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Using authentic literary text with advanced learners
Katherine Byrne
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The general conclusion I have drawn from my research into the teaching of the reading skill, and more specifically the use of literature in developing this, is that I should be attempting to use more authentic materials in the classroom. On the surface, this statement sounds facile but the reading I have done has also shown me how I should be using the materials and which factors need to be considered in their treatment. When I use literature in future classes, I will take into account the following points.

1) Discussing reading preferences and difficulties more with my learners.

2) In the selection of texts, noting my own purpose in reading and my instinctive reactions to the materials.

3) Allowing the text itself to dictate the type of tasks and activities to emerge from it. By thinking about the text itself and my response as a native speaker, the tasks should maintain their authenticity.

4) Being very clear in my own mind about the aim of the lesson. Asking myself if it is to develop reading fluency, to focus on language features or to integrate the reading with another skill.

5) Thinking very carefully about whether questions are truly checking the learners' comprehension of what they have read and whether they lead to "real" response.

6) Allowing sufficient time in the lesson plan for learner response and discussion through group and pair work.

7) Assisting learners to develop inferring strategies.

8) Raising learners' awareness of how such strategies can be transferred to other texts and be used in other situations.

9) Bearing in mind Widdowson's advice regarding restriction of intake rather than of exposure, and thinking of ways in which I can assist the learners to offer authentic responses and to complete tasks successfully.

10) Ensuring that where the reading skill is integrated with another skill, that this integration approximates as closely as possible to what the native reader might do with the text.


Davies, F. (Times Education Supplement, 09.07.82): "Quiver full of darts" - on reading for learning in the Secondary school. (quoted in Whitaker, 1983)

Gower, R. (ELT Journal, Vol. 40/2, Oxford University Press, April, 1986): Can stylistic analysis help the EFL learner to read literature?

Grellet, F. (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1981): Developing Reading Skills. A practical guide to reading comprehension exercises.

Lazar, G. (ELT Journal, Vol. 50/1, Oxford University Press, January, 1986): Using figurative language to expand students' vocabulary.

McCarthy, M. (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1991): Discourse Analysis for Language Teachers.

Munby, J. (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1978): Communicative Syllabus Design.

Nunan, D. (London, Longman Group Ltd., 1991): Language Teaching Methodology.

Richards, J.C. (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990); The Language Teaching Matrix.

Rossner, R. & (ELT Journal, Vol. 37/1, Oxford University Widdowson, H.G. Press, January, 1983): Talking Shop: H.G. Widdowson on literature and ELT.

Stanovich, K. (Reading Research Quarterly 16:32/71, 1980): Toward an interactive-compensatory model of Individual differences in the development of reading fluency. (quoted in Nunan, 1991).

Widdowson, H.G. (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1978): Teaching Language as Communication.

Williams, R. (ELT Journal, Vol. 40/, January, 1986): "Top Ten" principles for teaching reading.

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