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Student Generated Poetry: 5 Great Activities!

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Student Generated Poetry: A 5 day plan for the EFL/ESL Classroom

By: Christine Canning, United Arab Emirates University
Michael Quetti, St. Joseph Central High School

Email: [email protected] or [email protected]

Christine Canning, POB 17172,UAE University, Al Ain, UAE
Michael Quetti, c/o St. Joe, 22 Maplewood Lane, Pittsfield, MA 01201

Poetry can be used to exploit various aspects of the English language in the foreign and second language classroom. Poetry is subject to interpretation and is as subjective as it can be objective. Practitioners who encourage student generated poetry followed by peer analysis encourage and foster a more learner centered lesson. Below are activities that can be used over a series of class periods by teachers of nonnative speakers of English:
1. First, ask the students to keep a poetry journal. Each night, ask them to write a poem or a few deep thoughts that they might have come to mind during their day. At the end of each week, ask the student to review their own work and to pick the poem or thoughts that they felt were their best piece of writing. Next, have them transcribe the writing from their journal onto a piece of paper.

Sample Poem for submission: The World in Which I Live
Is it something that the world needs?
Canít they see?
The true mother of nature is the earth,
So, I ask, why canít we see her worth?
Sometimes, my mind tends to another place
Where I dream I can be a part of a better race.
-Michael Quetti, Grade 11

2. Ask the students to tape their poem to a space on the wall. Next to the poem tape a blank sheet of paper. Ask students to move station to station, reading and putting a positive comment or interpretation on the paper of the studentís work. After each student has gotten a moment to comment on their peersí poetry or deep thoughts, ask the authorís to take their papers and the comments back to their desks. Ask the students to take a moment to read the remarks and to think about the reactions from others about the work that they have created. For homework, ask the students to respond in their journals to the feedback that they have received. Secondly, ask the students to make any changes based on the feedback to their individual poems. Lastly, ask the students to make any revisions to the poem and to bring back the final version to the class tomorrow.

3. Take the final versions and ask any volunteers if they would like to share their poems with the class. When the students have finished sharing ideas, ask them to copy the poem on to an overhead transparency without their name. Tell the students that you wish to examine the structure and the language used in the poems.
Ask the author to make a list of the words which share the same sounds on a piece of paper. Have him/her divide the words into lists of minimal pairs. When the students have finished writing their minimal pairs, place each overhead transparency on the machine one at a time to analyze the information provided in the poem. Ask students in pairs to find the similar sounds in the poem. Match pair lists against that of the original authors for a mini-pronunciation practice lesson.

4. After working on the pronunciation patterns and sounds, ask students to look at the word choices. Ask authors to make columns comparing the nouns, verbs, adjectives and other parts of speech chosen. Next ask the student authors to use a dictionary or thesaurus to look up the synonyms or antonyms associated with each word to build their vocabulary. Ask students to rewrite their poems using some of the new antonyms and synonyms. For homework, require the students to write how the word choice affected the meaning of their poems. The next day, elicit differences from students in the class, and show on the board comparisons between the original sentence and word choice, to the updated version.

5. Lastly, ask students to compare structures. Have students look at positioning of verbs, subjects, objects, adjectives and other parts of speech. In pairs, have students rewrite their poems in the same style as their partnerís paper. Then compare how sentence structures can change meaning or form new meanings when order is disrupted with a new format. Have students compare the changes in their works with that of other people in the ESL/EFL class. For homework, ask the student to submit the same three poems on a large poster paper (the original poem, the antonym/synonym poem, and the structure poem). The next day hang the poems around the room, and allow students to vote on the best poem from each collection.
Require the peer voted poem to be entered into the studentsí academic portfolio.

Unpublished copyright 1999 Christine Canning

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