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So you want to be a teacher? It has only been since the 1980s that this area has attracted more interest among EFL teachers. The purpose of this article is to look at some of the issues and ways in which literature can be exploited in the classroom. First of all, any method or approach towards using literature in the classroom must take as a starting point the question: What is literature? Many authors, critics and linguists have puzzled over what literature is. One broader explanation of literature says that literary texts are products that reflect different aspects of society. Before doing any study of a literary text with your learners, one idea would be to ask them what they think literature is.
There are many good reasons for using literature in the classroom. It is good to expose learners to this source of unmodified language in the classroom because they skills they acquire in dealing with difficult or unknown language can be used outside the class. Literary texts are often rich is multiple layers of meaning, and can be effectively mined for discussions and sharing feelings or opinions. By examining values in literary texts, teachers encourage learners to develop attitudes towards them. These values and attitudes relate to the world outside the classroom.
Literature holds high status in many cultures and countries. For this reason, students can feel a real sense of achievement at understanding a piece of highly respected literature. Also, literature is often more interesting than the texts found in coursebooks. How the teacher will use a literary text depends on the model they choose.
The cultural model views a literary text as a product. This means that it is treated as a source of information about the target culture. It is the most traditional approach, often used in university courses on literature. The cultural model will examine the social, political and historical background to a text, literary movements and genres. There is no specific language work done on a text.
This approach tends to be quite teacher-centred. The language model aims to be more learner-centred. As learners proceed through a text, they pay attention to the way language is used. They come to grips with the meaning and increase their general awareness of English. The personal growth model is also a process-based approach and tries to be more learner-centred. This model encourages learners to draw on their own opinions, feelings and personal experiences. It aims for interaction between the text and the reader in English, helping make the language more memorable.
This model recognises the immense power that literature can have to move people and attempts to use that in the classroom. Attached below are two lessons which draw on a combination of the language approach and the personal growth approach. Both are based on short texts: either extracts or poems. The above lesson plans are all based on short extracts or poems and can therefore easily be used over one class period. However, there are very good reasons for encouraging learners to read books.
Extensive reading is an excellent way of improving English, and it can be very motivating to finish an entire book in another language. In addition, many international exams have certain optional questions on them that pertain to set novels each year. Ask learners to describe a book they like in such a way to make others want to read it. Select a short novel which has been recently made into a film or TV series with which your learners are familiar.
In our first Methodology article on Using Literature, there were two sample lesson plans based on an excerpt or a short story. Both followed a similar lesson plan format, outlined below. This sort of lesson plan works well for extracts from stories, poems or extracts from plays. Devise a warmer that gets students thinking about the topic of the extract or poem. This could take several forms: a short discussion that students do in pairs, a whole class discussion, a guessing game between you and the class or a brainstorming of vocabulary around that topic. Devise a warmer that looks at the source of the literature that will be studied.
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This stage could be optional, or it may be a part of the warmer. Limit the amount of words you cover in this stage. If you have to teach more than seven or eight there is a good chance the text will be too difficult. Give students some words from the extract and ask them to predict what happens next.
If it is a play, give them a couple of lines of dialogue and ask them to make predictions about the play. Ask students to compare what they have understood in pairs. Then ask them to report back to you. With very evocative pieces of literature or poetry this can be quite powerful. Then I let students read it to themselves.
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It is important to let students approach a piece of literature the first time without giving them any specific task other than to simply read it. One of the aims of teaching literature is to evoke interest and pleasure from the language. Once students have read it once, you can set comprehension questions or ask them to explain the significance of certain key words of the text. Why do you think X said this? How do you think the woman feels?
At this stage get to grips with the more difficult words in the text. See how many of the unfamiliar words students can get from context. You could also look at certain elements of style that the author has used. Remember that there is some use in looking at non-standard forms of language to understand the standard. If appropriate to the text, look at the connotation of words which the author has chosen. Once you have read and worked with your piece of literature it might naturally lead on to one or more follow up activities. Do a whole class choral reading at the end.
Ask students to rewrite the poem, changing the meaning but not the structure. Ask students to write or discuss the possible story behind the poem. What led to the writing of this poem? Have a discussion on issues the poem raised and how they relate to the students’ lives. Ask students to write what they think will happen next, or what they think happened just before. Ask students to write a background character description of one of the characters which explains why they are the way they are.
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Ask students to imagine they are working for a big Hollywood studio who wants to make a movie from the book. They must decide the location and casting of the movie. Ask students to personalise the text by talking about if anything similar has happened to them. Ask students to improvise a role play between two characters in the book.
Ask students to act out a part of the scene in groups. Ask students to make a radio play recording of the scene. They must record this onto cassette. Listen to the different recordings in the last five minutes of future classes. Then they read it out loud.
Ask students to re-write the scene. Then they read out the new version. Problem 1: Where do I find material? Of course you may have a novel or book of poetry that you have been dying to use with your students for a long time. But where can you get more material? The internet brings you instant access to many works of literature. Usually it is enough to key in the name of the author or the book you are looking for.
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Older books and plays can sometimes be found entirely on-line. You can search by author, book title or genre! You can also try the following link: www. You can also read comments about why people like them and hear them being read aloud. Problem 2: How do I choose material? Do you understand enough about the text to feel comfortable using it?
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Is there enough time to work on the text in class? Does it fit with the rest of your syllabus? Is it something that could be relevant to the learners? Will it be motivating for them?
How much cultural or literary background do the learners need to be able to deal with the tasks? Problem 3: Is the text too difficult? Obviously a teacher would not want to use a text that is completely beyond their learners. This would ultimately be frustrating for everyone involved. However, the immediate difficulty with vocabulary in a text might not be an obstacle to its comprehension. Learners can be trained to infer meaning of difficult words from context.
You must be signed in to rate. It really made my day, and I had not seen this article or thought about it for some time! You may also be interested in the literature postcards we made for the Global course I wrote. They too are still online, here!
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I will be teaching Level 2 English to adult students in January for the first time, so I’m looking for ideas. I’m also trying to challenge myself with teaching in different ways. Just read it from start to end and will definitely try some of your suggestions. Thanks SO much for writing it. As you rightly say, lots of articles focus on pre or post-reading tasks. 2 groups and give them different but related texts which they compare while reading. Hope these help and do please let us know how you get on.
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Thank you so much for the useful tips. There are many examples for pre and post reading in the web. But it will be really helpful to know some WHILE reading activities for personal enrichment and language development. Please be kind enough to suggest a few activities! Rather than discuss these at length here, instead we have found some useful articles which provide excellent answers to your questions.
Just copy and paste the links into your browser and you can find each article. We hope that helps and best of luck with your literature class. Hi, It is very good literature materials for ESL Classroom. How to make good activities to teach literature in the class of Junior High School students? So the lesson plans can be used effectively. Is there any suggestion of a literature text that is suitable to teach in Junior High School Students level? The last is How to build the students’ motivation and interest in learning a literature lesson?
I wonder if everyone can give me suggestion for my questions. I’ve recently started experimenting with very shorts extracts in class. It really works well as a way to get people talking. It has cheered me up to go back to literature in the classroom! Access our entire database of over 9,000 high-quality resources.