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Using literature in the EFL classroom with specific reference to children's literature and literature and film
- by Emma Metcalf

- 3

Another area that interests me is using films. Throughout the past year I have done lots of work on using film in class. One aspect I did not look at was pairing a graded reader with its film. (See appendix G for the benefits graded readers have to offer.) As well as telling a story through different media, the book and the film provide different sources of language data. The film exemplifies unsimplified, spoken language while the book presents the narrative through simplified, written language. Reading and listening comprehension are combined. As Walker suggests:

Watching a film sequence which matches a section of the book will act as a kind of reformulation of the narrative which will enrich and inform students´comprehension of the written language. (1999, p.2)

Students are exposed to real speech that they can understand, through an enjoyable medium. Linking this to children´s literature I will look at Walker´s suggestions for using Mrs Doubtfire (the video) to preview the book (Madam Doubtfire Penguin Reader level three.) Walker argues how showing scenes from the film will help students prepare for understanding the written text by:

• Providing background information on character and setting.
• Building expectations of events and plot.
• Enabling the pre-teaching of key vocabulary in the written text. (1999, p.5)

By playing the beginning of the film, students are introduced to the main characters. Students are provided with a worksheet to complete that summarises all these characters. A further scene is played with the sound down and students complete a second worksheet. Students are then told that this scene happens before the book starts. Students can suggest ways in which the story might continue. Suggested homework is asking the students to imagine that they are one of the children and they write an entry in their diary as to how they are feeling. The combination of Readers and film provides integrated skills lessons.

Another brilliant suggestion is 'Thought Bubbles' by Collie and Slater (1987,p.59) using a scene from The Talented Mr Ripley (pp 69-70) which looks at semantic and pragmatic meaning. Students decide what each character is actually thinking which differs from what the characters actually say. Video could be used here. Students could watch the scene with the sound down and analyse the paralinguisitcs of the characters. (This film scene could then be compared to the scene in the book.) The film might give them clues as to what each of the characters is thinking and highlights how important body language is for communication. (Sometimes much more powerful than words themselves.) This idea is highlighted by Stempleski:

Video allows for the illustration of such paralinguistic elements as facial expressions and gestures, and cultural elements such as values, customs and clothing. The medium´s ability to present a language situation so vividly not only focuses the attention of the learner, but also helps to make the context understandable and the language used memorable. (1990, p.3)

I strongly believe that the combination of book and film is an extremely useful aid to students. The Spanish are huge cinema fans so hopefully, by using a combination of film and book in class students will be encouraged to read in their free time. As Krashen quite rightly suggests, 'Free voluntary reading…is the missing ingredient in second and foreign language instruction.' (1993, p.1) This is perhaps one way to encourage this.

For the teacher to select and evaluate what material is suitable for his or her students, certain points need to be considered. Collie and Slater state how it is important to, 'choose books…which are relevant to the life, experiences, emotions and dreams of the learner.' (1987, p.6) Lazar also points out how factors such as class or social position of the reader or the reader´s religious beliefs can affect the reader´s response to and interpretation of the text. (1997, p.10) Lazar provides some useful clines that teachers can use to select and evaluate materials and suggests that peer observation is essential to help establish what is successful and what needs to be reconsidered. (pp.168-9) Finally she gives some useful ideas to make texts more relevant to students´experience. (See appendix H) Using literature in class is a complicated process and requires lots of preparation, evaluation and experimentation. In the future I plan to incorporate into my lessons some of the great ideas I have come across through investigating this area. Hopefully, by being exposed to different literary texts, students will want to read more out of class, which undoubtedly improves their overall English. From my experience, my most proficient students have always been those who have read so it is a teacher´s responsibility to encourage students to do more of it.

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