Professor Colin MacCabe of the University of Exter School of English says that to truly know a language, you must know something of the literature of a language.
Literature is intellectually stimulating because a book allows a reader to imagine worlds they are not familiar with. This is done through the use of descriptive language. In order to understand, the reader will create their vision of what the writer is saying. In this sense, the reader becomes a performer or an actor in a communicative event as they read.
Using literature versus a communicative textbook (conversational English) changes the learning approach from learning how to say into learning how to mean (grammar vs. creative thinking). Conversation-based English programs tend to provide lessons that focus on ‘formulas’ used in contextual situations so there is little allowance for independent thought and adaptation of language by naturally speaking. On the other hand, literature-based programs focus on personal interpretation of the language so students begin to experiment with the language and incorporate this into their everyday speech and vocabulary. This experimentation can be especially helpful to the students for use in different subjects such as science.
Per Carter and Long, the 3 main approaches to using Literature in a language classroom are:
1. Cultural model
– Based on the notion that literature is the expression of:
* Socio-cultural attitudes.
* Aspirations of individual societies.
* Mythic and universal values.
– Text is regarded as finished product.
– Associated with teacher-centered approach
2. Language model
– Literature is taught for the promotion of:
* Language manipulation
– Puts students in touch with the subtle and varied creative uses of language.
– Emphasizes language observation.
– Student-centered methodology.
3. Personal growth model
– Concerned more with student’s:
* Maturity as individuals
* Progress as individuals through reading
– ‘Literature for life’ approach
– Promotes individual evaluation and judgment.
– Learner-centered approach.
Some Literature School Basics by Lorraine Curry (Easy Homeschooling Companion)
1) Select a number of well chosen books.
2) Set a particular time to read each book.
3) Let nothing interfere with your scheduling.
4) Use discussion and research to create interest.
5) Process, by writing or narrating.
Each child should have the opportunity to read aloud each day to encourage pronunciation practice. During this time you can note and correct mispronounced words.
*Present questions that require thought. Some questions may not have one perfect answer. Some may not have an answer at all. Nevertheless, thought is stimulated and learning takes place.
*Copy challenging writing in order to practice English skills and increase comprehension.
*Do extensive research in order to understand deeper writing such as poems. *Research authors, times and places.
*Report by presenting orally or compiling results of research in writing. The quantity and quality of written assignments should increase with older students.
*Solidify language-learning with a formal grammar course and a formal writing course
Some good online literature resources:
Total ESL Resources
Total ESL Lesson Plans
The Children’s Literature Web Guide: career.vt.edu/JOBSEARC/interview/TEACHER.htm
English Literature on the Web: lang.nagoya-u.ac.jp/~matsuoka/EngLit.html
The Literature Network: online-literature.com
Literature Learning Ladders: eduscapes.com/ladders
BBC Arts and Books: bbc.co.uk/arts/books
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