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Poetry in education


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this paper tries to shed light on the impact of poetry on learning a new language

Published in: Education
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Poetry in education

  1. 1. 1 Teaching English through Poetry By Fatehi M.A Abdullah UAE 2014-2015
  2. 2. 2 Contents Introduction……………………………………………………………………………………. 1 PoemsandpoeticLanguage ……………………………………………………………....2 Purpose of teachingpoetry…………………………………………………………………3 Poetryandlinguistics…………………………………………………………………………..6 PoetryinTeaching………………………………………………………………………………..7 How to teachpoetry…………………………………………………………………………….9 References………………………………………………………………………………………….16
  3. 3. 3 Introduction Poetry has always been used to shed light on certain social, political or economic issues that might arise or that are already exist. In most cases poets write poetry to express their feelings, point views or describe their own emotional, economic or social statues. Poets differ from normal people due to their sensitivity towards things and their ability to employ language to show this sensitivity. They have the gift of expressing their ideas using artistic images and elegant style. Through ages poetry has been used in several occasions such as wars,sympathy, love, admiration condemnation and so on. When governmentsneed to provoke the passion of the public to love and be loyal to their country , warn people of a certain danger or direct them in a certain direction they seek the help of intellectuals such as writersand poets because they realize the influence of poets and writers on people . Someone might spend hours or even days preaching against the dangers of drugs on individuals, families and societies using the formal everyday language with a very limitedinfluence; a poet on the other hand uses a short cut that might be more affective and that might touch the hearts and souls of readers or listeners in a very short time .This short cut could be simply a poem. Poems can hardly be forgotten, thoughthe poet might be, because with the time passing it becomes a song that is repeated over and over by people. A good poem that conveys a message can be very effective weapon to provoke people's emotions and sensations; they read it or hear it with a lot of enthusiasm and passion. So roughly speaking, if someone needs to spread a certain idea or plant a certain thought in people's mind he should use poetry since poems are immortal. Take for example Shakespeare an English poet who lived between 1564 -1616 his poems are still read, studied and researched until today. Ahmed Shawqi an Egyptian poet who lived ,between1868-1932, is another living example on the immortality of poems and their deep impact on people and so many other poets from different nation whose poem became a way of life for some people and a constitution for others. Poetic language, therefor, is the finest, most dignified and most influential use of any language. It is the corner stone that shows the strength and the beauty within this language. It is the source that enriches the language and makes digestible.
  4. 4. 4 Poemsand PoeticLanguage A poem as I can define it is a set of carefully selected words put together in a musical frame to serve certain purposes such as delivering a message. It is full of images, emotions and sensations. It could be a painting drawn with words. A poem is a piece of writing in which the words are chosen for their beauty and sound and are carefully arranged, often in short lines which rhyme” (Collins Cobuild, 2001).) Poetic language, in which poems are processed, is the most significant and stylish use of a language. The key is that poetry is much more compressed than fiction (short stories or novels for instance). Since the language is denser in a poem, the word order is so much more significant. For instance, a poem and a short story may both attempt to convey the beauty of nature, but the poem will do so in three stanzas while the short story will do it in three pagesto get the same point . The poem has to rely on a number of techniques that will evoke emotions in a reader. These techniques are called poetic devices and may include rhyming, metaphors, similes, etc. Unlike fiction, poetry or poetic language does not have to follow grammatical rules, which allows readers to sort of unpack the poem and make meaning. Through the use of poetic language a poem is often more intense emotionally and also more open to interpretation.( litelle209 Poetic Language is the totality of the characteristics of language as an instrument of artistic expression and an object of artistic perception; synonymous with artistic (literary) language. The term “poetic language” is sometimes applied to verse speech that is, to literary language that follows the rules of verse. In a narrow sense, “poetic language” or “poetic speech” refers to the specific language of poetry before modern times (for example, ancient Icelandic and classical Persian poetry), which used a vocabulary, phraseology, and syntax that were rarely encountered in other kinds of speech(
