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May Round-up


Welcome to the May round-up on Creativities. This month there has been some really great ideas related to creative writing so I hope you check them out and are inspired by them.

The iDTi blog had a great series of blogs on ‘Music, Stories and Magic’ that are well worth reading. Of particular note is Kevin Stein’s post on using literature with his classes, and looking at exploring the gaps in texts.

Kevin Stein also wrote a post on his blog about writing six word memoirs (which I wrote about here) with his students. He has some really nice ideas about extending this task and the post is a great reflective take on what happened in his class when he tried this activity.

The Teacher James wrote about some interesting found poem activities on his blog, using book titles and blackout poems with texts. ESL hip-hop followed this up with a nice lesson plan on making poems using rap album titles.

Marisa Constantinides has just written a great post describing the benefits of digital storytelling for both younger and older learners (including leading to learners creating their own stories), as well as mentioning some tools to try in class.

Adi Rajan wrote about using an interesting short film as an audio-visual writing prompt over on his blog.

Finally, right back at the beginning of the month, Nik Peachy wrote about using poems for pronunciation practice as one of his daily activities for students. Pronunciation is one of my favourite ways of using poems in class too.

Creativities’ monthly round-ups are going on a short hiatus over the summer as I will be away from the end of next month but I will be back for a bumper round-up in August so please get in touch via twitter (@jo_cummins) or via Creativities’ facebook page if you write or read any great posts on creative writing in ELT over the next couple of months.


Writing Haikus


(Photo taken from by @SugarJo, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license,

I love writing Haikus in class! They are simple, fun and almost everyone can write a good haiku. They are also an interesting way of talking  about syllables and word stress. I have had success in using them from elementary to advanced students.

For those unfamiliar with the form, Haikus are traditional Japanese poems that consist of three lines. The first line has 5 syllables, the second 7 and the third 5. They are often concerned with nature (Haikus are much more complicated than this and there are lots of different ideas and rules about them but this is the simplest way to explain them when using in the EFL classroom!)

Aim: For students to write at least one haiku and to practise the pronunciation of it.

Level: A2+

1. Write the following two haikus on the board, but don’t tell your students what they are yet. You may need to teach some vocabulary, particularly icicles, spirals and chimney from the second haiku, I suggest simple drawings.

New life all around,

Birds singing, flowers blooming.

The Earth stirs again.


Icicles drop down,

Breath spirals like chimney smoke,

Chilly silence falls.


2. Ask the students what they think the two ‘poems’ have in common. They may come up with ideas such as: They are both 3 lines, they are both about weather/nature/seasons (you can ask them to identify the seasons: the first is spring, the second winter), they are both poems, they are both short, etc.

3. If nobody has noticed they both have the same syllable pattern, elicit this by reading the poems slowly and counting the syllables clearly on your fingers. Write the number of syllables next to the lines of the haikus.

4. Explain to the class that these are Haikus and talk to them about the background (as explained above). Elicit the other two seasons (summer and autumn) and write these on the board. Tell them that Haikus are often concerned with nature and elicit some other ideas of topics and write them in a list or brainstorm cloud on the board. Some ideas might be: animals, the sea, trees, plants, woods, rivers, mountains, etc.

5. Tell the class they are now going to write their own haiku and it must follow the following rules:

  • It must be three lines long
  • It must be 17 syllables in the pattern 5-7-5
  • It must be about nature (you don’t have to include this one if you think your class would rather write about another topic)

6. Monitor as the students write their haikus and help with counting syllables. If some students finish quickly ask them to write another haiku and wait until all the class has at least one before moving on the next step.

7. Divide the class into pairs and ask them to swap haikus and check that they are happy that their partner’s haiku follows the three rules.

8. Read the ‘spring’ haiku that is on the board to your students. When you have finished just read the first line. Ask them where the stress is on ‘around’ (the second syllable). If they are unsure say it with the stress on the first syllable and ask them if that is correct. Ask them where the stress is on ‘new’ and elicit that as it is only 1 syllable the stress is on this one syllable (ie. the whole word). Go through the haikus and mark the stresses on until you have something like this:


New life all around,

           ●            ●                ●

Birds singing, flowers blooming.


