the poem. They don't need to be consecutive words. See if the cards give them enough cues to say the whole poem.

Here are some other ways I work with poetry with my students...

*Test their vocabulary knowledge of the poem. Call out one of the words in the poem and see if they can draw what you just said.

*For a homework assignment have them create a drawing that represents the poem.

*For older kids and highschoolers use the poem as a jumping off point to work with grammar points.

*Once a poem is memorized you can do a drawing activity with the poem. I say aloud one line in the poem and then see if the student can draw or make a representation of what is happening in that one line. The poem Mi Dragon {see below} works well with this activity.

Here are some poems and places to find poems to use in your classroom:

Juan Guinea Diaz- My favorite is Mi Dragon. (Scroll down to find it.)  I have used it with tons of my students with great success. Boys in particular love it.

Douglas Wright- Mr. Wright is from Buenos Aires and he has some great poems on his site for kids. This is one that I really like, but you should check out his whole site.

This poem for colors...

A big selection of poems for younger kids.

¡Pío Peep!: Traditional Spanish Nursery Rhymes are great for younger kids!


  1. You are so great. We are blessed to have you as a teacher.

  2. Sonna- Actually, It's me that is blessed to have you guys as students!!!

  3. Wow!! This post is sooo helpful! I have been so pleased with what poetry has added to our language learning. So happy to have found this post with great ideas and resources to keep us going! Thanks so much.