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Teachers’ experiences of teaching poetry to English second language learners: a case study of four high school teachers in KwaZulu-Natal.

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The teaching of poetry has evolved over the years in classrooms focusing on First Language speakers of English and in classrooms in which English is learnt as a Second Language (ESL). Teachers working in ESL classrooms within various post-apartheid South African contexts grapple with the teaching of poetry to ESL learners. It is these experiences that this study aimed to explore, as lived experiences help us to gain insight into people’s perceptions, motivations and behavior. The objectives of this study were to understand teachers’ experiences of teaching poetry to ESL learners from rural and township schools. This was done to understand the extent to which such experiences were positive or negative and to what they attributed these experiences. The study also explored the methods that teachers used when teaching poetry as these choices could have a direct bearing on the experiences that emerge from the teaching process. In this interpretive, qualitative case study underpinned by phenomenology and Vygotsky’s socio-cultural theory, data was collected from a purposive sample of four teachers, two from rural high schools and two from township high schools. To collect data, semi-structured interviews, questionnaires, and document reviews of poetry lesson plans were used. The data was analysed using a qualitative analysis method which allowed for themes to emerge. The findings revealed that teachers’ engagement with poetry at high school or tertiary level played a part in their views about and experiences of teaching poetry in English Second Language classrooms as these earlier experiences directly influenced teachers’ pedagogy and in turn their experiences. However, the participants recognised the value of poetry in language learning, despite language barriers and a lack of resources at rural and township schools which has a direct bearing on their experiences. Teachers’ experiences of teaching poetry were also shaped by understanding who the learners are and the experiences learners bring with them into the ESL classroom. Finally, the findings revealed that some teachers indicated that they used a technicist stylistic form of engagement when teaching poetry and some indicated a more integrated, collaborative form of teaching both these methods spoke to the emergence of differencing experiences. However, there was sometimes a discrepancy between what teachers said they did when teaching poetry in classrooms and what their lesson plans revealed. This shed light to the fact that experiences cannot be investigation in isolation but that poetry teaching practices were closely linked to teachers experiences. Keywords: teachers’ experiences; poetry; English Second Language; teaching strategies.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.