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Feb 2019 - Year 21 - Issue 1

ISSN 1755-9715

Sundry Literature Lessons (1)

Robert Feather, 64, and still teaching after 43 years – half of them with Pilgrims. Creating lessons and then seeing how well they work with the students who gave rise to them is, for me, the best way of keeping alive my interest in the language and in the students. 

 

Editorial

The exercises from a book Mario Rinvolucri, Paul Brewer and Robert Feather thought of writing together back in the early 2000’s.

 

Narrative: cohesion and patterning

Time: 60 minutes

Level: B1+

Aims:

* To demonstrate that reading a work of literature can be an active and enjoyable activity

* To awaken the learners’ own narrative production skills

* To introduce a set text in an active way, engaging learners’ sense of themselves as creator of narrative

Preparation

Find a one-page text or part of the novel you’re studying. Identify 8 key words that are integral to the main action, relation or feelings of this passage.

In class

  1. Focusing on narrative (I got this idea from Mila Torres)
    1. Make the following sounds and ask learners to write what they feel as a reaction

Sound

Reaction

Clap

 

Knock on the door

 

Whistle

 

Screw up paper

 

Scream

 

Blah! Blah! Blah!

 

Sigh

 

 

  1. Individually, learners connect the sounds in a simple story (5 mins)
  2. Pairs share their stories.
  1. Creative work preparing for text reading
    1. Give learners 8 words from a text you are working with.
    2. Teacher says one word in several different ways
    3. Learners move round the room. Teacher gives the feeling and learners say the word with this feeling.
    4. In pairs, learners write each word on a small slip of paper. Then, together they order the words in a story, each taking alternate turns to add another sentence containing one more word until all 8 words are incorporated. When one new word is added, the learner who adds it must repeat the whole story up to that point. This helps with them develop the ability to remember a chunk of words with precision. Teacher goes round the class checking on grammar.
    5. One of each pair tells their story to one of another pair or to class as a whole.
  2. Text work
    1. Now learners sit, relax and listen to the teacher reading out the text from which the 8 words come.
    2. Pairs: one learner re-tells the text to partner
    3. Individually, learners read the text.
    4. Discussion: what makes this narrative section successful/ unsuccessful?

 

The reader creates the text

Time: 60 minutes

Level: C1

Aims:

  • To show that each reader interprets a text differently
  • To reveal different facets of the text through different perspectives
  • To practise writing in different styles

Rationale

The question of how far the text conjures up its reader and how far the reader creates the text is not settled. This exercise exploits this lack of fixity, exaggerating the possible different perspectives a reader could have. By exaggerating, the authorial assumptions implicit in the text can be thrown into relief. This exercise attempts to give readers the freedom to choose how they read the text rather than tying them down to one conventional position.

Preparation

Find a suitable text.  For example, WB Yeats’ ‘Lake Isle of Innisfree’

In the session:

  1. Teacher asks group to brainstorm different relationships:

psychotherapist /patient; mother/child; old person/young person; composer/librettist; religious leader/ acolyte; politician/ voter; the author’s present self/an earlier stage in the author’s life; secret service agent/spy; military commander/ordinary soldier; quiz show host/contestant; Marxist/capitalist etc.

  1. Pairs: choose one of these relationships. Think of the kind of dialogues they have. What typical language do they use? Prepare a 1-minute performance to demonstrate this.
  2. Pairs perform to the group.
  3. Teacher reads the text to the group & discusses any difficult vocabulary.
  4.  EITHER:  write a dialogue: Students take one of the roles above e.g. psychoanalyst/patient. They imagine that the poem is the words of the patient. What would you say as a psychoanalyst? How would the patient (i.e. WB Yeats) respond?

 

E.g.

Psychotherapist: How long have you been having these wishes to go to Innisfree?

Yeats: It’s a feeling that has been growing ever since I came to live in the city.

Psychotherapist: What do you associate with the word “cabin”?

WBY: Solitude, quietness, calm, self-sufficiency.

 

  1. OR:  Write in the role of one of the above giving your response to the text.

E.g.

The patient has a strong and persistent fantasy about living in a place where there is a sense of calm. He feels that he has the ability to build a cabin using traditional methods and to live by means of subsistence farming. He idealises the place he calls Innisfree, indicating that he believes it to be consistently peaceful.

  1. Learners either perform the new dialogues or post up their work for others to view.
  2. Discussion: How did the different interpretations change your appreciation of the poem? Do you like the poem more or less now?

 

Many subjectivities, one text

Time:60 minutes

Level: B1+

Rationale:

Each reader has a different moral, emotional, political, imaginative response to a work of literature. If we know this, we can accept our own subjectivity and understand the limits of our viewpoint.

Preparation:
Choose a section from a novel/short story in which the main character has to make a decision/ or something unexplained or enigmatic happens to the main character.

e.g. In Brooklyn by Colm Toibin: Eilis meets the Irish singer, Eilis starts a relationship with Jim Farrell.

In the session:

  1. Read the text aloud to the class (maximum one page so that attention is sustained) & remind learners of the context.
  2. Individually, learners write a short email to the character (5 or 6 sentences max) responding to the situation. (5-10 mins only).
  3. Learners read each other’s texts and try to group them according to similarity of response.
  4. Discussion: How much similarity or difference is there in these responses? What does this show us about subjectivity in reading?

