Advanced-level Culture students groaned at
me when I told them that they were going
to write poetry. They didn't believe they
Jouvenat is an instructor of ESL at the
is intensely personal. Poetry can make the reader
laugh, cry, and feel a connection to the writer. In
other words, poetry is powerful. I have always
believed that poetry is a form of self-expression
that anyone can try, regardless of language,
culture or level of English.
Advanced-level Culture students groaned at me when
I told them that they were going to write poetry.
They didn't believe they could do it. Most of them
didn't write poetry in their first languages, not
to mention in ENGLISH! Besides, what about all
those rules: rhyme, counting syllables, and trying
to become Shakespeare.
they did it
told them to forget about all the sonnets and
haikus of their pasts; I would teach them an easy
way to write a poem. I had my students start out by
freewriting about anything that they could describe
well: their best friend, the cola can sitting in
front of them, or the weather to name a few
subjects. They had complete freedom to choose their
they finished freewriting for 10 minutes, the
students went back through their freewrite and
formed their poem in the following way. They
underlined the most important ideas from their
freewrite and transferred those ideas to a separate
sheet of paper. They were looking for key words,
loaded with description and feeling.
read the poems aloud to adjust the rhythm, added
more description to their poem, and rearranged the
sequence of ideas, if necessary. They took their
poems home to work on and recopy, and then the next
day the students who felt comfortable read their
poems aloud in class.
students didn't worry about punctuation, but that
could be something that could be worked on in
future classes. I basically wanted to get them used
to the idea that they could be poets and use
English for self-expression and fun!
take a look at our poetry
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Sandy and Thomas