Beginner Students and Poetry

poets-corner-colorThe musical quality of poetry, the careful selection of the  words of poetry, and the ability of poetry to give make us think and reflect  make it an ideal vehicle for writing tasks in a foreign language class.    Here are some ideas for incorporating poetry based on the work of Jan Labonty and Lori Borth (in their article el elefante y la hormiga: Writing Poetry in Foreign Language Classes, NECTFL Review 58 Spring/Summer 2006).

Writing patterned poetry reinforces description and grammatical structures. It nurtures vocabulary development and is an activity that places the emphasis on a finished product of which to be proud rather than writing something acceptable.

I used to be … but now poems
Students can use the following pattern:
I used to be ______________________________________
But now I’m _____________________________________
Yo era ________________ pero ahora soy ________________.
________________ era yo pero ahora ________________ soy.

The sentence was repeated and the word order mixed to add some interest and variety.These sentences were added to the end of name using their English name or a Spanish name,if Spanish names were used in class. They  chose an adjective that described them for each letter of their name and then used  adjectives with opposite meanings for the final sentences. Use of interesting adjectives and attention to adjective agreement were stressed.

Sample of student work:
JESSICA
Joven
Enérgica
Simpática
Sensible
Independiente
Curiosa
Ambiciosa
Yo era tímida pero ahora soy extrovertida.
Callada era yo pero ahora habladora soy.

Alphabet Pyramids:
These cumulative poems contain specific parts of speech that begin with the same letter.They are appropriate for all levels and are ideal for illustrating and displaying in  the classroom. They are also fun to share orally and are good “tongue twisters” to  practice pronunciation.They rarely translate well.
Line 1:the letter
Line 2:a noun
Line 3:add an adjective
Line 4:add a verb or verb form
Line 5:add an adverb

Samples of student work:
R
Ranas
Ranas Rápidos
Reduzco Ranas Rápidos
Reduzco Ranas Rápidos Raramente

Terquain
A terquain is a descriptive, three-line poem.This is appropriate for all levels and can be used as a directed work with the instructor providing the first line or offering a general topic to be addressed.It encourages the use of vivid words to create an  image or reaction. It can be as simple or complex as the skill level of the writer  allows.
Line 1:one word,the subject
Line 2:one or two words about the subject
Line 3:one word,a feeling about the subject

Samples of student work:
Arte
Mi foco
Salvación

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