literature in the EFL classroom with specific reference
to children's literature and literature and film
- by Emma Metcalf
is only recently that literature has once again been recognised
as a valuable source for teaching in the EFL classroom.
During the time when Grammar-Translation was dominant, literary
texts were, 'the very staple of foreign language teaching,'
since they represented models of 'good' writing as well
as illustrating the grammatical rules of writing. (Duff
& Maley, 1990, p.3) However, with the advent of Structuralism,
literature study was soon swept aside. Literature study
was associated with 'bad,' 'old,' or 'traditional' teaching
methods and it was believed that literature failed to provide
the vocabulary, structures and functional language that
students required. Although it may be argued that many literary
texts are still unsuitable for English language students
since much of the language contained within them bears little
resemblance to 'normal, everyday English,' literature study
still offers many benefits to both students and teachers
of English. So what are these benefits exactly? Why should
we use literature in the classroom?
(1993, p.8) argues how literary language is, 'not completely
separate from other forms of language,' and therefore,
'obviously has some implications for use of literature in
the language classroom.' Duff & Maley categorise these
implications under three headings: Linguistic (literature
offers a wide range of styles, registers, text-types at many
levels of difficulty;) Methodological (literary texts
are open to multiple interpretation whereby, 'this ready-made
opinion gap between one individual´s interpretation
and another´s can be bridged by genuine interaction,'
p.6) and finally Motivational (literary texts deal
with matters which concerned the writer enough to make him
or her write about them and are therefore non-trivial.) Maley
and Duff go on to argue how, 'This "genuine feel"
of literary texts is a powerful motivator and touches on themes
to which learners can bring a personal response from their
own experience.' (p.6) Collie and Slater echo these ideas
under headings of Cultural and Language Enrichment, and Personal
Involvement. (1997, pp.4-5) (See appendix A.) Coursebook writers
are very much aware of the need to include authentic texts
in their books: newspaper articles, timetables, leaflets,
film reviews, even recipes all appear in coursebooks. Yet,
literary texts, despite their authenticity and benefits for
the classroom, are still either very much ignored or very
much avoided: not only by coursebook writers but by teachers
is for this reason that I have decided to look at literature.
I have not been given or perhaps not looked for an opportunity
to teach literature with any of my students which I have found
frustrating because I studied English literature at university.
One of the main reasons for this avoidance was because firstly,
I was not convinced my students would be interested or find
it relevant (many of the classes I have taught throughout
the year have been exam classes) and secondly, I was not sure
how to go about incorporating literature into a lesson plan.
texts I have chosen I for my lesson are The Secret Diary of
Adrian Mole (Townsend, 1983) and Bridget Jones´s Diary
(Fielding, 1997.) This assignment will discuss how children´s
literature can be used for teaching adults. I will then go
on to discuss the how literature (with particular reference
to Readers) and film can be together in the classroom. (The
recent release of the film Bridget Jones makes this area particularly
first question to pose is why children´s literature
is particularly good for teaching EFL to adults. Newman (1996)
in his essay, 'Towards an ESOL Literature,'(2) gives a useful
description of children´s literature which in part,
answers this question. He states how:
of children´s literature face a challenge that, while
not identical, is quite similar to the once facing ESOL material
writers: Their possibilities of conveying meaning are inhibited
by their readers´incomplete control over the written
code and relatively limited vocabulary. (p.9)
and English students are at the same disadvantage in that
their assimilation of the language is in no way complete.
Newman goes on to explain how authors employ three methods
to overcome this problem:
Familiar linguistic forms: syntax and vocabulary of high frequency.
Unfamiliar words and structures are used but few and these
are often repeated several times.
Predictable rhetorical structures: Writers often make
use of prototypical plot features and formulaic expressions,
for example Once upon a time
Visual imagery: pictures used supporting the informational
content of the narrative.
(For more detailed description, see appendix D)
texts are obviously easier and therefore less intimidating
for a student to tackle. Yet, the texts are still genuine,
they have not been written specifically for English students
but for native speakers. As Newman points out: 'Children´s
literature serves as a living breathing counterexample to
the notion that linguistically simple texts must be inauthentic.'
(p.10) This combination of simpler but authentic texts is
more motivating for a student than ploughing through a text
pitched too high or reading a text so obviously written for
Most of my colleagues have not really shown interest. I only
know of one ´literature´lesson taking place as
such, and she was studying for her diploma doing the experimental!
Some textbooks have looked at some literary texts - see appendix
2 See appendix C - Newman
is generally arguing that, when writing ESOL materials, the
writers should adopt a similar ideology and methodology that
children´s authors have and use. I am not concerned
with this aspect in so much as I believe that children´s
literature itself should partly be used in place of ESOL or
page 2 of 5
the lesson plan
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