  5. 5. 5 Purpose of teaching poetry Poetry is the pure essence of any language, because it reflects the strength and beauty of that language; it also plays a significant role in correcting and enhancing people's thoughts and ideas towards many issues that touch their everyday life through the messages that it broadcasts or sends. What is the purpose of teaching poetry to our students? What impact does poetry have on learning a language? In his article entitled Using Poems to Teach English Andrew Finch emphasizes on the importance of teaching poetry for our students since poetry has a deep impact on students understanding of the language Many teachers agree that poetry promotes language acquisition; they will also add that poetic concepts and cultural assumptions are usually too difficult for learners to take on. While this might be true of poetry as a reading activity, however, the use of poetry in the writing classes can provide an effective and collaborative means of language learning and of personal expression. Simple forms can give students a framework for expressing ideas that are meaningful to them, without the constraints of grammatical accuracy. Picture poems, also known as concrete or graphic poetry, of the 1950's. Eugen Gomringer from Switzerland, Öyvind Fahlström of Sweden, and Decio Pignatari from Brazil are all considered to be creators of this modern form of poetry. Picture poems are fun to create! They are images (pictures) created out of words and punctuation marks-drawings made of words. Pattern poems verse in which the typography or lines are arranged in an unusual configuration, usually to convey or extend the emotional content of the words. Of ancient (probably Eastern) origin, pattern poems are found in the Greek Anthology, which includes work composed between the 7th century BC and the early 11th century AD. A notable later example is the wing-shaped "Easter Wings" of the 16th-century English Metaphysical poet George Herbert and haiku poems which are short and unrhymed poems of a Japanese origin, thus offer ways of making English a means of personal expression, creativity and development, serving to reduce affective barriers in a nonthreatening learning environment. Popular song scripts can also facilitate awareness of pronunciation, intonation and sentence flow, in addition to containing contemporary cultural commentary. This paper therefore suggests that a broader perspective on the use of poetry in the language classroomcan lead to meaningful and successful language learning.( Usingpoems to teach English. EnglishLanguage Teaching. 15(2), 29 – 45. Andrew FinchKyungpookNational University)
  6. 6. 6 Based on the above we can say that teaching poetry for our students from K-12 is essential for the following reasons. Poetry is fun in so many ways so choosing a poem that agrees with the students' age that has a comprehendible structure can change the class atmosphere and can also break the monotony of everyday classes, moreover poetry helps expand students' imagination due to the extraordinary images that are imbedded in the poem. Poetry makes students more sensitive to the language, a well recited poem can help enhance students' pronunciation. It increases the storage of lexical items because vocabulary used in a poem is carefully chosen to complete the image. Fluency is another aspect where students can benefit from poetry because repeating a poem can be a good practice for students to enhance reading and speaking skills. A short poem can be more effective than an article or an essay because it is presented in a musical, interesting and attractive style. Take for example the poem I'm a Student by FathiNimrawi that includes many characteristics of the good students and the things that he or she does to be good. It also shows indirectly that students feel proud simply because they are students. The poet also emphasizes on the role of teachers in creating a dedicated responsible student who willingly likes to help others and who has a target that he is eager to fulfill .Although this poem is relatively short, it sends many strong andbrief messages that an essay or an article will not be able to do so. In fact the purpose of this poem is to teach manners and encourage students to appreciate the role of teachers and school in their progress. Still this poem, like many others, could be a means to teach writing, reading and speaking if tackled appropriately not to mention the new lexical items that students learn when dealing with it.
  7. 7. 7 I'm a Student By Fathi Nimrawi I'm a student come see me There is no difference he or she. Schools were made to educate me I'm a student come see me. I come to school happy and free. I help others teachers teach me. I'm a student come see me. I pay attention to every single word I want to stay on the right road. I read a lot I write a text, I interact this is for my best. I study hard preparing for the test, If you doubt that please be my guest. I'm a student please help me, To fulfill my dreams for eternity Another major aspect that makes poetry attractive is the music that is represented in therhyme and the rhythm of the poem. It can be clearly noticed that the lines of verse one and two end with the sound e whereas the first two lines ofthe third verse end with the sound D. Lines of verse four end with the T; the poet in the last verse goes back to the sound of verse one which makes the poem perfect to be a song. Such poems are simple, relevant and convey a clear and direct message which makes them a rigid base for so many activities. Another good example that enforces so many values among students is a poem entitled Proud to be Emirati
  8. 8. 8 Proud to be Emirati By Fathi Nimrawi I'm from the UAE And I'm proud to be The sun the mountains The sandy beach are God's gifts to me. I will always say I will always pray May Allah Save The founder of this country I'm from the UAE Emeriti I'll always Be Even though this poem is alsoshort, it has the same influence of a whole unit that It can make a perfectgrade English curriculum.thhas the same name in the 10 supplementary material for the student's book. This poem teaches the love of one's own country and the sense of pride that accompanies that love. Through this poem students are expected to learn how to appreciate people who contributed in uniting this country and worked hard to achieve that goal. A part form teaching values, manners and ethics, this kind of poetry can be used to teach language as well for the number of adjectives, adverbs of frequency and nounsthat they contain.
