This is just to say…..

Here’s an idea that we got from the book ‘The Inward Ear; Poetry in the Language Classroom’, by Alan Maley and Alan Duff. The purpose of the exercise is not to prove that prose can be turned into poetry but to suggest that poetry can be found in everyday things.

Everyday things: notes
What to do
a)The students work individually. They are given three situations, each of which requires a note to be written. This can be done as a dictation. e.g.

You have to leave home suddenly and have no time to let your neighbour know. Write a note explaining very briefly what you would like him/her to do while you are away (e.g. ‘Please feed the cat/water the plants’ etc.)

You are three hours late for school/meeting/rendezvous. Write a note explaining why.

You have been staying in a friend’s flat and have consumed a very delicious cake which was in the fridge. It is Sunday: you have to leave before he/she returns, and you have no time to replace the cake. Write a note to leave in the fridge.b)The time-minute is four minutes. The students should write a note for at least one of the above situations. (If inspired they may write more.)

c)They now compare notes with at least three other students. While they are doing this, write up the following short poem on the board.

This is just to say
I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold.
(William Carlos William)

d)In pairs, the students now try to turn one of the notes into a ‘poem’ similar to the one above. No changes must be made to the original wording of their notes. When ready, they exchange ‘note poems’ with another pair.

e)Each group of four is invited to read out its best ‘note poem’.

It is important that the students should write out their notes before seeing the poem, otherwise they will merely imitate the model.


About The Henry Brothers

We are English teachers involved in ELT publishing in Turkey, and also touring the country giving workshops and presentations to English teachers, mainly on the use of poetry, storytelling and other lively activities in the classroom. We can be contacted by e-mail to or
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2 Responses to This is just to say…..

  1. Thanks Henry Brothers for this wonderful post which I’ve added to ELT BITES as part of the minimal challenge. I really like the way you are using poetry in your work, your blog is full of ideas. Thanks for sharing this 🙂

  2. Why thank you Richard and thanks for throwing down the challenge. Watched David Crystal at the recent Dogus University conference in Istanbul, which he did totally unhindered by technology, and that was quite inspirational. .That’s our aim, a plenary without technology, but I suppose it’s like giving up cigarettes. You can’t rush into it, you have to gradually cut down!!

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