Posted tagged ‘poems’

More Play with Poetry

December 15, 2010

I can’t resist offering another idea that makes use of holiday poetry. There’s a wealth of material online, and as soon as I see a few verses, the wheels in my head start turning. So many poems, especially those written for children, lend themselves to ESL/ EFL instruction. Just look, for example, at the poems shared on Almost every one has instructional potential. I’ll list a few ideas.

  • To engage and lead into a lesson on “used to (be)”:

Hang this on your
Christmas tree,
To remember how
I used to be.
To remind you of me
Now and then,
And bring fond memories
Back again.

Retrieved from

  • To engage and lead into a lesson on phrasal verbs with three parts:

It’s hard to think of anything
But Christmas in December.
There’s so much to look forward to
And so much to remember.

Retrieved from

  • To work on rhythm and develop phonemic awareness/ awareness of spelling patterns:

“Come Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, and Vixen.
Come Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen.”
Santa said, “My reindeer number eight.
We need to go. We can’t be late!
It’s dark this Christmas Eve night.
We need someone to carry a light.
Rudolph, of course you’ll be fine.
Now my reindeer number nine.”

Retrieved from

Copy the poem on the board and omit Blitzen, late, light, nine.  Scramble the four deleted words and present them one at a time. Ask students to indicate where each word fits best. Once they complete the poem, do a choral reading (listen-repeat). Finally, underline the following phrases and challenge students (in pairs) to supply their own original verses. You can help by brainstorming other rhyming words.

1. Omit: “We can’t be late!” > Find another rhyme for “eight”: wait, gate, ate, fate > Example: “Don’t make me wait!”

2. Omit: “We need someone to carry a light.” > Find another rhyme for “light”: bright, tight, height, sight, site, white > Example: “Let’s find a way to make our path bright.”

3. Omit: “Now my reindeer number nine.” > Find another rhyme for “fine”: line, whine, sign, mine > Example: “If we place you first in line.”

December Celebrations: Learning linking through holiday poetry

December 13, 2010

“December Celebrations” is a children’s poem by Helen H. Moore. I used it once in a pronunciation class, and I recently rediscovered my copy of the simple yet warm verses. Not surprisingly, I’ve found a few U.S. schools that have posted the poem on their sites to share with their communities. Here’s one copy.

You’ll find that the language is  accessible to lower level students. I see less than half a dozen words that would require explanation: gather, feasting, customs, traditions, and nations. You could prepare students for the first reading by posing discussion questions with these words. Suggestions:

  1. Around the December holidays, people travel home to meet in one place and celebrate together. For which holidays does your family gather?
  2. Holidays often mean eating special foods. Families and friends prepare big meals with lots of dishes. Think of one of your favorite holidays with special foods. What kinds of dishes does your family feast on?
  3. On Christmas day, many families and friends give gifts to one another. Giving Christmas gifts is a custom.  We could also call it a tradition. What are some customs or traditions your family has for the holidays?
  4. Can you name all the December holidays you know? In which countries or nations are these holidays celebrated?

The poem naturally lends itself to practice with rhythmic patterns. However, I chose to use it to teach the linking of final consonants to initial vowel sounds. Phrases to highlight:

cold and dark

families around

presents and

feasting and

customs and

old and

in all lands

of all ages

If you’d like, there’s also the opportunity to teach

  •  the linking of two vowel sounds with the phrase “so every year”  (note the use of /w/);
  • the linking of the same consonant sounds with the phrases “all lands” (hold the /l/ in “all” and release into “lands”).

The Potential of Poetry

July 19, 2010

Let them all toil over a line.

Their English will be closer to fine.

The search for words, the search for rhyme

Is a constructive use of time.

Through verse it is possible to touch

On rhythm, diction, grammar and such.

Think! All the possibilities

To increase their abilities.

  • Culture and rhythm can be learned through common rhymes. Do your students know Eeny Meeny Miney Mo?


  • Useful information can be retrieved in the target language with the help of a rhyme. Do your students know Thirty Days Has September?                


  • A review of the parts of speech and grammatical structures is possible through poetry. Consider taking an existing poem and making it a fill-in-the-blank text with key words omitted. First, go through the poem and identify what words are missing, for example, a noun, a plural noun, an adjective, etc. Then have students complete the poem. The results will vary from funny to serious and should be shared. As a final step, you can read the original poem to the class. If you’d like to have students generate larger amounts of language, consider using Instant Poetry Forms. Check out “I Used To” and “If Emotion Were”.