  9. 9. 9 Poetry and linguistics Linguistics is the science that studies language ; whereas poetry is the art of employing language in serving certain purposes and creating images using poetic language therefore linguistic and poetry are inseparable . According to Richard and Platt (1985, p. 167), linguistics is "the study of language as a systemof human communication". The history of language study is very old but linguistics flourished as an independent discipline recently. The field of investigation for linguistics is very vast. It investigates the sound system of language under sub fields of phonetics and phonology. It discusses about the arrangement of words into sentences under the title of syntax and linguistics also discusses the meaning systemof language under the topics of semantics and pragmatics etc. Anthropological linguistics, psychological linguistics, sociolinguistics, stylistics, and applied linguistics are newly developed branches of linguistics.(Analyzing the Language of Poetryfrom a Perspective of Linguistics SardarFayyazul Hassan) In the article ,The Four Linguistic Spaces of Poetry, the writer is clearly emphasizing the strong connection between poetry and linguistics .He says that when composing a poem, one may need to be concerned with such seemingly extra-linguistic matters as plot, characterization, setting, theme, topic, and imagery ,all of which are expressed through language, as well as with such linguistic elements as the phonological, morphological, syntactical, semantic and other components of a language , all of which are expressed in the language itself. Nevertheless, it is safe to say that, more than any other category, poetry requires intensive care in using linguistic elements .In poetry, the act of verbalization matters most in expressing its sense or sensibility.( Literature andLinguistics. Taipei:TaiwanNormalUniversity, 1990, No. 16, 113-122.) So there is a strong bond, if we might say, between poetry and linguistics because language is the tool that is used to compose a poem or it is the container that poets choose their vocabulary from. A poet therefore should have a unique sense and command of the language. A poem is not only a number of words put together ; a poet should take the linguistic aspects into consideration and the way the elements of language are used, on structure and pattern both on the level of phrase and of the overall composition. Poetic writing can be in prose as well as in verse. Fiction has poetic purposes. Anytime one writes with an emphasis on the way the language is used.
  10. 10. 10 Poetry ineducation Members of the poetry community recognize that whether or not it qualifies as “criticism,” the teaching of poetry at every level of the educational systembenefits the field. They recognize that whether teachers accomplish it through the use of anthologies and textbooks, photocopied materials, or online course sites, giving students’ meaningful access to the texts under discussion is critical to the educational enterprise ( practices) In fact very few teachers pay attention to the importance of poetry in developing students' language proficiency this is because they don’t master the necessary tools that enable them to introduce poetry to their students. Teaching poetry requires certain skills and talents such as the ability to feel the music and try to pass this feeling to your students. Some teachers find it difficult to establish a brain storming session after reading a poem ,which enhances the students; speaking skill, because they themselves find it difficult to comprehend the images that the poem present. For them poetry is only a luxury that has nothing to do with language teaching because they are used to teaching English following the traditional approaches such as translation and grammar approaches where students have very limited role In the classroom they are only recipients. Five reasons why we should teach poetry 1: Poetry helps us know each other and build friendly classroom community that share something precious interesting and educational at the same time. Poetry can be used at the start of the year to learn about where students come from and what they do. It can allow kids to express themselves through painting sketches of their lives, their families or their surroundings. They can use metaphor, imagery and symbolic language to describe painful or joyful experiences. Poetry allows kids to put language to use-to make it serve a deep internal purpose. It gives students a chance to break rules along the way (grammar, punctuation, capitalization and to find voice, representation, since the main purpose of poetry is to present the targeted language in an attractive and entertaining style ,enforce their fluency and make language familiar to students. 2: When students read poetry aloud, they will be able to feel rhythm , music and sounds and beats of the poem. Students of all ages may not understand all the words or meaning, but they'll feel the rhythms, get curious about what the sounds mean and perhaps want to create their own. Poetry moves us physically and emotionally students get really excited when they hear or read a poem. 3: poetry improves students' speaking and listening skills, and also widens their imaginations since poetry contains many images which can be interpreted as short sentences paragraphs or even essays. Last year I was teaching a poem about school for the 10th grade entitled Our School.When students came to a verse that says SO HOW CAN WE REPAY THOSE WHO ENLIGHTENED OUR LIVES TODAY? KEEPING THEM IN MIND AND NEVER FORGET THEM IS THE ONLY WAY.
