On Using Poems to Develop Productive Skills

I found this article from the literature category of www.teachingenglish.org.uk. It exemplifies how teachers can use poems as a springboard of their day's lessons.
After reading the article, I have come to realized some reasons that students have very shallow appreciation and interpretation of literature. Teachers themselves who are supposed to encourage students to study literary texts only use them to teach "more important" subjects and consider the entire process as teaching literature.

Since my Undergraduate Degree is teaching English and my Masters is Literature, I have conflicting perspectives on this article. Being a language teacher, I agree that Poetries are authentic texts. They are pretty short and accessible. Some short poetries are easy enough for students to read. Because of internet, looking for extremely short poetries is easier. However, not all poetries can serve the same purpose any time. One example is the very short Haiku. According to our class, before teachers can discuss Haiku, they should discuss Japanese ideologies first. The authenticity of the Haikus can also be questioned as they have already been translated from Japanese to English. Haikus may be easy to read but very difficult to interpret. They may be short but that does not mean they possess the same grammatical structure as how we use English in conversations. Another point to consider is not all students enjoy reading poetries. Some may even find them boring as their content is not literally manifested just like in short stories or novels. It will be very difficult to use them as tools to teach English grammar or even productive skills when the students aren’t even motivated to study poetry yet.

As a Literature Major, I appreciate how we can expose learners to Literature when we use poems for our motivational activities. However, this exposure, I think,  is not sufficient to encourage students to  have a deeper understanding of the text, and go look for more literary pieces on their own. For several years, Language teachers have used Literature only as a tool to deliver their subjects well and have forsaken the interpretation of the masterpieces. What is worse is they label this teaching as teaching of literature. As a result, students become disinterested in reading because they already anticipate the grammar rules that will follow. Little exposure then means little interpretation and even less appreciation.

Even though the objective of the article is only to teach productive skills and even though it claims that one does not need to be a literature expert to use poems in the classroom, I still believe that it takes a good Literature teacher to deliver a great lesson using poetry. One cannot give what he doesn't have. Maybe this is the reason students only study literature for its grammatical components because their teachers can only do so much.


$#!+ Happens

In our last faculty meeting last Oct 04, our HR gave us pieces of paper. Apparently these papers made or broke us this semester as they contain the comments and suggestions our anonymous student respondents gave us. Guess my reaction when I received mine.