Poetry As A Springboard For ESL And EFL Teaching

By: Dr. Janet C. Pascual

Dr. JANET C. PASCUAL holds a Doctorate Degree in Educational Administration from Greenville College, an M.A. in Education with specialization in Child Study, M.A. units in English Language Teaching and Ph.D. units in Applied Linguistics from the Philippine Normal University including earned units in Ed.D. in Innovative Educational Management from the University of Makati and BSE-English degree also from the University of Makati (UMak), all from the Philippines. She was the former Director for the Center for Digital Learning and Educational Technology Innovation at University of Makati and Chair of the Department of Languages at the College of Arts and Letters, University of Makati. Professor Pascual has received awards like the Asia Pacific Excellence Award as a Woman of Excellence in Education awarded in Singapore and Malaysia, the Outstanding Alumni of Makati Award, an award she shared with the likes of the Honorable Rene Saguisag and Newscaster Chichi Robles to name a few. Her latest Poetry book titled Triangle of Love which she co-authored with Michael Forester from UK and Sankar Sankar from India was published in 2020 in India. She also has co-authored published books in English, Literature, Humanities and IELTS including journals and researches apart from academic writing and editing as well as poetry writing, Dr. Pascual also conducts lectures and seminars in Early Childhood Development, Starting a Preschool, Language Proficiency, Creative Teaching Strategies and also does reviews in IELTS, TOEFL, LET and Civil Service Exams.

Education as an eclectic discipline calls for a variety of approaches, methods, strategies and techniques. This is very true in language teaching and learning. Gone are the days when many teachers would equate language teaching solely to grammar. What with the fragmented sentences which are used as examples for teaching grammar which most often mean nothing when taken in isolation,

Canale and Swain (1980) in their language acquisition theory named Communicative Competence, have clearly posited that grammar is not the be-all and-all for one to be communicatively competent. One has to be Linguistically Competent, Socio-linguistically Competent, and Strategically Competent, and have Discourse Competence as well.

Since language teaching, whether it is teaching English as a Second Language or as a Foreign Language faces many challenges, there is a need for teachers to get out of their boxes, device and employ techniques to teach English meaningfully, interestingly and enjoyably. Hence, what better way to teach grammar other than to teach it in context!

This said, here is a sample lesson that uses poetry as a springboard for teaching English grammar. It particularly employs the Silent Way, Total Physical Response, Suggestopedia and in its broader sense, Pedagogical Stylistics. 

Moreover, it aims to teach grammar in context instead of using fragmented words or sentences. It likewise integrates Literature, Speech and Grammar on the premise that English language teaching should be done in an integrated fashion rather than in a fragmented fashion, thus, also developing a fine taste for literature

The following lesson is very timely especially for a Hearts day or a Christmas tide lesson when love abides in every heart, although it can be used just about any time of the year.

Methodology                 :        Integrated / Task Based

Approach            :        Collaborative / Multiple Intelligence Approach (MIA)

Literature (poetry)       :        All Because You Kissed Me Goodnight by Sandy Rolstan

Language Skills   :        Listening, Speaking, Reading (Pedagogical Stylistics)

Level                    :        First Year College (can also be appropriate for High

School or sixth graders depending on the level of

difficulty of the activities)

All Because You Kissed Me Goodnight by Sandy Rolstan

I climbed the door and opened the stairs

Said my pajamas and put-on my prayers

Then turned off the bed and crawled into the light

All because you kissed me goodnight.

Next morning, I woke and scrambled my shoes

Polished my eggs and toasted the news

I couldn’t tell, my left from my right

All because you kissed me goodnight.

That evening at last, I felt normal again

I talked to the puppy and threw Dad a bone

Even at midnight, the sun was still bright

All because you kissed me goodnight.

Activity 1  

For starters, use Charades as a motivation. This sets the mood and reduces stress, making students more receptive to the lesson. The class is divided into two groups. Each group chooses a leader who takes turns in acting the words written in each of seven activity cards with a title of a song written in each card and the word “kiss” as part of each title. This can also be a title of a famous movie, famous poem, proverb or saying (Total Physical Response). The members of each group guess the title of each song being acted by the leader. The group who guesses the most numbers of correct titles wins.

Activity 2

First Reading of the poem is done by the teacher which can be pre-recorded.

Dyads – a free discussion question done in pairs (Have you been kissed by someone in the opposite sex who is not a relative? How did it feel? Why?) This activity gives each student a chance to practice the language (English) with a specific outcome. In this case, it is to use the past tense of the verb but the focus is more on the task of generating the students’ language to create an opportunity for language acquisition (Krashen, 1996) and less on the grammar points, thus, developing students’ ability to do things in English.

Second Reading of the poem is a Group Choral Reading. The first group recites the poem in a sad mood, the second group in an angry mood and the third group in an excited mood.

Choral Reading gives students a sense of freedom of expression which enhances their creativity. It also encourages language production minus the “parroting” or the “repeat after me thing” thing usual done by teachers which is also hoped to enhance students’ appreciation of literature without being forced.

Group Work – When students are allowed to work in groups, they learn to be cooperative, responsible, and less competitive. It gives them ample opportunity to express themselves the best way they know how, without the teacher who always makes corrections which distract their train of thought and the message as well.

Each group shares ideas on the following questions and come to a consensus. The leader presents the group’s output in class:

First Group – Which to you is the most appropriate mood for the poem? Why?

Second Group – Which lines in the poem tell that the poet is excited? Why?

Third Group – Does the poem make sense? Why? What do you notice in the

arrangement of the words in the poem?

Activity 3

Group Work (connecting the past lesson on nouns with the present lesson on verbs)

The first group identifies all the nouns in the poem. The leader presents the output in class. The second group produces the final sound of the plural of nouns /s/, /z/ or /ǝz/.   The third group arranges the words in the poem so that it makes sense. The fourth group lists all the action words in two columns, those that form their past tense by adding d or ed and those that do not. The leader presents output in class.

Activity 4 – Group Work

The first group copies the regular verbs from the first stanza and writes them under their proper headings /d/, /t/ or /ǝd/, the second group on the second stanza and the third group on the third stanza. Each group produces the sounds in chorus.

Evaluation – Big Group Work

The teacher flashes words one at a time. The students raise their flaglets. Red for /d/ sounds, white for /t/ sounds and blue for /ǝd/ sounds at the same time as they produce the sounds. Here, the teacher is silent but is able to measure if the students learned the speech component of the lesson (Silent Way by Asher)

Extending – Multiple Intelligence Approach

The Singers’ Group composes a melody for the poem and sings it in class. A variation is by choosing a song which relates to the poem and sings it in class. The Artists Group interprets the poem using drawings, symbols or images which the group presents and explains in class. The Actors’ Group acts different situations depicting varied emotions or reactions on how it is to be kissed for the first time. The Speakers Group uses the past tense of the verbs by writing a script and presents a commercial, a slogan, or a newscast on proper decorum between girlfriend and boyfriend relationship.

Extending is going beyond the text, letting students do something with language, allowing them to use their Multiple Intelligences (MIA, Gardner), and applying what they have learned.

Note to teachers: Much of the strategies used in this lesson can be used for teaching literature but please do not have the misconception that literature should be taught by incorporating grammar lessons into it because if this is done, literature would lose its beauty. Grammar or language though can be taught using literature as springboard just like how it has been illustrated in this sample lesson.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. shussein77 says:

    Very resourceful article for ESL And EFL Teaching. Thank you ,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s