  11. 11. 11 Based on this verse an initiative was born when one of the students suggested thanking teachers who taught them in different stages. One can never imagine the mixed emotions on the faces of teacher when they saw their students surprising them with a visit some of them cried when students started to speak. This initiative was really a success and a turning point in students 'lives. This initiative is a perfect example on how teaching poetry makes a difference; in addition to language this poem taught very important moral values which are the gratitude and appreciation for the efforts of people who helped building their characters. 4: Poetry develops a deep sense of language because it challenges the traditional teaching methodology that focuses mainly on grammar or translation and breaks their monotony. Traditional techniques present a ridged boring material for students whereas poetry encourages them to practice the langue in celebratory style full of images and music. Poems can be easily understood due to their rhythmic style and their music. 5: Poetry can be interpreted in so many different ways which gives each student a chance to surf the poem and express his thoughts freely. This will help enhance their self-reliance and develops their character emotionally and socially. Well- tackled poem can be the key for weak students to change their prospective to language. It will make them anxious to learn more about it. a poem can help students see the experience of others in an entirely new way. ( school ) Poetry enables teachers to teach their students how to write, read, and understand any text. Poetry can also give students a healthy outlet for surging emotions. Reading original poetry aloud in class can foster trust and empathy in the classroom community, while also emphasizing speaking and listening skills that are often neglected in high school literature classes. Students who don’t like writing essays may like poetry, with its shortage of fixed rules and its kinship with rap. For these students, poetry can become a gateway to other forms of writing. It can help teach skills that come in handy with other kinds of writing like precise, economical diction, for example. When Carl Sandburg writes, “The fog comes on little cat feet,” in just six words, he endows a natural phenomenon with character, a pace, and a spirit. All forms of writing benefits from the powerful and concise phrases found in poems. (
  12. 12. 12 How to teach poetry? teaching poetry is One of the major dilemmas that English teachers face ;they try to avoid or skip poems in the students book because they believe that poetry teaching is nonsense and it is a waste of time and effort t. Off course this belief is originated from their disability in dealing with poetry or their lack of desire to learn. They refuse to go into a vague pathway which they might fail to finish perfectly .in fact teaching poetry needs creative, dedicated and well-educated teachers who teach English through culture . Because as it is well known one will never be able to master a certain language unless he dives deep in the culture that the language represent for example when you hear a dialogue between two English speaking people that include the phrase chew on that and the other responds I couldn’t digest it you will not be able to understand this dialogue unless you are aware of the culture. the meaning of this dialogue is speaker one asks his friend to think about something; his friend replies I did but I couldn't understand it or I couldn’t accept it . Based on my experience as a teacher of English who spent a long time teaching English through poetry and trying in vain to show other teachers the significance of doing so I will present some tips that might help other teachers who believe in the significance of teaching English through poetry, but they don’t know how to start. 1-you have to be convinced of the effectiveness of poetry in teach English ,then you need to choose poems that fits your students. 2-It's better to choose poems that are connected or close to their environment or the subject you intend to teach. 3-Practice reciting the poem, feel the music the rhyme and the rhythm before presenting it to your students a well recited poem will touch the emotions of your students even if they don’t understand the meaning of certain words. They will be captured by the beat. 4- Ask your students individually to recite the poem since repetition enables weak students to comprehend the poem and feel its music. 5- Make your students repeat the poem over and over.At first there will some chaos so you need to play the role of a maestro because student will not be able to recite as a group they need time to work on one scale in harmony once they did so you will enjoy it so much. 6- After you make sure that most if not all you students interacted with the poem, present the poem on the board and ask your students to underline the words that they don’t know their meanings.
