February 12, 2012

Writing poetry to reflect on learning

To reflect on what they have learnt during the lesson, my students sometimes spend the last part of the lesson writing a short poem, the cinquin.

The cinquin consists of five lines which don't rhyme. I first explain how to write each line:

  • name the subject (usually one noun)

  • describe the subject in two words (two adjectives)

  • three verbs that describe actions related to the subject

  • a phrase consisting of four words that express the student's feeling about the subject

  • one word which is a synonym for the subject and summarizes once again the topic

The form of the poem looks simple but to write a good cinquin you have to reflect and analyze critically what you have learnt and how you feel about it. To create your poem, you go throughthe notes, think about them and search for the right words – you only need a few of the most important.

I usually do the activity in pairs. First, each student works on his or her version for approximately five minutes, then they share their poems with partners. In pairs, they talk about their creations, discuss the reasons for using different words and create together one poem, using the parts of the poems they first had. When they finish the poems, they share them with the group.

This is a cinquin I wrote about British Council’s Bogathon, a very interesting event that took most of my free time during last four weeks. Just like my students during the last part of the lesson, I tried to express my thoughts and feelings about this event. This cinquin was born in the first hour of the last day of Blogathon:

Creative, up-to-date
reading, writing, reflecting.
Great Teachers All Win.


  1. Hello from Russia! I've been following you since Blogathon 2012))
    As for this activity. I used it, but it required much time to explain for students. Yes, it is important to teach students to think critically and work in a group. That's why my question is: How long did it take you to teach students to write a cinquin in restricted time at the end of the lesson?

  2. Hi Maria, thank you for following my blog.
    Writing a poem at the end of the lesson can be done within the time you planned for the activity if you guide the first part. All students add line by line while you are going round and helping individual students.
    Then you can leave them some time to make changes and then limit again the time for discussions and changes in pairs. If you stick to your plan, you'll get some poems, some students won't be too happy with their creations. You can tell them to make all the changes and bring the final versions next time.
    There are always some students who need more time and some who are never happy with their poems, but the majority is happy and the activity very useful for reflecting on the lessons they learnt. That's why I like doing it.