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June 2019 - Year 21 - Issue 3

ISSN 1755-9715

Sundry Literature Lessons (2)

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. 



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


Words and art

Level: B2+


  • Learners will be able to respond creatively and personally to a text
  • Learners will see that a poem has a structure
  • Learners’ visual sense will be stimulated and connected with language


Learners who would not believe that they can write a poem will achieve a good result without too much difficulty.


Collect enough postcards/ small reproductions on paper of works of art for each learner to have a choice of several.

Choose a poem about a work of art that can be reduced to a skeleton e.g. Moniza Alvi’s  ‘I Would Like to be a Dot in a Painting by Miro’. Photocopy enough of these skeleton poems for each member of the group plus a few extras in case they want to revise their work. Also photocopy the complete poem for each learner.

In the session

  1. Read the text to the group. Discuss any difficult vocabulary.
  2. Explain that learners are going to write their own poem based on this text.
  3. Spread all of the postcards on a desk or on the floor. Learners stand and select one they would like to work with.
  4. Give them 15 to 20 minutes to complete their poem. When they finish they can stick their poem on the wall under the postcard they have chosen. They can wander round and read each other’s poems.


I Would Like to be a Dot in a Painting by Miro


I would like to be a dot in a painting by Miro.


Barely distinguishable from other dots,

it’s true, but quite uniquely placed.

And from my dark centre


I’d survey the beauty of the linescape

and wonder – would it be worthwhile

to roll myself towards the lemon stripe,


Centrally poised, and push my curves

against its edge, to get myself

a little extra attention?


But it’s fine where I am.

I’ll never make out what’s going on

around me, and that’s the joy of it.


The fact that I’m not a perfect circle

makes me more interesting in this world.

People will stare forever—


Even the most unemotional get excited.

So here I am, on the edge of animation,

a dream, a dance, a fantastic construction,


A child’s adventure.

And nothing in this tawny sky

can get too close, or move too far away.


Moniza Alvi – The Country at My Shoulder (© Oxford University Press 1993)



Make your own poem

I Would Like to Be

I would like to be ______________________________________________________

in a painting by ________________________________________________________

Barely _________________________________________________________,it’s true

but __________________________________________________________________

And from ______________________________________________________________

and I’d wonder – _________________________________________________________

But it’s fine where I am.

I’ll never _______________________________________________________________

So here I am, ____________________________________________________________

And nothing____________________________________________________________


Shapes and characters

Level B1+

Stage: After completing the first reading of the set text or when enough characters have been introduced


  • Learners will get a clearer sense of what is distinctive about each character and how they relate to each other within the work
  • Learners will get a broad perspective on the whole work they are studying
  • Learners can revise the work they are studying

In the session:

  1. Draw simple geometrical shapes on the board and elicit their names: square, circle, rectangle triangle etc.
  2. Elicit a list of the characters in the novel or play you are focussing on. Write them on the board.
  3. Individually, learners decide which character is best represented by one of the shapes or amalgamation of shapes. Learners draw the shapes on a piece of A4 labelling each shape with the name of a character and connecting the shapes in a pattern of relationships.
  4. Pairs explain to each other why they have drawn each character in the way they have.


Music, text and movement: Textual appreciation & creative work

(I learnt this idea from Robert McNeer)


  • To show that literary texts can have an impact on us emotionally.
  • To use physical movements as a symbolic system to interpret a text.
  • To show that a creative response to a literary text is a form of appreciation, different from rational critical interpretation but on a continuum with it.


  • Find a short text you want learners to appreciate fully. When read aloud, it should take no longer than 5 or 6 minutes.
  • Find music which is appropriate to the mood of the text. This is particularly successful if the mood is fairly constant and the text does not contain too much variation. Otherwise, while reading you might find yourself reading a passage with a quiet mood during a raucous section in the music. I’ve seen Edgard Varèse’s  Arcana used successfully with a ghost story, for example.

In class

  1. Music into action
  2. Ask learners to limber up. Do physical drama warm up. (See Augusto Boal for ideas)
  3. Learners in pairs. Play the chosen music, read the text slowly and clearly. One learner closes their eyes, keeps their feet firmly planted and responds to the music and the words; the other learner is the guardian angel standing close to and following the movements of the first.
  4. Swap roles and read the text & play the music again for the second learner.
  5. Individual work: Learners sit and read the text adding instructions to indicate the movements and feelings to each word, phrase or sentence.
  6. Individual: Learners write a short narrative of the moving person describing their actions and interpreting their emotions, creating a story surrounding these actions.

Games for Actors and Non-Actors by Augusto Boal and Adrian Jackson


Expressing emotion as an induction to reading

(I got this idea from Peter Dyer)

Level: B1+


  • To heighten learners’ awareness of the emotion in the text.
  • To show that the language of a text has a spoken dimension.
  • To show that the way we say something expresses different nuances of emotion
  • To show that the exact nuance of emotion expressed by characters in a novel is dependent on the context.


Find several pieces of dialogue that are crucial to the action, with two characters each saying one sentence or phrase: question and answer; accusation and denial; proposal and rejection; giving information and receiving it; etc. from the text you are studying. Choose one example for demonstration.

In class

  1. Induction into the text through drama
    1. Write on the board or project the two part dialogue.

E.g. A: ‘You’ve changed. You look different. ‘

B: ‘What’s changed?’ (Brooklyn p230)

  1. Ask volunteers to say it. When they’ve said it ask the class how they would describe the emotion expressed in this rendition. Ask several other pairs of volunteers to say the dialogue.
  2. Draw a line or indicate an invisible line down the centre of the class. Get the class to stand with their backs to the walls on either side of the classroom facing a partner. Demonstrate: Say one part of the dialogue with a specific feeling and get the learner to reply. Do this several times in different ways approaching the line and backing away as the feeling takes you.
  3. Learners do the same with their partners.
  1. Creating a context for emotion
    1. Sitting together in pairs, learners say what they think has just happened before the dialogue and what will happen after.
    2. Pairs say the lines again taking into account their context. Others try to guess the context
  2. Reading the text
    1. Give learners the text from which the dialogue comes. They read and then practise saying the dialogue again so as to match the context.


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.

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