literature in the EFL classroom with specific reference to
children's literature and literature and film
- by Emma Metcalf
children´s literature has a valid place in the classroom,
it seems logical to look at an example. I have decided to
use Roald Dahl´s Revolting Rhymes, looking specifically
at 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears.' A predictable rhetorical
structure is used- the problem/solution textual pattern. (Hoey,
1983) Dahl, however, rewrites the fairytale, looking at it
from a different angle and changing the moral of the story.
(See appendix E for transcript.) Looking at fairytales has
two advantages. Firstly, they are known in many different
cultures.(1) Secondly, fairytales are short, making them manageable
to deal with in class: they are easy to prepare and students
can finish reading the whole story.
Collie and Slater point out:
who are only exposed to 'bite-sized chunks' will never have
the satisfaction of knowing the overall pattern of a book
which is, after all, the satisfaction most of us seek when
we read something in our own language. (1997, p.11)
are mini-stories and therefore have the same advantages that
short stories have. The following are suggestions of what
could be done in a class:
Parallel reading. Comparison of traditional fairytale with
Reading for detail or listening for detail (the rhymes
are available on cassette.) Students given grids to complete.
Reading strategies: inferring meaning from context.
Discourse analysis: identifying the problem/solution
textual pattern in the tale. Follow -up could be writing:
rewriting a different fairytale using the problem/solution
Identifying the role and influence of the narrator
on the reader. Students could be given the tale without the
narrator´s comments to analyse how the narrator can
affect the reader´s opinion. This could be then extended
to how texts can be biased - see Grellet (1981, pp.244-5)
Vocabulary: (i) contrasting different registers: informal
(e.g. do a bunk) and formal (e.g.
(ii) phrasal verbs e.g. get off/ break in (these could be
classified in the
semantic field of crime)
(iii) collocations: houseproud wife/ brimming full
Mini-reading aloud to develop students´awareness
of intonation, rhythm and stress.
Discussions: role of parents and children, the family,
'manners.' The social behaviour task sheet from Tomalin and
Stempleski´s Cultural Awareness (1993, p.100) could
be adapted for 'How to behave in someone´s house.'
text is short and funny and extremely adaptable for many different
levels and activities. This is ultimately what the teacher
needs when trying to find suitable material. Texts that lend
themselves to a variety of different approaches are what we
as teachers should be looking for.
advantage of using children´s literature is the fact
that many texts are written for both children and adults.(2)
The texts are 'two-tiered' whereby children often take in
the semantic meaning of the text, yet remain oblivious to
the pragmatic or underlying meaning that adults can pull out.
I want to look briefly at Tim Burton´s The Melancholy
Death of Oyster Boy and other stories, (1997) suitable for,
'adults that cannot grow up and children sick of too much
fantasy.' (Marco Giusti, L'Espresso)
book comprises of various poems, all depicting hideous yet
tragic characters, that could be open to multiple interpretations.
This is sometimes considered a disadvantage of looking at
poetry in class: (See appendix F for more comments.)
sometimes wonder if I've really understood the meaning of
a poem myself - it´s a bit daunting then to explain
it to a group of learners. Cited in Lazar (1993, p.99)
teacher is surely missing the point. One of the reasons poetry
is so good to look at in class is, as Lazar suggests:
useful tool for encouraging students to draw on their own
personal experiences, feelings and opinions. It helps students
to become more actively involved both intellectually and emotionally
in learning English which therefore aids acquisition.
are not told what is 'right' or 'wrong.' (3) The openendedness
of poetry can be used to encourage lots of group work whereby,
along with tapping the resources of knowledge and experience
within the groups, students can, 'acquire the confidence to
develop, express and value their own response.' (Collie and
Slater, 1987, p.9) So, looking at Tim Burton´s characters,
students can read into them what they will. Some are more
obvious: 'Roy the Toxic Boy' is a comment on environmental
destruction while others are extremely obscure: 'Jimmy, the
Hideous Penguin Boy.' Some are humorous: 'The Girl with Many
Eyes.' Most contain some sort of critique on society. What
is interesting is that all of them are accompanied with brilliant
illustrations. These illustrations could be used for predicting
the content of the poems; work could be done on character
adjectives; discussions could be based on some of the issues
that are addressed; creative writing could be encouraged by
giving groups an illustration without the poem and the groups
decide on the personality and the story that surrounds their
particular character. Finally, because the edition is published
bilingually, work could be done on translation.
children´s literature for adults EFL students has not
yet been recognised. Personally, it is an area that interests
me greatly and I plan to find more texts that can be adapted
for the classroom.
1 Fairytales are well-known in Europe at least. Students from
non-European backgrounds will have something similar if not
identical which would make an interesting discussion point.
Winnie the Pooh is an example. Cartoons such as The Simpsons
and Southpark are other examples where the writers bear two
audiences in mind.
Some students might not like poetry because there is no real
answer. The teacher needs to point out that just as long as
the student can back up what s/he is saying, the answer cannot
be wrong. See appendix F for more comments.
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