EuroCALL 2002, Aug. 14-17

June Main Page
Online Newsletter at Abu Dhabi Women's College
Featured ESL Professional
Report from JALTCALL2002
Building a CALL lab
Who has time for tech projects?
Training Thai teachers with CANHELP
An Index of ESL MiniConference Stories
Notes and contacts
Search the site

Submit your email,
join ESL MiniConference

ESL MiniConference Online!

Songs as Poetry: Carlos Santana's "Smooth"
Andrea Belletti's Unit Includes Robert Frost

In this article, Andrea Belletti, of North Carolina, explains the relationship between song lyrics and poetry, in response to a TESL-L posting by TESL-L owner Anthea Tillyer about using musical strip stories with the Santana song, "Smooth." (Also, read three other articles about songs in ESL, See also Tapping Student Interest, "Some Fundamentals of Using Songs" and "There Was An Old Lady"!)

Thank you, Anthea, for this wonderful idea! You've mentioned it on the list before, and I have used it with two different intermediate-level high school classes to introduce a short poetry unit. The post-reconstruction-of-the-song discussion (with occasional partial replays to illustrate particular points, such as examples of assonance and other literary devices) involves even students who would ordinarily "tune out" an activity about poetry. One of the most spirited subjects of discussion started when I began by saying that we were going to use the lyrics to study poetry. One student stated that this is not a poem, because it doesn't rhyme; this prompted many others to express opinions on the subject, and we were off and running.

After we talk about "Smooth," I introduce Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken," which has a very regular (AABBA) rhyme scheme. This is an interesting poem because the text is very simple, yet it can be understood "as is" or as an extended metaphor for life. The rhythm is quite regular, which is good for speaking practice. My Spanish-speaking students, in particular, often have an important English pronunciation lesson reinforced with this poem, as many of the end-rhymes have different spellings, so they really have to LISTEN in order to HEAR the rhymes they cannot see in print. One student this year even told me that Robert Frost is her favorite English-speaking poet and brought several more of his poems to class to share.

In my end-of-course final, I always ask for a brief essay discussing the year's ESL class: what did you learn, what did you like, what didn't you like, and what should we have done that we did not? Several students always mention this poetry unit as a favorite from which they learn a lot, and I've had no negative comments about it at all.

By Andrea Belletti
North Carolina

2002 ESL MiniConference Online