 

Gossip

Time: 60 minutes

Level: B2+

Stage: At any crucial stage in the novel when a number of key characters have been introduced

Aims:

  • To creatively extend the text
  • To start critical thinking and show that we talk about other people’s actions in different ways.

Why do we gossip? Why do we like to talk about other people? Is it because it is important for us to gain validity for our own conduct or to seek to influence other people’s conduct so that we are not disadvantaged? Or is it just to understand what it is to be human? If novel reading overlaps or even takes the place of gossip (= talking about other people), then why not suppose that the characters are real people who we know and whose actions are important for us?

Preparation: Write on stickers the names of the main characters who have appeared in the text up to this point.  E.g. For Hamlet: Hamlet, Horatio, Fortinbras, Gertrude, Claudius, the Ghost, Polonius, Ophelia, etc

In class:

  1. Teacher elicits the names of the characters & writes these on the board.
  2. Teacher divides group into sub-groups of the same number as the number of characters.
  3. Each sub-group allocates a character role to each learner. Each learner then puts a sticker on their shirt labelling themselves as this character.
  4. Learners choose one or two lines from the set text and practise saying these lines while standing or moving with the gestures of the character and in the character’s voice.
  5. Teacher sets the scene: All the characters are now in an altered reality after the action in the work has taken place. The learner, in the role of the character they represent, wants to ask the other characters questions about their reasons for acting as they did in the text.
  6. Learners write down at least one question for each other character. For example, the student representing Hamlet could ask the student representing Ophelia how she really felt about him; he could also ask Polonius why he didn’t stand up to Claudius.
  7. Learners now ask their questions standing, sitting or walking in the way they imagine the character and with the voice of the character they represent.
  8. Learners have conversations with another character then move on when the teacher gives the signal (e.g. after every 2 mins)
  9. When learners have spoken to several others or when the conversation flags ask the learners to sit down and write a diary entry saying which other character got the most negative or positive response from others. What different responses were there?

After class: Write and email to another character expressing support, advice or information.

 

Primitive sounds to emotional meaning and narrative

Time: 60 minutes

Level: A1+

Aims:

  • To show how words without conventional meaning can be given specific meaning through the way we use pace, intonation, pausing, stress, volume etc. when we say them.
  • To encourage learners to enjoy poetry on their own terms. They are the prime movers, as a team they create an interpretation and do not have to submit to a handed-down interpretation.

Preparation:

Find a poem which has no specific cognitive meaning and is open to interpretation through sound. “tan” by Bob Cobbing is a good example. Decide how many teams you are going to divide your group into. Divide the poem into sections/ stanzas so that each team has one.

In the session:

  • Teacher divides group into teams of 3 to 5 learners. Teacher allocates a section of the poem to each team. Explain that they have 10 minutes to decide how to say their section and to stand together and practice it in their team.
  • Teacher goes around the class while learners are practising. Listen to their ways of saying their section. Ask what emotion they’re trying to convey. Coach them in ways that will enhance their performance to this end but let them find their own way if they feel they have got a better way. This is their interpretation not yours.
  • In the order of the poem, each group now performs their version.
  • Ask for words from listening groups to describe the emotion or sound of each section (angry, staccato, soft, calm, sarcastic, loud, impassioned, anguished etc.)
  • Ask the group to imagine that these sounds represent the emotions of characters in a play. When one group reads their section of the poem, other learners move about the room in ways that express the emotions of the reading.
  • Learners now sit at and individually, each learner links the emotions into a simple (max 8-sentence story).
  • Individual learners read their story to each other or to small groups.
  • Repeat the recitation of the poem but with the story being read out simultaneously.

 

tan 

 

tan tandinanan tandinane

tanan tandina tandinane

tanare tandita tandinane

tantarata tandina tandita

 

tan tandinanan tandina

tanan tanare tandita

tantarata tanrotu tankrina

tan tandinanan tankrina

 

tanan tanare tankrina

tanrotu tanrita tantarane

tanrotua tantarata tantarane

tantarane tanrita tanrita

 

tan tandinanan tandinane

tan tandinanan tandina

tanan tanare tankrina

tanan tandina tandinane

 

tanan tanare tandita

tanrotu tanrita tantarane

tanare tandita tandinane

tantarata tanrotu tankrina

 

tanrotu tantarata tantarane

tantarata tandina tandita

tan tandinanan tankrina

tantarane tanrita tanrita

 

by Bob Cobbing – the new british poetry (©Paladin, Grafton Books 1988)

 

Please check the Methodology and Language for Secondary course at Pilgrims website.

Please check the Teaching Advanced Students course at Pilgrims website.

Please check the CLIL for Secondary course at Pilgrims website.

Please check the Creative Methodology for the Classroom course at Pilgrims website.

Tagged Lesson Ideas 
  • Sundry Literature Lessons (1)
    Robert Feather, UK

  • Literature Lessons (1)
    Mario Rinvolucri, UK

  • Using Pictures and Stories in the EFL Classroom
    Karen Saxby, UK