authentic literary text with advanced learners
- preliminary information
Focus: Skills - Reading
develop reading for gist and reading speed and foster interest
in reading authentic texts.
(Stages 2, 3 and cooler)
train learners in inferring meaning in figurative language.
(Stages 2, 4 and 5)
give learners the opportunity to respond to an authentic text.
(Stages 2 and 3)
build confidence in the ability to comprehend an authentic
(Stages 2 and 4)
learners have the necessary schemata and reading strategies
in place to obtain a global understanding of the text. They
should be able to deduce the meaning of the majority of unfamiliar
lexical items. This is a talkative, fluent group who will
not be shy of offering opinions in response to the text.
problems & solutions:
Affective: Not all members of the group may be keen
readers of literature in their L1, so they may lack motivation
to read literary texts in English As a group they have shown
little enthusiasm for reading tasks to date. This may be because
they find the texts in their course book uninteresting and
not relevant to their needs or interests and the tasks non-communicative.
I do not anticipate many linguistic difficulties, other than
those posed by the figurative language contained in the text
and it is this aspect of the language that the learners will
be analysing. There will be some unfamiliar vocabulary items
but they are not such that the meaning cannot be guessed at
from examination of the context nor too numerous to hinder
global understanding. I intend only to pre-teach the phrase
"AWACs barracks" and the word "pomegranate".
The first is quite culturally and historically specific and
the second is not a common fruit.
problems arise during the reading, I will encourage learners
to look at the context but will provide an explanation/translation
if necessary to save time.
is a group of nine adult learners, all of whom are professionals.
The classes take place on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from
7.10 to 8.30 p.m. Most of the learners come to class straight
after finishing work. The general level of attendance is consistently
high and everyone participates enthusiastically.
members of the group are fluent speakers, although achievement
of accuracy varies from individual to individual. Abilities
in listening, for both gist and detail, are also good. Speaking
and listening are the favoured classroom activities of the
whole group and, as no one is taking the Proficiency exam,
recent lessons have focused on these skills rather than on
reading and writing.
admitted area of difficulty is that of lexis, phrasal verbs
in their non-literal usage being one example that has been
commented on in class.
recent classes, the learners have done a lot of work on listening
and speaking but little reading. I have had comparatively
little classroom time with the group, having recently taken
on one of their twice-weekly classes for us to get to know
each other before the observed lesson. Their regular teacher
has told me that they are not keen readers in class, although
aware of and able to deploy the necessary strategies and sub-skills,
and that they would benefit from additional practice in the
skill, to supplement that provided in the coursebook, which
is quite exam-focused.
the previous lesson I did with the group, we looked at some
metaphors involving phrasal verbs. This provided the learners
with some examples of fixed figurative language. It seems
appropriate to extend this area of study to more creatively
generated examples and the use of such language across genres.
decided to do a reading of an authentic text with the group
to try to inspire some enthusiasm for this area of English
in the learners. The reading texts offered in the course book
are non-literary, on the whole, and not especially relevant
to any individual learner's needs or interests. I was then
lucky enough to find an authentic literary text which, I hope,
will go some way to achieving this purpose.
tasks emerged, without forcing, from the text itself. It is
rich in figurative language and allows for reader prediction
of the fate of the central characters. These are the reasons
why I, as a native reader, was inspired to read on. The subject
matter, marriage, is a culturally universal theme, so the
non-native reader has the appropriate schematic knowledge
for interpretation in place.
worksheets which accompany the extracts attempt to gauge comprehension,
but in a broad way. There are no pre-determined correct answers,
leaving plenty of scope for individual reader interpretation
and response. The worksheets will be tackled in pairs so the
learners will be able to discuss their responses and negotiate
the reconstruction of meaning in an authentic, "native-like"
way, so promoting the idea of reading as an interactive activity.
Encouraging the learners to make predictions about the denouement
of the story should also arouse interest in reading further
extracts. A handout, summarising the outcome of the story,
will be available for the learners to take home to read on
and confirm or modify their predictions.
intend to remain very much in the background at this stage
to encourage the students to discuss their interpretations
together and not look to the teacher for confirmation of some
kind of "correct" answer.
of the figurative language employed by the writer should train
the students further in inferring meaning. They will be able
to develop this ability in their reading of the handout, which
contains several more examples of this type of creative language
addition, for the non-literary minded members of the group,
demonstrating that such language features in other genres
and that the inferring skill can be transferred to these,
should assist in raising awareness of the benefit of this
type of exercise. The learners will see and analyse examples
of figurative language in newspaper reports and an advertisement.
can also be pointed out that, at this level and in a non-native
speaking situation, reading is one of the best ways of maintaining
and developing lexical knowledge. Magazines, newspapers and
modern literary texts reflect current language in use, thus
developing the learner's awareness of "natural"
the students that they can successfully comprehend authentic
literary writing should build their confidence and foster
interest in looking for further reading away from the classroom,
so developing learner autonomy.
the lesson procedure
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