Poetry as a Tool for Teaching Foreign Languages

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Joseph Brockway / Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)


Poetry not only provides a creative, real-world context for studying language but also allows for the integration of other disciplines into the language-learning process. With that in mind, this session explores the use of poetry as an effective tool in foreign language instruction and acquisition.


Poetry is often considered inaccessible to many because of its reliance on uncommon or “non-standard” uses of language and the perception that it is elitist.[1]* These non-standard uses might include uncommon or archaic lexical choices, altered syntactical structures, obscure metaphors, or other rhetorical devices that are not widely addressed in generalized Language Arts and introductory Humanities courses.[2] Consequently, poetry is glossed over in courses that aim to develop and improve students’ reading comprehension and writing skills, if not completely eliminated from such courses.[3] Moreover, there is a general misconception that poetry has no “real-world” application. This is in spite of studies that prove poetry to be a useful tool in many fields, including for ethnographic research[4] and qualitative research in the social sciences,[5] social work education, and health-related professions.[6]

In the field of foreign language study, language instructors and scholars argue that students should have opportunities to practice using language in a range of contexts. In second language learning, thus, poetry can contribute to effective language instruction by providing authentic contexts to reinforce grammar and vocabulary teaching. The memorable form of a poem, especially a poem that employs rhyme or other devices that create musicality, can facilitate student learning of grammar and vocabulary while presenting themes and topics that promote critical thinking and provide opportunities for students to engage in meaningful conversation. Moreover, poetry allows for the integration of other disciplines into the language-learning process.

The main purpose of this session is to discuss effective methods for using poetry in the foreign language classroom with lesson examples. Additional focus will be placed on the inter-disciplinary use of poetry to (1) engage students in critical thinking, (2) provide an outlet for emotional expression, (3) foster creative writing, (4) build student public speaking confidence via performance, (5) introduce alternative political and social worldviews, (6) offer opportunities for cultural exploration, and (7) promote a deeper understanding of poetry and poetic language.

*Works cited page available during session.

Submissions: https://www.cfplist.com/nemla/Home/S/19627