Teaching Tuesday: How Poetry Can Support ELLs and Diverse Learners

Science class teacher helping student in classroom

Promoting a love of literacy, learning English, and improving reading fluency and comprehension is vital. Educators aim to encourage students to read, practice their fluency, diction, pronunciation and word recognition, or strengthen vocabulary and reading comprehension. This is particularly important for English language learners (ELLs) and diverse learners of all ages.

Poetry is one of the most versatile tools to practice reading fluency and comprehension. Encouraging students to read poetry is vital, as it has many benefits. Poetry includes rhyming words and literary devices with lines and stanzas in various forms. Poetry can be comical, dramatic or profound. Figurative language in poetry supports students’ exposure and engagement in thinking critically.  

In this article:

Poetry for Early Childhood Students

Poetry is available for ages 0 to 4, and some poems are available online for this age group of students. There are suggestions for books on blogs and websites for early childhood educators. It’s crucial to keep culturally responsive teaching in mind and include books of poetry with topics that connect to all students. Teachers can read these poems to their students during read-aloud daily and can make copies to send in a daily Ziploc bag homework reading packet.

Students can share these poems with their parents, older siblings or family members. For young children, teachers can send one poem home for homework per day. It can help to send the same poem home over many days for repetition, which helps with word recognition and pronunciation. To aid with pronunciation, teachers can record their voices and send the recording through applications educators use to communicate with parents like Class Dojo or Remind. If parents can access smartphones or home computers, teachers can quickly record a video or audio to link to an online classroom website.

Poetry for Elementary Students

Older elementary students can view and listen to poems being read aloud online. Teachers can assign a poem or two for older elementary students to read and practice at home. Students can record their voices in the classroom with their phones or computers and email themselves a link to their email or their parents’ Class Dojo or Remind. However, if they have problems reading and recording with perfect intonation and pronunciation, their peer or teacher can make a recording of the poem or poems of the week.

Repetition is necessary for this homework activity, but students can underline literary devices during the homework week activity. For older elementary students, a digital dictionary can also be helpful. Remember, at this age, too, it’s essential to teach culturally responsively, so include books of poetry that have topics that connect to all students. 

Poetry for Middle and High School Students

Newcomers in middle and high school may need additional support to acquire their L2, as a student’s second language. Some students may be identified as students with limited or interrupted formal education, and some may have intellectual disabilities. Thus, it’s crucial to keep culturally responsive teaching in mind and include poetry with topics that connect to all students. As such, students must practice reading poetry daily at home to their families or younger siblings.

Students can also underline literary devices and use a digital dictionary to look up unfamiliar words. Most middle and high school students have academic journals with unknown words or vocabulary lists. Thus, this practice can work in tandem with poetry reading for homework. Technology can be integrated as, at this age, most students are technology literate, so they can read poetry with their peers online and create videos of themselves reading poetry. Students can locate a song in a ballad or rap format related to the poem the teacher assigns weekly or monthly to complete a compare-and-contrast homework assignments to share with the class or their group. As middle and high school students usually have in-school intervention and tutoring time in their literacy or humanities block, reading poetry during this time may be integrated.


Poetry has many advantages such as:

  • It has colorful language, beats and rhythms.
  • It covers many topics.
  • It elicits emotions.
  • It allows students to practice diction, pronunciation, fluency and rate.
  • It offers exposure to figurative language and other literary devices.
  • It helps build vocabulary.

Poetry can be shared with family members and peers and can help build confidence. It is universal and a great teaching tool.

Check out all the other articles from Teaching Tuesday and learn more about the various education degree programs offered at Grand Canyon University’s College of Education

Approved by the assistant dean of the College of Education on May 25, 2023.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.