Poems are a wonderful way of developing the students’ general skills as well as improving their pronunciations, stress and intonation.
They are particularly welcome at the end of the week, on Friday, towards the end of the morning, or perhaps the afternoon.
If students are in intensive academic writing programmes poems are probably not going to be appropriate but for most other programmes they can provide excellent practice, lead to a significant amount of discussion, and really improve the students’ speaking skills.
There are a lot of possible activities with a poem. Here are a few suggestions.
- The title of this poem by Wendy Cope is “After the Lunch” and that could be the starting point for the lesson. What could the poem be about? In fact, it’s not a very good guide to the content but at least it would get them thinking.
- The poem mentions Waterloo Bridge. Ask them if the know where it is. What was it named after? When was it built? (opened 1945)
- Give them the poem with the last word of lines 2 and 4 deleted. Ask them to read it through and try to replace the missing words. Tell them that lines 1 and 2 rhyme and also 3 and 4.
- Get feedback from the students on the missing words. Discuss which ideas are best.
- Give the students the poem. Let them read it through silently.
On Waterloo Bridge, where we said our goodbyes,
The weather conditions brought tears to my eyes.
I wipe them away with a black woolly glove,
And try not to notice I’ve fallen in love.On Waterloo Bridge I’m trying to think:
This is nothing. You’re high on the charm and the drink.
But the juke-box inside me is playing a song
That says something different. And when was it wrong?On Waterloo Bridge with the wind in my hair
I’m tempted to skip. You’re a fool. I don’t care.
The head does its best but the heart is the boss –
I admit it before I am halfway across.
- Compare their version with the final version.
- Ask them to tell you what they think the poem is about. Discuss the theme.
- Check the words that rhyme.
- Check any unknown vocabulary; these might include: wiped, woolly, high, charm, juke-box, skip, boss.
- Ask the class to describe what is happening in the first verse. Discuss suggestions.
- Repeat for verses 2 and 3.
- Discuss the real meaning in verse one. Was it the weather conditions or was it something else?
- Elicit the meaning of high on the charm and the drink.
- What juke-box? What is the juke-box saying?
- Why would she want to skip? Who is a fool? Why?
- Elicit the meaning of the head does its best but the heart is the boss.
- Focus on the tenses within the poem and elicit reasons why they think the writer switches tense? Why does the writer switch from past to present in the first verse? Why the Present Continuous in verse 2?
- Ask individual students to read verses. Help them as necessary with the rhythm, the stress and intonation.
- Ask the students to write out a fourth verse (this could be done for homework).
- Listen to them reading their verses. Discuss the different styles and content.