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Teaching Literature in the Classroom

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March 7, 2016

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Teaching Literature in the Classroom

Literature is something that is valued and loved by all irrespective of the age and intelligence. So a language teacher has tremendous power to develop and enhance plethora of skills using literature.

007Story books fascinate children a lot. Generally, all the stories in the literature book of language textbooks are read way before the school even starts or literature classes commence. This shows their inquisitiveness and love towards literature. So, how should literature be treated in classrooms? Is literature meant to only inculcate moral values, develop vocabulary and comprehend the character, setting and plot of the story or interpret the poem as per the teacher’s ideas? It is not meant to only answer few questions about the events and characters of the story or text and interpret the poem.

Literature is something that is valued and loved by all irrespective of the age and intelligence. So a language teacher has tremendous power to develop and enhance plethora of skills using literature. Some of the major skills that can be developed through literature are sequencing events or information logically, predicting what will happen next, visualizing the poem or story and forming an image of it, identifying what is real and fantasy thus producing the same creatively, identifying facts and opinion in order to form arguments etc. Everyday life happenings make use of these skills too. For instance

  • If a cake is to be made then its recipe has to be learnt in a sequence to get the perfect result.
  • A trailer of a movie enables us to predict how a movie is and whether we would watch it or not.
  • To discuss about a theme or topic it becomes necessary to know all the facts of that topic and opinions of others to back our own arguments. etc.

Hence, literature can be beneficial in developing these skills in students in a fun way. If every story or poem in the book is used to develop one skill then a range of stories or poems can be used to develop a gamut of skills plus help students comprehend the story or poem and develop vocabulary. Games, activities and worksheets are some ways through which we can inculcate these skills. Here’s an example:

Show any clipping of Harry Potter or Tom and Jerry to the students and then ask them to complete the following worksheet:

Apart from developing skills literature can also be used to teach writing. If a literature piece has impeccably written dialogues then students can be asked to analyse the dialogues, discuss why they think these dialogues are wonderful and based on the elements discussed write their own dialogues. Likewise, if the literature has described the character elaborately, it can be used to teach descriptive writing using various adjectives resourcefully. This can also be used to enlist what all should be described and if there is any set order of events that needs to be described. Besides, this can be treated as a base to teach the interconnection between the character and the events in the literature.

Additionally, literature can also be used to develop creativity and imagination through drama, enactment, fantastical elements etc. Games can be played to develop imagination and help students develop the plot of the story for instance. Students can be asked to frame questions based on the story’s character, events, problem, solution, setting etc. and in groups they can be asked to find answers for the same thus developing the story further.

Eventually, use of literature can do wonders in language teaching. Literature can not only be used to develop moral values but some really important life skills that will help the students in other subjects as well. Always remember that until the child understands and comprehends language the child will never be able to understand the language of Science, Maths and Social Sciences. Inadvertently we as teachers treat literature as yet another subject thus snatching the opportunities from the students to grow enormously.

If skills and literature can be juxtaposed then language teaching and learning can become all the more stimulating. Treating literature as a base to improve skills and ideas can help teachers to not only intellectually connect with the students but also emotionally support them. Therefore,literature teaching should focus on all holistically.

Tanvi Parval is a developmentalist by education, a linguist by profession, an educationist by passion and a feminist by choice. She says, ‘I believe language cannot be taught but it can only be developed because it is not a subject but a skill to be achieved.’ Currently she is working as an Assistant Manager in Educational Innovations where she looks after the curriculum of languages, both English and Hindi and educates teachers in bettering language teaching in the classroom. She has also worked as a special Educator and Teacher Educator earlier. She holds a post-graduate degree in Human Development and Childhood Studies.

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