  • Help students recall the spelling and meaning of a new vocabulary word through an acrostic poem. Have students work in pairs and assign each pair a key vocabulary word. Pairs must create a line of poetry for each letter of the key word. I found an interesting site that assists you in composing this type of poem. Click here.  A series of screens takes you through the brainstorming process and even gives some prompts when you place your cursor over one of the key letters. The final screen gives you the option of printing out our work. I had a bit of fun with “major” and “clarify”:

Main and never unimportant

Always at the top of the list

Just think really big

Or so serious

Really it’s unforgettable 

Clear up the misunderstanding

Lay my doubts to rest

Articulate you thoughts to me

Reword if necessary

Inspect your meaning

Feel your way to truth

Yes, I understand the word now

  • Develop students’ sense of rhythm and rhyme by asking them to create a limerick. You can take this activity a step further and target problematic sounds. For example, if you need them to work with vowel + /r/ combinations, have them make limericks in which the first line states a name such as Bert, Curt, Bart, Harry, Mary, Murray, or Cort: “There was a lady named Mary…” Give them the basics on constructing this type of poem. A fun model about a fellow named Jerry is provided on eHow. (A more detailed explanation is given by Dan Rollins on ExpertsExchange.) Composing a limerick with a partner may help some overcome writer’s block. Be sure to make time for the limericks to be read aloud to the class.

How to Bring the December Holidays into Your Classroom

December 2, 2008

December is here! It’s time to start thinking about how to weave holiday-related themes into your lessons. After all, learning a language implies learning another culture(s). From Washington, D.C. to London, people in English-speaking countries are looking forward to Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s Eve celebrations. How can you raise students’ awareness of these holidays?

  • WRITING ACTIVITY: Letters to Santa.

Find out what students know about Santa Claus (a.k.a. Father Christmas). Is there such a figure in their culture? Explain how children in English-speaking countries often send a Christmas wish list to the North Pole. To teach the format of a personal letter, you can ask your students to write to Santa Claus. Take them through the steps of planning, writing, and revising.

  • PRONUNCIATION GAME: Holiday tongue twisters.

Consider using holiday-related vocabulary to teach and practice minimal pairs. For example:

/k, g/ = Go get good, crisp Christmas cookies.

/f, v/ = Very fine fig pudding for everyone.

/t, d/ = Time to decorate the tree.

/s, z/ = Was it nice and cozy or super noisy on New Year’s Eve?

  • ORAL PRESENTATIONS: Celebrating holidays around the world.

Students can speak for one or two minutes to the class. Possible topics:

1.       How does your family celebrate New Year’s Eve?

2.       What has been the most memorable Christmas for you?

3.       How do different countries celebrate Christmas? (Advanced students can do research online. Focus first on English-speaking countries. Then allow for other countries to be selected. Assign one country to each student.)

  • ORAL READING: Holiday tales told in rhyme.

Stories told in rhyme are good for oral reading practice. Stress patterns are more easily felt in this genre. Try ’Twas the Night Before Christmas or Dr. Suess’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

  • READING SKILLS: A holiday classic.

Advanced students can use the month of December to read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. The complete work is available online. Allow for discussion, highlight vocabulary, and consider essay writing at the end.

  • LISTENING/ CONVERSATION SKILLS: Holiday film session.

Choose a holiday film to watch in the month of December. Focus on developing listening and conversation skills. Some films, like It’s a Wonderful Life with James Stewart, serve as a great foundation for a grammar lesson. In fact, the High Intermediate book of Focus on Grammar  uses that film to teach unreal conditionals in Unit 24. Other holiday films with good speech models: While You Were Sleeping with Sandra Bullock and When Harry Met Sally with Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. (The latter isn’t really a holiday film per se, but the big finish takes place on New Year’s Eve).

  • CONVERSATION SKILLS: Holiday survey.

Have students work in pairs to create two or three questions. Then allow for a question-answer period, during which they talk to as many other classmates as possible. Put the original pairs back together to compare findings. Possible topics to assign to pairs:

o   Holiday foods/ dishes.

o   Holiday plans.

o   Holiday traditions.

o   Holiday gifts.

o   Holiday entertainment.


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