The personal blog of an applied linguist, writer, & educator

Poetry Applications for TESOL

I attended the presentation The Uses of Poetry in the ESL Classroom: Ways to Integrate Poetry in a Reading Class on March 15th by Janusz Solarz of Indiana University at the TESOL 2019 International Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

Professor Solarz provided three capacities in which an educator might implement poetry in her English lessons.

  1. Introductions
  2. As prediction exercises. In this capacity, professor Solarz presented several incomplete limericks. He demonstrated how he asks his students to complete the limericks by following the rhyme scheme.
  3. To focus on pronunciation and comprehension.

Here are a few more uses an English-language instructor might find for poetry in his classroom:

  1. An impetus for discussion before a longer reading or listening activity in order to activate schema (Carrell & Eisterhold, 1983).
  2. Vocabulary. I seldom need to look up a word when I read prose, but I need to do so all the time when I read poetry. Poetry provides a repository of advanced vocabulary for the English-language learner who has drilled the GRE lists to exhaustion. Poets are experts in the art of choosing words and possess vocabularies that often surpass novelists and academics.
  3. Guessing the meaning of words with contextual clues. One exercise I’ve used in my classes utilizes the children’s poem “Jabberwocky” (you can read it in the tweet below).

The poem utilizes numerous nonsensical words, but they all conform to standard English phonology and many contain derivational or inflectional morphemes that provide clues to their sentential functions. In the first line “slithy” ends with the adjectival derivational suffix [-y] and “toves” is marked with the plural morpheme [-s]. Most if not all of the made-up words have morphological and syntactic clues regarding function.


Carrell, P., & Eisterhold, J. (1983). Schema Theory and ESL Reading Pedagogy. TESOL Quarterly, 17(4), 553–573.





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