Using poems, quotations and proverbs

Learning a language does not just mean saying something new. It helps to also practise saying words and sounds.

The activities below are ways for students to enjoy the music of English.


Choose short simple poems that are close to students' lives. These poems are not for heavy analysis.
They are for saying aloud.

  • Give pairs a poem to read together. Ask them to mark the words which will be stressed.
  • Read the poem aloud so they can hear the stressed words
  • Invite individual and choral repetition of lines
  • Ask pairs to say the poem to each other or invite students in groups to make a recording of their efforts.
  • Ask them to try saying the poem aloud with prompts from the board and applaud their efforts
  • Learn it by heart for the next lesson if appropriate.

Learning things by heart is very much a part of school systems and it gives students a sense of achievement to know a poem in English.

Recommended poems and poets to try are:; Michael Rosen, Roger McGough or John Hegley .


Quotations from Literature

Another popular form of learning by heart and reading aloud are the famous sayings from our own literature or the work of philosophers, historians and politicians.

  • They can spark interest in a theme, a person or a writer
  • They are a good basis for discussion
  • They carry universal messages across cultural boundaries
  • They can be learned and recited for their music and beauty
  • They are a common feature of language studies

Students feel a sense of achievement in learning them well and you can do a 'quote of the week' throughout the year

An example: 'Better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all'
You can note how much of Shakespeare's work forms part of our cultural heritage.



They have the same advantages of quotations from literature.
• Select groups of proverbs on a theme:

  •  time
  • work
  • money
  •  punctuality
  • human emotions

For example:

  • Early to bed, early to rise. Makes you healthy, wealthy and wise
  • The early bird gets the worm
  • Better late than never
  • Ask students to look at the proverbs and choose their favourites to learn and say aloud
  • Ask if students have similar proverbs in their own language
  • Look at what the proverbs tell you about your attitudes

Tongue twisters

Students have great fun trying to say them

  • Hold a competition and do a tongue twister every week
  • Vote for the class tongue twister champion

Here are some examples:

  • She sells sea shells on the sea shore. The shells that she sells are sea shells for sure.
  • Red lorry, yellow lorry, red lorry, yellow lorry, red lorry, yellow lorry ...
  • Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. How many pecks of pickled peppers did Peter Piper Pick?
  • Around the ragged rock the ragged rascal ran.

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By Clare Lavery

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