  13. 13. 13 7- You might rap the poem or even sing it or you can ask some of your students to do so. This will make the poem more exciting and accessible especially for weak students. 8- Ask your students about the images that the poem has and whether they can paint them. 9- Ask students about their favorite verse or line and why they liked it, and then ask them to write their pinion of the poem. 10 – Make your students repeat the poem as a group every time you go in to the classroom until you move to another subject .This will bridge the gap between students and the language because the tone of the language will be stored in their memories every time they hear the language ,they will be able to distinguish it. When you make sure that you students mastered the poem, you can move to another activity such as teaching comparatives and superlatives, nouns or verbs. He is the maker; he is the creator He is the all mighty no one is greater He is the merciful; the most wonderful He is the greatest the most powerful He created darkness; he created light He gave us intellect just to be bright He is the light, the brightest light He never sleeps not even a slight He watches over us, he loves us From the forces of darkness he delivers us Once we sin he forgives us
  14. 14. 14 The above is a part of a poem, entitled Allah, which was taught to the 11th grade in Mohammed Bin Hammed secondary school. After I made sure that my students fully absorbed the poem I asked my students to underline nouns adjectives adverbs and verbs. After that I asked to put these derivatives in a table ,then students were asked to find the derivation for each word and fill the table Example 1 AdverbAdjectiveVerbNoun PowerfullypowerfulPowerpower IntellectuallyIntellectual-intellect The next step was using words from the table in simple compound, and complex sentences; Students are required to vary their choice of words and use the four derivatives. Although weak students might stick to using on part, its ok encourage them and try to show them how to use the other parts, make them listen to their peers sentences and try to imitate them. Make your students read their sentences a loud if there are any mistakes correct them .As a home work ask your students to develop their sentences in to paragraphs. The next day ask them to read their paragraphs before the class and open the floor for discussion .never forget to praise good students and encourage the weak. Definitely this is a comprehensive sophisticated and exhausting style for teachers and students, but looking at it from another angle you will be surprised of the benefits that both teachers and students gain and you will also notice that there is no boundaries between the four skills ;they can be taught altogether in one class; you can move from one skill to another smoothly. Most importantly you will notice the huge impact of poetry while teaching all these skills.
  15. 15. 15 Conclusion Ever since I became a teacher I have been searching for the best and easiest ways that make the process of teaching –learning English more attractive enjoyable and fruitful . It is true that, like millions of students in the Arab world, I was taught English according to the traditional approach that was based mostly on translation and grammar. I became a teacher in 1990; I was expecting some changes on the teaching methodology and teachers' style. What shocked me the most was that Students were still taught English in Arabic; teachers were still translating grammatical rules for their students to memorize them. Teaching any other skills such as speaking ,listening reading and writing was prohibited so I will not exaggerate if I say that Arab students know more about the English grammar a lot more than many of their native peers . Brain storming and critical thinking were totally ignored. Interactive teaching was not even known; students were only receivers, they never had the chance to express themselves. I was never convinced of the efficiency of that approach even though I tried it sometime . I started to look for untraditional ways and techniques to make my students love the English lessons and interact more. the best way I tried was teaching English through literature so I started with short stories I discovered that students enjoy listening to a story and I found them very attentive tell the last moment after the reading I asked students about the characters. I taught about the main characters, the minor characters, plot, summery, setting before we started the discussion, I was amazed of the children's enthusiasm. Although storytelling and story reading are efficient in making students more involved in the English class, poetry proved to be even more efficient since it enables students to break all the rules of the traditional English classes; they can hear their voices reciting, singing or even rapping. Music in poetry makes the weakest students eager to take part in the lesson even though they don’t understand all the words in the poem simply because they are attracted to the style which is similar to what most of them listen to since most of them listen to western songs that are mostly based on poetry. Poetry is a good incentive for teachers as well since they notice the enormous change of their students attitude towards learning the language which encourages them to increase the dose by inserting other activities that could be taken from the poem itself such as asking students to make their own poem and recite it before the class or ask them to find the images in the poem and try to make a painting. Teachers can also ask their students to choose their best verse and write a short paragraph aboutit; good students might even write an essay.
  16. 16. 16 References / www.enotes.comlitelle209 ngpookNationalUniversityAndrewFinch Kyu rFayyazulHassaAnalyzingthe Language of Poetryfroma Perspective of LinguisticsSarda
  17. 17. 17 Appendix
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