Teaching Poetry: What is Taught and What Should be Taught? Case Study of Secondary Schools Offering Literature in English at the Advanced Level in Rwanda




Advanced Level, Literature in English, Poetry, Poetry Analysis, Teaching and Learning


Teaching poetry as a literary genre has been a research topic of interest worldwide. However, the gap is observed in teaching poetry in secondary schools in Rwanda, where students are not given the quantity and quality of knowledge and skills they deserve. This descriptive study investigated poetry teaching practices and examined whether teachers are teaching what they should be teaching to equip students with critical thinking, analysis, and language skills. Adopting the descriptive research design and the mixed method approach, the study is built around three objectives: to explore how poetry is taught to students doing literature in English at the advanced level of secondary schools; to investigate the aspects of poetry that are often taught and those that are not; and to assess the challenges that teachers of literature in English face while teaching poetry. The study is guided by New Criticism Theory, Multimodality Approach, and Reader Response Theory. It used both quantitative and qualitative methods. Questionnaires and interviews were used to collect data from 22 teachers of literature in English selected purposefully from 16 schools that offer literature in English as a main subject at the Advanced Level. The study findings revealed that students are highly at risk as teachers of this subject exhibited poor competence in teaching and analysing poetry. Besides, some teachers don’t give poetry a focus, and others don’t teach it at all. The issue becomes more acute when one considers the general lack of adequate resources. The study recommends the University of Rwanda, the College of Education, REB, and their partners set policies for increasing teachers’ competences in the field of literature in general and teaching poetry in particular. Individual teachers of literature in English should feel confident while handling poetry as a literary genre. If an issue arises, instead of simply leaving out the topic, let them consult their colleagues in the nearby schools for a common understanding.


Ahmad, N., Alias, F. A., & Abdul Razak, N. A. (2023). Understanding Population and Sample in Research: Key concepts for valid conclusions. SIGCS:E-Learning, 6, 19-24. https://doi.org/10.24191/ajue.v19i4.24795 DOI: https://doi.org/10.24191/ajue.v19i4.24795

Aryawan, L. P. K. F., Suwastini, N. K. A., Artini, N. N., Jayantini, I. G. A. S. R., & Adnyani, K. E. K. (2022). Literature for Character Building: What To Teach and How According To Recent Research. Lingua Scientia, 29(2), 59-71. https://doi.org/10.23887/ls.v29i2.41107 DOI: https://doi.org/10.23887/ls.v29i2.41107

Blake, J., & Snapper, G. (2022). Poetry in education. English in Education, 56(1), 1-4. https://doi.org/10.1080/04250494.2022.2030974 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/04250494.2022.2030974

Boldireff, A., & Bober, C. (2022). Reconsidering poetry's difficulty and value in English as a second language and English as a foreign language education: A systematic review. Pedagogical Linguistics, 3(1), 57-83. https://doi.org/10.1075/pl.20012.bol DOI: https://doi.org/10.1075/pl.20012.bol

Booij, G. (2019). Morphology: The structure of words. For the Love of Language: An Introduction to Linguistics, 113-145. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108568753.006 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108568753.006

Constantinou, O. (2005). Multimodal Discourse Analysis: Media, modes and technologies. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 9(4), 602-618. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1360-6441.2005.00310.x DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1360-6441.2005.00310.x

Creswell, J. W. (2014). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative and Mixed Methods Approaches (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Dick, T. O. (2018). Graphology: An Expressive Poetic Style of Deviation in Niyi Osundare's Poetry. Perspective, 54 (273), 330-335

Evaristo, A. (2023). Graphological Deviation : A Defamiliarizing Trope in Timothy Wangusa's Poetry. East African Journal of Arts and Social Sciences, 6(1), 120-128. https://doi.org/10.37284/eajass.6.1.1149 DOI: https://doi.org/10.37284/eajass.6.1.1149

Gönen, S. İ. K. (2018). Implementing Poetry in the Language Class : A Poetry-Teaching Framework for Prospective English Language Teachers. Advances in Language and Literary Studies, 9(5), 28-42. https://doi.org/10.7575/aiac.alls.v.9n.5p.28 DOI: https://doi.org/10.7575/aiac.alls.v.9n.5p.28

Iskhak, I., Mujiyanto, J., & Hartono, R. (2020). A Review on Reader Response Approach to Teaching Literature at EFL Contexts. English Language Teaching, 13(7), 118. https://doi.org/10.5539/elt.v13n7p118 DOI: https://doi.org/10.5539/elt.v13n7p118

Josephine, T. (2015). An Obligatory Poetry Course : Benefits , Challenges and Way Forward : A Survey of Some Secondary Schools in Rwanda. 4(3), 2380-2383.

Kc, R. (2021). Role of Poetry in English Language Learning : A Review of Literature. NELTA ELT Forum.

Khan, S. (2020). Why and how to use a poem in ELT classroom. International Online Journal of Education and Teaching (IOJET), 7(3), 803-809. https://iojet.org/index.php/IOJET/article/view/807

Kunjanman, S. A. P., & Aziz, A. A. (2021). Reader-Response Theory : A Systematic Literature Review Literature Review Reader ' s Response Theory 3 Models of Teaching Literature. Malaysian Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities (MJSSH), 6(4), 252-260. https://doi.org/10.47405/mjssh.v6i4.747

Kunjanman, S., & Aziz, A. A. (2021). Reader-Response Theory: A Systematic Literature Review. Malaysian Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities (MJSSH), 6(4), 252-260. https://doi.org/10.47405/mjssh.v6i4.747 DOI: https://doi.org/10.47405/mjssh.v6i4.747

Maffea, J. (2020). "Lack of Resources in Classrooms" (2020). English Department: Research for Change - Wicked Problems in Our World. 38. https://research.library.kutztown.edu/wickedproblems/38

Ningrum, C. H. (2018). The Use of Reader-Response Theory to Teach Reading Narrrative Text for Tenth Graders of Senior High School. Retain, 06(01), 95-103. https://jurnalmahasiswa.unesa.ac.id/index.php/retain/article/download/23445/21436

Olatunji, A. T., & Moses Onipede, F. (2020). a Multimodal Visual Analysis. British Journal of English Linguistics, 8(4), 32–44.

