Why Using Literature in the Language Classroom?

Literature in a language classroom provides enough space for the learners to comment, justify and mirror themselves. By using literary text the language class can turn out to be lively and motivating. There are many purposes for using literature in the language classroom.

1)     One of our main aims in the classroom should be to teach our students to read literature using the appropriate literary strategies. This involves them not in reading for some practical purposes, for example to obtain information, but rather in analyzing a text in terms of what it might mean symbolically or philosophically. Students may have already acquired this kind of literary competence in their own language, in which case we simply need to help them to transfer these skills. If not, we need to find ways of engendering the necessary competence.

2)     Our main task in the classroom is to pinpoint how far literary language deviates from ordinary language. This obviously poses a problem for students – to what extent will they be confused or misled by studying deviant rather than normal language, and how far is this a useful activity for them?

3)     Literary texts have a powerful function in raising moral and ethical concerns in the classroom. The tasks and activities we devise to exploit these texts should encourage our students to explore these concerns and connect them with the struggle for a better society.

4)     The texts traditionally prescribed for classroom use are often remote from, and irrelevant to the interests and concerns of our students. In fact, being made to read texts so alien to their own experience and background may only increase students’ sense of frustration, inferiority and even powerlessness. We therefore need to select texts for classroom use which may not be part of the traditional literary canon, but which reflect the lives and interests of our students.

5)     Our main aim when using literature with our students is to help them unravel the many meanings in a text. Students often need guidance when exploring these multiple levels of meaning in a literary text – we need to devise materials and tasks which help them to do this.

6)     Literature provides wonderful source material for eliciting strong emotional responses from our students. Using literature in the classroom is a fruitful way of involving the learner as a whole person, and provides excellent opportunities for the learners to express their personal opinions, reactions and feelings.

7)     We should not expect to reach any definitive interpretation of a literary text with our students. Rather we should use the text as the basis for generating discussion, controversy and critical thinking in the classroom.

8)     One of our main aims in the classroom is to acquire cultural value. Stories have been of central importance to the human race ever since it began, as far as we can tell. Cultures are built on stories—histories, myths and legends, fables, religions, and so on. If students are to understand and participate in the culture to which they belong, they must first learn about the stories that culture has been built around. And while books aren’t the only kinds of stories out there, they are one of the most important.Take the Bible, for instance. Despite concerns about religion in schools, it is commonly taught in some form or another because it has so heavily influenced our culture.

9)     Our main aim when using literature with our students is to expand horizons.Everyone has a tendency to get so caught up in their own lives that they forget what’s going on in the world around them. And children and teens are particularly prone to this. It’s a goal of education to expose them to ideas from other cultures, to teach them about the histories and peoples of other times and places. Literature is an ideal way to do this.

10) Our main task in the classroom is to build or enrich vocabulary. Having a large and wide-ranging vocabulary is essential for a number of reasons. It helps

with both writing and reading abilities, of course, but it also allows for more complex discourse. The larger your vocabulary is, the more in depth and thoughtful discussions you can have on important topics and issues, both in and outside of the classroom. When people speak they tend to use a fairly limited vocabulary, so the best way to become exposed to new words is to read. And reading literature is a great way to build and enhance vocabulary. Due to the descriptive nature of a story, any novel will include plenty of words students have likely never seen or heard before.

11) Another major purpose for using literature in the language classroom is to improve writing skills. Students who are encouraged to read have a more intimate knowledge of the ways in which language works, and so have an advantage when it comes time for them to write. This effect can even be made transparent by encouraging students to try writing in a particular book or author's style. Many older works of literature are still taught primarily because of their authors’ way with language. Novels such as The Great Gatsby, The Scarlet Letter, and The Catcher in the Rye are noted for their unique style and creativity with language. And there are plenty of more recent novels that are just as well written. Literature serves as a valuable teacher and an example to students who are first learning to use written language to communicate with the world.

12) Our main  purposefor using literature in the language classroom is to teach critical thinking. Education is supposed to give students the tools they need to become a valuable part of society, and one such tool is the ability to think critically. Literature serves this goal in a couple of ways. Many novels encourage critical thinking on their own, due to the issues and themes they explore. The kind of novel usually taught in the classroom is selected for its depth and for the way it transcends the obvious and the cliché.

In conclusion, we can say that literature encourages students to reflect on their own personal experiences, feelings and opinions. So, there is no denying fact that the aims for using literature in the language classroom are beggar description.