Using Poetry to Enhance Lower Level French Classes

using poetry

When it comes to teaching French, poetry can be a great tool for helping students develop their language skills. Not only does it add more depth and interest to the lesson plan, but it also helps build reading comprehension, vocabulary, and even pronunciation. Many teachers shy away from poetry, thinking it is too difficult for novice and intermediate learners to use. Here are some ideas for how you can use poetry in lower-level French classes.

Why Poetry?

Poetry has a unique structure that allows students to easily identify certain elements of language. Because poems are often structured around rhyme or meter, students can quickly pick up on word patterns that help them make sense of the text. Additionally, the condensed nature of poetic language makes it easier for students to retain new words and phrases without becoming overwhelmed by long paragraphs or complex sentences.

Poetry should not be seen as an isolated exercise—for the most effective results, teachers should use poetry as part of larger units on topics like culture or history. Doing so allows teachers to provide context for the poem’s content, which will help students understand its meaning better and appreciate its cultural significance. Using poetry within a unit helps students see how different types of language—such as spoken dialogue versus written prose—can convey similar ideas in different ways depending on the context they are used in.

Practical Exercises

Once you have chosen a poem to work with, there are numerous activities you can do with your class to help them further explore its contents. For example, you could ask your students to write their own poems on a similar topic using similar word patterns or structures; this will help them practice their composition skills while reinforcing their understanding of the original poem’s content. You could also have them perform readings of the poem either individually or in groups; this will give them an opportunity to practice their pronunciation and intonation while developing an appreciation for different interpretations of the same text.

Finally, you could have them create visual representations of key themes from the poem; this could take the form of sketches or collages made from magazine clippings or pictures printed out from online sources. This type of creative activity will help engage all types of learners while providing opportunities for deeper exploration of the poem’s subject matter.

Which poetry?

Since you will be working with students who have limited vocabulary, you will need to be careful to choose poems that are not particularly difficult to understand. Since many students do not enjoy poetry – it’s not a literary form that is read for pleasure all that much in the US – you will also need to find poems that appeal to younger students.

Poems by Jean de La Fontaine can fit the bill because they are short, with simple language, and students are likely already familiar with the format. They are similar to Aesop’s fables, with stories about animals. They also rhyme – and sometimes this affects how much students enjoy the poems! I’ve known plenty of students who really dislike non-rhyming poems. Le Corbeau et Le Renard is one of the most popular of La Fontaine’s works.

For a different type of poem, students might enjoy Mot by Aime Cesaire. it doesn’t rhyme, it doesn’t have a standard poem structure, but it does show the rich variety of the Francophone world.

One of the classics that is also easy to read is Jacques Prevert’s Déjeuner Du Matin. It’s also perfect for when you have studied the passé composé! His poem le Cancre is also short and easy to read, and your students may relate to it having all dealt with either being the class clown or having to co-exixt with one.

Guillaume Apollinaire is a poet who might be interesting to your students for his caligrammes. He wrote poems in the shape of their subjects. This makes his poetry not only fun to read, but it might also be an interesting project to have them write their own simple poems in the shape of their subjects.

By incorporating poetry into lower level French classes, teachers can provide their students with memorable learning experiences that will enhance their understanding and appreciation for both language and culture alike. With careful selection, thoughtful planning, and creative activities based around each chosen piece, teachers can use poetry as an effective way to engage all types of learners and build important language skills at the same time!

Not quite ready for poetry?

If you don’t feel that you’re ready to do poetry but you would still like to try some other types of authentic input for your students, take a look at memes. French young people love memes, and I guarantee your students will enjoy them as well.

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