The Earth stirs again.


Icicles drop down,

              ●                  ●

Breath spirals like chimney smoke,

●          ●

Chilly silence falls.

9. Drill the haikus line by line with the class, concentrating on the word stresses. If your students are willing, ask for volunteers to read them to the class.

10. Ask the students to look at their own haikus (if they have written more than one they can choose their favourite) and to mark the word stresses on the words of more than 1 syllable. If they are unsure about where the stress is, they can use an English-English dictionary (paper or digital). Show how the stress is marked in by an apostrophe in the pronunciation.

11. When the students have finished marking the stresses, ask them to practice reading their haikus aloud to their partner. Monitor and check pronunciation and stress.

12. Ask each student to read their haiku to the class. You could ask the other class members to guess which the topic each one is about.

Writing a Rhyming Poem


Aims: By the end of the class all the students should have written an 8 line rhyming poem. Although the outcome is a piece of writing, the emphasis here is really on pronunciation and rhyming words.

Level: B1 +


1.Write on the board some pairs of words that rhyme, muddle them all up. Here are some examples: cat – fat (æt), though – grow (əʊ), bird – word (ɜ:d), should – good (ʊd), cry – lie (aɪ), proud – allowed (aʊd), pay – grey (eɪ), though – go (əʊ), food – argued (ʊ:d) (These are just suggestions, the words will need to be adapted depending on the level of the class)

2. Put the class into two teams and ask them to take it in turns to come up to the board and draw a line to connect the correct pair. Award one point for a correct answer, and take a point away if they are incorrect.

3. Write the phonetic symbols up if the students are familiar with them. Drill the pairs of words. Then rub all the words out (leave the phonetic symbols if you have used them). Give them one of the words from the pair and encourage them to shout out the rhyming word (eg. Teacher: ‘Cat’, Students: ‘Fat!’).

4. If you have used the phonetic symbols now point to one of them on the board and choose a student to give you one of the words with that sound, and then get them to choose another student to give the pair (eg. Teacher (pointing to the symbol /æt/): ‘Maria?’ Maria: ‘Cat. Abdul?’ Abdul: ‘Fat’).

5. Now choose one of the words, for example ‘cat’ and put the students into small groups and give them 2 minutes to come up with as many rhyming words as they can. Put all the words on the board when you have finished, for example: cat, mat, rat, bat, fat, sat, that, etc.

6. Elicit when we might see rhymes, hopefully someone will say in poems! Tell them the class are going to write a four line poem about a cat. Ask if anyone has an idea for the first line, etc. (you can do this as a whole class or in groups). You will probably end up with something like this:

There was a cat,

who sat on a mat,

He was so very fat,

He couldn’t even catch a rat.

7. Put up an example of an 8 line rhyming poem on the board, like this (terrible) poem I wrote for this purpose (feel free to use it but, really, I won’t be offended if you don’t!)

I sat down in the park

and gazed upon the flowers,

I thought of places past,

and wished away the hours.

The day was clear and sunny,

the sky was as blue as your eyes,

the wind rippled through the air,

like the sound of your lies.

(nb. this poem uses a simile (‘the sky was as blue as your eyes’). If you haven’t looked at this structure with the class either change it or go through it quickly. There is a post on similes here though and it can be a good lead in to this lesson.)

Ask the students what they think the poem is about, how does the writer feel, what do they think has happened to them, etc. Then ask them to identify which words rhyme and highlight them on the board. I like to write up the pattern ABCB DEFE.

8. Tell the students they are going to write a poem that rhymes like the one on the board. Ask them to think of a topic or assign them one (love, nature, winter, learning English, homesickness, etc). Tell them to spend 3 minutes brainstorming some words they associate with the topic.

9. When they have brainstormed, ask them to look at their words and try to think of some words that might rhyme with them. Then ask them to try to write a poem.

10. When they have finished, put them in pairs and ask them to practice reading their poems to each other. Monitor and help with pronunciation.

11. Ask for volunteers to read their poems to the class. If they have chosen their own topics get the other students to ask if they can guess what they are about.

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