Showing posts with label Teaching Language Through Literature. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Teaching Language Through Literature. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Use of Lliterature in the Language Classroom

What is literature? 

Literature is a term used to describe written or spoken material. Broadly speaking, "literature" is used to describe anything from creative writing to more technical or scientific works, but the term is most commonly used to refer to works of the creative imagination, including works of poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction. Literature represents a language or a people: culture and tradition. But, literature is more important than just a historical or cultural artifact. Literature introduces us to new worlds of experience. We learn about books and literature; we enjoy the comedies and the tragedies of poems, stories, and plays; and we may even grow and evolve through our literary journey with books. 

Why use Literature in classroom?

Motivating material: Literature exposes students to complex themes and fresh, unexpected uses of language. A good novel or short story can take the students to foreign countries and fantastic worlds. A play or a poem can bring up certain dilemmas and powerful emotional responses. All this can be transposed to their real lives. 

Access to cultural background: Literature can provide students with access to the culture of the people whose language they are studying. 

Encouraging language acquisition: Obviously, at lower levels, students may be unable to cope on their own with an authentic novel or short story in English. Any extensive reading we encourage them to do outside the classroom would probably need to be of graded material, such as graded readers. But at higher levels, students may be so absorbed in the plot and characters of an authentic novel or short story, that they acquire a great deal of new language almost in passing. *If recorded literary material is available (audio-books), then students can practice their listening skills.

Expanding students’ language awareness: One of the debates centre around literature teaching in the language classroom is whether literature language is somehow different from other forms of discourse in that it breaks the more usual rules of syntax, collocation and even cohesion. Using literature with students can help them to become more sensitive to some of the overall features of English. Some examples of different uses of English in literature are: - Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles/Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell. (‘Death of a Naturalist’, by Seamus Heaney). - Who died, Daddy?"/"Nothing, Lisa," Jane told the child. "It's just big people's talk. Now eat your egg up, sweetie." (An Answer from Limbo, by Brian Moore). - Unthrifty loveliness, why dost thou spend/Upon thyself they beauty's legacy? (‘Sonnet 4’, by William Shakespeare) - I was out one night on the strict teetote, /Cause I couldn't afford a drain;/I was wearing a leaky I'm afloat,/ And it started to France and Spain. (‘The Rhyme of the Rusher Doss Chiderdoss’, by A R Marshall). 

Developing students’ interpretative abilities: Literary texts are often rich in multiple levels of meaning, and demand that the reader/learner is actively involved in ‘teasing out’ the unstated implications and assumptions of the text. Thus, by encouraging our students to grapple with the multiple ambiguities of the literary text, we are helping to develop their overall capacity to infer the meaning, and this can beapplied in real life. 

Educating the whole person: Apart from all the linguistic benefits, we cannot forget the wider educational function of literature. It can help to stimulate the imagination of our students, to develop their critical abilities and to increase their emotional awareness. If we ask the students to respond personally to the texts we give them, they will become increasingly confident about expressing their own ideas and emotions in English.

The Practical and Literary Problems of Using Novel in the Language Classroom

Using a novel in an English language classroom provides a rich source of pedagogic activities. If a novel carefully selected so as to link in with students’ interest, it may provide unique opportunities for educational and linguistic development. A good novel addresses itself to complex situations and adult dilemmas. It engages students intellectually, emotionally and linguistically, and as such it can provide the basis for a motivating variety of classroom activities. But using a novel also creates particular problems for both teachers and students which can be divided into practical problems and literary problems.

Practical problems:

The practical problems which students face in dealing with a novel are length of a novel, vocabulary, difficulty in understanding cultural background of a novel etc.

Length: Lengthy novels cause the loss of concentration of the students. Such novels take a long time to reach the end. Teachers have to depend on homework reading rather than classroom activities for completing a lengthy novel. Clearly it is important in choosing a novel for classroom use that the novel is short enough to be satisfactorily handled in the classroom time allocated. This implies that novel chosen should be able to be comfortably integrated in the amount of time available per week but should also be within the students’ grasp, in terms of their linguistic , intellectual and emotional capabilities. The text should be sufficiently challenging without being so difficult as to be demotivating. Depending on the number of students and their linguistic and literary competence, the teacher will need to decide whether classroom time or homework time should be spent on the novel.

Vocabulary: Experience has shown that even very advanced learners become discouraged if they have to stop frequently to look up the meanings of new words in the dictionary. Students should be able to extend their vocabulary while reading without feeling the need to look up the meaning of every word on the page. It is best to choose a text where students will not feel overwhelmed by unfamiliar language. Two strategies can be useful in helping students with any vocabulary they don’t know. The first is to encourage students to read for gist rather than detail. A second strategy for helping students with vocabulary is to give students some kinds of glossary to use while reading.

Difficulty in understanding the cultural background :A major difficulty for students reading a novel is that its cultural background may seem inaccessible to them, and may also interfere with theirunderstanding of crucial elements within the isbest to deal with some of these difficulties before the students even begin reading the novel. When considering cultural background, it is important to include not only the historical, political, and economic facts which may form the background to the novel, but also the complicated set of social and literary values underlying it.

Literary Problems:

The kinds of difficulties our students face in responding to the novel as a literary work with particular distinguishing characteristics are called literary problems. Such problems and the solutions to overcome these difficulties are discussed below.

Understanding the story:Students may face difficulty in understanding the novel if this involves reconstructing a chronological and logical sequence of events from an often confused series of flashbacks. Students are required to summarize every chapter and to reconstruct events in chronological sequence even if they are jumbled in the text.


- Write a summary of events in Chapter 1 in 50 words.

- Write a second summary of Chapter 1 in 100 words (or 150 words).

Justify why you added the information you did.

