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Teaching Literature

Teaching Literature

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Published by Florina Kiss

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Published by: Florina Kiss on Apr 19, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Teaching language through literatureLector dr. Monica Oprescu
Teaching literature is one of the most important aspects of language teachingin ESL classes because it develops language skills, language structures and it alsoimproves the students’ personalities and their critical thinking. Literature is not onlyfor advanced students. It is recommended that teachers should start using literaturefrom the early stages of language teaching, even with young learners, literature being not only for advanced students. Beginners and young learners can be helpedto acquire many language items in a pleasant way, using easy texts, stories, poemsand this is also a good way of motivating students to learn the language.Teachers may impose some models through the use of literature in the ESLclasses, as Ronald Carter and Michael N. Long (1991) suggest:
“the culturalmodel”, “the language model” and “the personal growth model”.“The cultural model”
enables students to acquire information about authors,cultural trends, certain periods and even about the historical background. They learn both literature and culture and they succeed to understand different cultures andvalue them.Literature is also a good way of teaching and learning language and this is theaspect we are going to focus on. “
The language model
is associated withlanguage based approaches in which language structures are imposed andreinforced. It is also an opportunity to develop skills like reading, listening, speakingand writing and also study skills, training students to work on their own. Studentsare shown the creative uses of language and this teaches them to be creative, too.The last model is
“the personal growth model”,
which includes the other two, and which refers to the students’ growth as individuals. They cultivate their imagination, creativity, critical thinking, aesthetic taste, all these being of greatimportance for their future development.
Besides these three models that literature develops, there are two maintheoretical approaches involved in teaching (Carter, McRae, 1996): the traditionalstudy of literature, also called
product-based teaching
and the use of literature asa linguistic resource, or 
process-based teaching
. The first one involves anaesthetical reading of texts and the use of metalanguage and critical concepts, beingaccessible only to advanced learners, while the second considers literature languagein use which is exploited for language learning purposes.
Process-based teaching
or, as it has been named by other methodologists
, the language based approachfor teaching literature
(see Carter, Long, 1991) is founded on working withlanguage, different techniques being applied for the understanding of the texts and,afterwards, for the creation of new texts.Integrating language into teaching literature is the first stage of the process of teaching literature, as Ronald Carter and John McRae (1996) observe, which may beapplied not only to advanced learners, but also to lower levels. They mention itscharacteristics: activity-based, student-centered, process-oriented approach. Moredifficult approaches that aim at interpreting the texts will follow.When discussing language based approaches for teaching literature Michael N.Long refers to the “text-as-object” (Long 2000:44) which contains language items to be learnt. Students learn vocabulary, grammar, so the text proves useful because itmakes the students acquire certain language structures and it also reinforces them.Understanding the language of a literary text is the first step, an essential one,necessary for a following interpretation of it.Another methodologist, William T. Littlewood, referring to language basedmethods for teaching literature, distinguishes some levels: “language as a system of structures”, basically grammar and vocabulary, “language in a specific stylisticvariety”, which gives the students a chance to learn about different languagevarieties, “language as the expression of superficial subject matter”, which refers tothe situations and characters presented, and “language as the symbolization of theauthor’s vision” (Littlewood 2000:178-180). This proves that learning a language is
a complex process, involving the study of language structures, the stylistic varietiesof language which lead to the interpretation of language.Learning language through the use of literary texts is essential not only for learning language, but also for the future interpretation, which cannot be donewithout a proper understanding of the text. An “aesthetic reading(McKay2000:194) cannot be done without an examination of the text. This should befollowed by its interpretation at a more subtle level, teaching the students how tounderstand the characters, the narrative techniques and the meanings of the text.As I have mentioned before literature is not only for advanced students, butalso for children. English classes can be interesting and fun if language is taughtwith the help of poems and stories. Children even acquire a language better if theyare motivated and stories and poem can help English teachers to achieve their goals.
aimed at
when teaching literature:
General objectives:-to make the lessons more attractive;-to develop the students’ imagination;-to help students think creatively;-to create a pleasant atmosphere;-to build literary culture;-to arouse interest for literature and to encourage students to find outmore about English literature;-to familiarize the students with the writing of a text/an author.
Specific objectives (referring to language)-to use a variety of activities and texts;-to develop abilities in English;-to develop writing skills;-to develop speaking skills;-to develop reading skills;

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