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Software for student publishing and creativity.

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Tech4Learning Blog
Tech4Learning Blog
Tech4Learning Blog
Tech4Learning Blog

Use poetry to build vocabulary and comprehension at all levels of language acquisition

Posted by Melinda Kolk on Mar 25, 2015 11:45:00 AM

Because of its combination of concise and purposeful text, both reading and writing poetry offers fantastic opportunities to engage English Language Learners at a variety of levels.

Poetry is often short, which can help avoid overwhelming those still growing in literacy and language acquisition.

Poetry’s purposeful word choice encourages close, careful reading. Word choice can also prompt rich vocabulary discussions, since students can debate authors’ word choice and explore multiple meanings and nuance. 

Figurative language is one of the hardest skills for ELLs to acquire, and it appears in almost all poetry. Figurative language in poetry makes sense given the economy of words and can help language learners understand the importance of learning a language deeply. 

The repetitive nature of many poems lends itself to fluency practice. Julie Niles Peterson shares, "Repeated readings are one of the most studied and most effective strategies for improving fluency. Performance repeated readings are even better.”

Along with purposeful, specific use of language, writing poetry also offers great benefits for building literacy and language acquisition. You simply need to adjust how and what students are writing to meet them at the appropriate level.

All of these opportunities are extended when using authoring tools like Wixie and Pixie.

Extend poems with a repeating pattern

You can extend or adapt poetry for students in much the same way you extend or adapt stories. For early-stage language learners, try a cloze-style approach. For example, you could use “Twelfth Song of Thunder” from the Common Core Exemplar Texts for grades 6-8.

The voice that beautifies the land!
The voice above,
The voice of thunder
Within the dark cloud
Again and again it sounds,
The voice that beautifies the land.

The voice that beautifies the land!
The voice below,
The voice of the grasshopper
Among the plants
Again and again it sounds,
The voice that beautifies the land.

Use cloze deletion to modify this poem into an exercise for students to complete:

The voice that beautifies the land!
The voice ______, (direction preposition)
The voice of the ________(noun)
______________ (description of location)
Again and again it sounds,
The voice that beautifies the land.

The open-ended nature of this cloze activity gives students more choice, additional opportunities to perform at an appropriate level, and makes the project less tedious.

chant-cw

You can also have students support their writing with pictures and sounds.

Visual Poetry

This visual poetry approach also provides a fun opportunity for students to analyze word choice and explore meaning and vocabulary as they attempt to convey the meaning of words with images and music. It also helps students learn that simple words still paint a picture.

Find a poem related to other content you are studying or a poem that speaks to students’ lives. Song lyrics are forms of poetry featuring repeating stanzas your students may already know.

You could also start with a poem like “Sympathy” by Paul Lawrence Dunbar and show how the symbolism is used by Maya Angelou in her poem “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and Alicia Keys in her song “Caged Bird.”

To implement with students, have them read, reread, and explore the words in each line of the poem, discussing meaning and author’s intent. Then, have students create images that illustrate the author’s word choice or search for related images at education-friendly sites like Pics4Learning.com.

After students collect their images, and create visual poetry in a program like Wixie. Have students add the text of the poem and/or record themselves reading it. Background music can also help them convey mood and meaning without having to rely solely on their budding language skills.

 

 

While their skill and facility with reading and writing poetry may vary, this type of activity allows students at almost any stage of language acquisition make a contribution.

Write Poetry

Writing original poetry is not out of reach for ELLs. Choose a structured form like haiku that doesn't require extensive vocabulary. Haiku also requires the writer to consider syllables, providing students with a legitimate context for syllable counting. You will find students clapping their hands or tapping their toes under their desks as they work to identify the correct number of syllables.

Haiku should also contain a "kigo," or season word. This provides an obvious tie to science and an opportunity to build vocabulary and terminology. This also encourages students at higher levels of language acquisition to try to find words that show rather than tell, helping them become stronger writers.

Publish

Even at early stages of language acquisition, it is important to ask students to produce meaningful work. Publish, publish, publish!

If students have extended poems, collect and publish their writing in a school journal or news magazine. If they have created visual poems, post them to YouTube or select some of them to use as short spots during your school news program.

Students can add a verse to every page in a Wixie project and print the project a greeting card or booklet to take home for additional practice and to share with their families. You can also export and share poems as PDFs.

If students have access to iPhones, iPads, or Android devices, export their work as ePubs to create an eBook. This can also provide additional opportunities to practice reading, and listening if they have an iPhone or iPad at home.

Topics: ell, common core, literacy

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