The aim here is to encourage learners to extrapolate essential elements from the plot to order them according to their importance.

Understanding the characters: For the language learner, understanding the characters in the novel implies assigning certain traits or features to them. Students quite often require guidance on this, because they may not always have a satisfactory stock of adjectives for the job. The following tasks are intended to extend the students’descriptive vocabulary, to get them to apply it to characters in the novel,and to get them to use it more creatively in their own writing.


Here are some adjectives which can be used to describe different characters. If you don’t know the meaning of them, look them up in a dictionary.

restlessviolent extrovertvivacious idealistic sophisticated

snobbish   pragmatic  generous   ambitious superficialdominating

i. In groups, go through the first three chapters of The Great Gatsby and try to see which of these adjectives can be applied to whichcharacters. To do so, you need to check whether any of theseadjectives, or a synonym for them, is actually used to describe acharacter or whether the behaviour of a character indicates particularqualities.

ii. Write a short description of somebody you know well. Describe his or her physical appearance and indicate what kind of person he or she is, both by using descriptive adjectives and describing behaviour.

Understanding narrative point of view :Particularly with novels which tell their story from the perspective of a first person narrator, students should be alerted as to how events and their  significance are filtered through a particular point of view.

The language of the novel :To understand the language of the novel is one of the crucial literary problems for the language learners.In attempting to make the language of the novel more accessible to students and increase their awareness of how it communicates mood and theme two main activities should be followed.. The first of these is close textual/stylistic analysis. Students are encouraged to analyse an extract from the novel to identify how specific lexical and grammatical features produce particular stylistic effects. The second type of activity is more ‘global’ in that it focuses on how lexical clusters recur throughout the text to create a web of associations.


The tasks suggested here are intended as a basis for classroom discovery. Once students show some competence in the kinds of skills the exercises demand, students and teachers might engage in more elaborate activities- for example, writing short essays on the novel’s main themes, discussing comments made by different critics about the work, or even comparing the novel with similar genres in the students’ own language.

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.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Reasons of Using a Play in a Language Classroom.

The most effective way to teach ESL learner is to provide with the opportunities to learn English in the context of everyday situations with the emphasis on communication skills.  Use of play in a language classroom can be an ideal technique to achieve this goal. The following are the reasons why a play should be used in a language classroom.  

1.    Plays help students to develop and practice target language in a relatively safe setting and can create the navigation and involvement necessary for real learning to occur.

2.    Play can be integrated into any topic/content in the language lesson.

3.    Enjoying in play, students can acquire the facility of integration of language skills.

4.    Plays offer a fun and creative way for learners to improvise.

5.    Learners have fun with language and can practice verbal and non-verbal communication.

6.    Plays offer an opportunity to develop more awareness of the culture of the language.

7.    Play reinforces the language taught.

8.    Plays can be used to develop confidence in the language using & intellectual understanding.

9.    It helps to develop oral skill of learner.

10.    It enhances conversational skills.

11.    A good play can teach moral moral lessons .

12.    An effective play can facilitate to nurture the conceptual values of its participants.

13.    A comic play helps the learners to remove his/her anxieties.

14.    It helps to develop the sense of humour.

15.    A good play can enhance the creativity & imagination of the participants.

16.    An effective & efficiently plotted play can contribute the in performing social responsibilities like cultural paradigm shift and self awareness to towards its learners.

The above mentioned things are the main reasons for using a play in a language classroom.

Criteria for Selecting Literary Texts for a Language Classroom
Selecting a literary text for a language classroom requires a number of considerations. Many things, for example, students’ age , their emotion ,intellectual maturity and their interests and hobbies should be taken into consideration before selecting a literary text. Obviously, when selecting materials for language classroom, one should try to find texts that are suitable for the majority of students in the class. The following criteria can be considered for selecting a literary text for language classroom:

1.    When selecting a literary text, one should think about how far the student’s cultural background and their social and political expectations will help or hinder their understanding of a text. It would be difficult, for example, for most readers to make sense of Jane Austen’s novels without having some knowledge of the class system and values of the society they describe. One should consider how much background one will need to provide for students to have at least a basic understanding of the text. In addition, many students may have a strong sense of curiosity about another culture and enjoy studying its literature because they believe it reveals key insights about the society.

2.    The texts that are selected should have literary merit and are worthy of class study. Students may, for example, have studied literature in their own language. If it is a language in which similar conventions to those in English operate for reading and interpreting literature, then they may already have a level of literary competence which will help them to make sense of a literary text.

3.    The texts should have intellectual merit. The ideas and issues explored in the texts, in addition to being appropriate to the relevant age-group, are significant study, raising interesting issues and providing challenging ideas.

4.    The selected texts should allow students to develop critical appreciation of the craft and aesthetics of language and to experience the enjoyment and pleasure offered by reading.

5.     The texts should be accessible to as wide a range of students within a particular year level and class as possible. The language of the texts and the ideas explored in should be suitable for a wide range of students, including second language students.

6.    The range of texts should ideally include tradition and contemporary texts.

7.    The texts should represent a range of literary genre.

8.    The texts should be appropriate for the age and development of students and in that context should reflect current community standards and expectations.

9.    The texts should reflect a wide range of experience whenever possible; they should reflect the experience and perspectives of male and female, young and old, and a wide range of cultures, in historical contemporary and imaginary settings.

10.    The selected texts should include a balance of new and established works.

11.    They should contain print and non-print texts that are freely available.

12.     The texts should not contain language or images which would be judged to be obscene or offensive by current community standards and expectations. Exception to this general principle may occur where the text in which such language of image are present meet the criteria set out importance to the development of the characters, representations or ideas explored in the text, and the English teachers have determined that exposure to such language or images will not hinder the social and moral development of their students.

So, the above criteria should be considered when selecting a literary text for a language classroom.