Why poetry?

Five skills your students will learn by studying poetry

According to Helen Bell, poetry is not always given the prominence it deserves in English lessons. In fact, she argues, thinking about poetry provides significant learning opportunities for students of all ages. Here are her “top five” skills that poetry can develop.

Skill 1 – Studying poetry increases a learner’s vocabulary range

Some methods of boosting vocabulary can be quite dry – think word lists and spelling tests, but poetry is a fun way to introduce not just new words but also the way they can be used. Students can also learn how every word matters, and is chosen to achieve a particular effect, and of course they can practice this skill by writing poetry themselves.

Alongside the creative aspect, studying the vocabulary in poetry is an interesting way to teach more technical aspects of English, such as metaphor, onomatopoeia, and similes.

Skill 2 – Poems help pupils develop and hone emotional learning skills

Poetry is a useful tool to encourage both creative and therapeutic writing as it offers pupils a channel for expressing their feelings using metaphors and imagery rather than direct explanation. Using rhyme works well with younger pupils as the rhythm of the words is appealing, while older pupils who can identify the connections between poetry and rap find it easier to relate to. Poems introduce topics which range from the beauty of nature to the grief which follows a death – and by doing so they create a space for these things to be discussed more naturally.

Click on the poem to follow the link to Teacher Resources.


Skill 3 – Reading and writing poetry boost creative skills

It’s entirely possible to produce poetry, which makes the mundane amazing and exciting purely by the way words are chosen and put together.  This skill is one which we tend to lose after young childhood, so it’s a fun and easy way to develop a child’s  imagination. Encouraging pupils to observe ordinary things using all their senses, to wonder, to push boundaries of what is expected or considered ‘normal’ – these things are the gifts poetry can bring.

Writing and possibly even publishing their own poetry online is a great way to boost confidence as well. However it’s likely that only those that are particularly interested will be willing to do this. Pupils can find poetry sites to post on or write on their own blog – don’t worry this can be done for free on Web 2.0s like blogger and WordPress.

Skill 4 – Poetry allows students to develop and practice speaking skills

In an education system where so much teaching and learning is digitalized, pupils can miss out on developing and using speaking (and listening) skills. Poetry by its very nature demands to be read aloud, both in a classroom and at spoken word events. By hearing poetry being read,  pupils can learn about emphasis, tone, and beat, as well as having the chance to practice pronunciation and reading fluency and boost their public speaking confidence.

Click on Richard Burton and listen as he reads Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem ‘Frost at Midnight’.


Skill 5 – Analysing poetry helps students understand the rules of the English language

There are so many elements of English that accomplished writers and long since well-educated adults rarely give thought to, yet youngsters must study and as they learn how to use grammar and punctuate. Poetry is like a backdoor way of imparting these skills:  by looking at the way poets play with language – often breaking the rules – there is a natural opportunity to reinforce the conventional facts through comparisons to the style adopted in the poetry.

Helen Bell

Helen is a retired teacher from the UK who enjoys sharing her teaching ideas and experience on line.

You may also like