Raees, C. (2024). Literature in language education: exploring teachers' beliefs, practices, creativity, and literary competence. Pedagogies: An International Journal, 19(1), 80-98. https://doi.org/10.1080/1554480X.2022.2164500 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1554480X.2022.2164500

Ritchane, M. (2021). New Criticism: Novelties and Limitations. International Journal of English Literature and Social Sciences, 6(6), 282-286. https://doi.org/10.22161/ijels.66.44 DOI: https://doi.org/10.22161/ijels.66.44

Roumbou, A. (2019). Poetry in EFL Classroom...Why? TESOL Greece Journal, 143, 38-43.

Sharma, L. R. (2019). What to consider while executing a stylistic analysis of a poem. American Research Journal of Humanities Social Science (ARJHSS), 2(1), 11-20.

Sigvardsson, A. (2019). Don't Fear Poetry! Secondary Teachers' Key Strategies for Engaging Pupils with Poetic Texts. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 64(6), 953-966. https://doi.org/10.1080/00313831.2019.1650823 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00313831.2019.1650823

Sigvardsson, A. (2016). Teaching Poetry Reading in Secondary Education: Findings From a Systematic Literature Review. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 61(5), 584-599. https://doi.org/10.1080/00313831.2016.1172503 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00313831.2016.1172503

Simecek, K., & Rumbold, K. (2016). The Uses of Poetry. Changing English, 23(4), 309-313. https://doi.org/10.1080/1358684X.2016.1230300 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1358684X.2016.1230300

Simmons, A. (2014). Why Teaching Poetry Is So Important. Atlantis, 1-5. Retrived from https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/04/

Spirovska, E. (2019). Reader-Response Theory and Approach: Application, Values and Significance for Students in Literature Courses. SEEU Review, 14(1), 20-35. https://doi.org/10.2478/seeur-2019-0003

Spirovska, E. (2019). Reader-Response Theory and Approach: Application, Values and Significance for Students in Literature Courses. SEEU Review, 14(1), 20-35. https://doi.org/10.2478/seeur-2019-0003 DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/seeur-2019-0003

Strömner, D. (2013). Poetry as a way of teaching fundamental values: the relation between textbooks and curriculum. Akademin för Utbildning och Ekonomi [Academy of Education and Economics]. http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:624675

Suwastini, N. K. A., Aryawan, L. P. K. F., & Farida, L. A. (2023a). English prospective teachers' views on using poetry to enhance reading skills. Veles, 7(2), 232-243. https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.29408/veles.v7i2.14 444 DOI: https://doi.org/10.29408/veles.v7i2.14444

Suwastini, N. K. A., & Dewi, G. P. R. (2023b). Students' perception on the use of poetry in English learning. Electronic Journal of Education, Social Economics and Technology, 4(1), 1-56. https://doi.org/10.33122/ejeset.v4i1.57

Suwastini, N. K. A., & Dewi, G. P. R. (2023c). Students' perception on the use of poetry for teaching speaking. Electronic Journal of Education, Social Economics and Technology, 4(1), 8-15. https://doi.org/10.33122/ejeset.v4i1.57 DOI: https://doi.org/10.33122/ejeset.v4i1.57

Suwastini, N.K.A., & Rahmayanti, P. (2024). Prospective EFL teachers' perception towards teaching English vocabulary through poetry. JEES (Journal of English Educators Society), 9(1), 1-11. https://doi.org/10.21070/jees.v9i1.1769 DOI: https://doi.org/10.21070/jees.v9i1.1769

Syafiqa, N., Nawi, M., Asma', N., & Muhmad Nor, A. (2023). the Challenges in the Teaching of English Literature: a Systematic Review. Journal of English Language and Pedagogy, 6(1), 130-147. https://doi.org/10.33503/journey.v6i1.2640 DOI: https://doi.org/10.33503/journey.v6i1.2640

Thacker, L. R. (2020). What Is the Big Deal About Populations in Research? Progress in Transplantation, 30(1), 3. https://doi.org/10.1177/1526924819893795 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1526924819893795

Wheeler, B. (2023). New criticism. The Chaucer Encyclopedia, 3-4, 1293-1294. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781351049887-1 DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781351049887-1

Woodruff, A. H. (2017). Reader Response in Secondary Settings: increasing comprehension through meaningful interactions with literary texts. Texas Journal of Literature Education, 5(2), 108-116.

Xerri, D. (2012). Poetry Teaching and Multimodality : Theory into Practice. 3(4), 507-512. https://doi.org/10.4236/ce.2012.34077 DOI: https://doi.org/10.4236/ce.2012.34077

Yalçin, S. A., Yalçin, P., Akar, M. S., & Sağirli, M. Ö. (2017). The Effect of Teaching Practices with Real Life Content in Light and Sound Learning Areas, 5(9), 1621-1631. https://doi.org/10.13189/ujer.2017.050920 DOI: https://doi.org/10.13189/ujer.2017.050920



How to Cite

Nshimiyimana, E., Kamanzi, A., Mutoni, E., & Bazimaziki, G. (2024). Teaching Poetry: What is Taught and What Should be Taught? Case Study of Secondary Schools Offering Literature in English at the Advanced Level in Rwanda. African Journal of Empirical Research, 5(3), 12–22. https://doi.org/10.51867/ajernet.5.3.2