Monday, 20 September, 2021; 1:19 am
Dictionary of Macmillan defines literature as the stories, poems and plays that are valued as an art, not as just an entertainment. Basnet and Mounfould explained literature in Literature Cultural Studies by declaring literary text as the product reflecting different aspects of the society. Some other scholars mentioned literature as the cultural documents that offer a deeper understanding of a country or a culture. Linguists suggest no intrinsic quality to the text of a literature. They think it’s the readers’ understanding explains the quality of the text.
So we can say literature is literature when it is an art. Professor of English Literature Syed Manjoorul Islam, the renowned Bangladeshi writer illustrated literature by saying, “Broadly speaking though, literature is usually understood to be the kind of artistic writing where a dependence on creativity, imagination, style and technique differentiates it from other forms of writing. Once, literature was expected to emphasize truth and beauty, and teach morality and good conduct, but a time came, in the 18th century in the west, when it broadened its scope to include history and natural science.
In our time, literature has attained a degree of flexibility which even 18th century didn’t have — it is now seen as a body of work that, without sacrificing its imaginary and made-up qualities, is expected to reflect a broad range of social, political and cultural realities as well as issues that impact our lives such as class, gender, race, ethnicity, cultural multiplicity, our postcolonial reality, or visual culture. Literature has sought answers to questions these interactions raise by utilizing the insights of various socio-economic and psychological theories such as Marxism and Feminism as well as ideas that Freudians and post-Freudians offer.”
In the ESL classroom we can use literature for many valid reasons. In developing students’ language skills we use the unmodified language from the literature which is the authentic material for classroom activities. For creating the interactive classroom activities literary texts are often the effective resources in sharing the feelings and opinions by the learners. Learners can be exposed to sophisticated and local languages by using literary texts. Thus students become aware of the different norms of the language. When teacher makes the ESL learner analyze the values and morals of the literature, ultimately the learner is being educated to be a good human being. In many countries and cultures, literature holds the high status that make the students feel the real sense of achievement as well as motivated.
There are some suggested models on teaching literature to ESL students: Cultural Model, Language Model and Personal Growth Model. The most traditional model is the Cultural Model, commonly used for university students and this aims to be teacher centered, whereas the other two models try to be learner centered. In the Language Model students gradually pay attention to the language use of the literary text and the teacher can focus on general grammar and vocabulary. The learners’ opinions, feelings and personal experiences are drawn by the Personal Growth Model, which is a process based approach.
Above models are based on short texts like poems and extracts for being used over one class period. There is another fantastic way to improve English skills is boosting students for extensive reading; such as reading novels. Here, the language classroom activities can be like brief discussion on a novel that students had read, choosing the novel that made into a popular TV series or film, showing them as listening task or using the dialogues by prominent literary characters or talking about a place used in a piece of literature.
Some stages can be considered in using literature to develop language skills of the students. As in the warmer stage the teacher can discuss a topic of an extract or poem or a guessing game may happen between the teacher and students to do the brainstorming of vocabulary around that topic. During the before-reading stage the teacher may give them some key words of a chapter and then tell them to predict what happens in that particular chapter. The next stage is understanding the text. Usually at this stage we go for reading comprehension: students are asked to answer some questions (subjective of objective) after reading a text. The fourth stage is understanding the language. Here the more difficult words from the text are to be dealt. After giving the clues, the teacher may check how many unfamiliar words students can pick from the context.
The final stage of using literature in ESL classroom is to follow up activities. In case of poem, reading aloud, choral reading, rewriting the poem, discussing the story of the poem, discussing the issues raised in the poem are the pragmatic activities used for students in ESL classroom. Short stories are one of the most influential resources of literary texts used in language learning. After reading the short stories students might be asked to analyze the characters, to write about the plot of story, to personalize the texts relating to their own lives and to improvise a role play using the characters from the story. Extracts from plays are quite like stories but here the students have ample scope of playing the drama inside the classroom. Students can act out the scene in groups, listen to the recording of the scene, read out the dialogues by the different characters or rewrite the scene.
The challenges in using literature in ESL classroom are usually like the following: collecting the materials, selecting the materials and deciding the difficulty level of the materials. Library of the university is the primary source of such materials. Older English novels and plays are sometimes available online. English literature does not mean only written by a white English man. You can look for the English books written by the writers from your own country. While selecting the texts from literature you must consider some factors like syllabus and class duration, cultural and literal background of the text or motivational element in the text.
A teacher must choose a literary test matching with the level of the learners. Its difficulty level has to fit with the learners’ level so they can complete the tasks appropriately.
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