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Using literature in the EFL classroom with specific reference to children's literature and literature and film - by Emma Metcalf
- lesson plan 1

 

Preliminary information

Time: 55 minutes

Level: Advanced

Aims:
To develop reading strategies: inferring meaning from context. In turn this will promote learner autonomy in that the questions I have asked the students are the type of questions the students should be asking themselves when faced with a difficult text.
To encourage students to read a wide variety of texts in English and how reading children´s literature or popular fiction is still a valid source of text to learn from.
To expose students to some authentic texts which contain colloquial vocabulary.

Subsidiary Aims: Promoting peer teaching in the classroom as well as team work since students will have to work together in order to negotiate the meaning of the various vocabulary items.

Timetable fit: The previous lesson looked at men and women and the texts I will be looking at focus on male and female 'issues.' My colleague will follow my lesson by looking at textual patterns in short stories, thereby keeping within the framework of literature, but focusing more on discourse rather than individual vocabulary items.

Assumptions: The students will have heard about Bridget Jones´Diary because of recent release of the film. Some students may have also read it in Spanish. Students probably have not read lots of books in English for pleasure.

Anticipated problems: The vocabulary I have focused on is difficult and therefore, as students are working out the meaning, I will be closely monitoring and I will step in if I feel they need more help.

Class profile: Class generally made up of young professionals, although one older man, Troyano, is present. Students often arrive late and tired because they have been working all day. It is important to keep the pace up in class, changing activities fairly frequently to make sure they do not 'drift off.' Students are also receiving the lessons for free,therefore it may be tempting to skip a few classes. The group, so far, consists of the following:

María: A lawyer who mainly uses English when reading legal documents. She appears quite serious but participates well, especially with pair work.
Montse: Works in an electrical company. Very happy and responsive student, often the first to volunteer an answer. Pronunciation problems.
Troyano: Eldest in group but works well with peers and can be very funny! Has quite a wide range of vocabulary but often not appropriate to context. Has a tendency to ask a lot of questions and can sometimes interrupt and talk over other students.
Beatriz: Fully participates in activities though sometimes does not listen to teacher. Very bubbly. Fluent but this presides over accuracy. Very motivated.
Antonio: Works well in group and a very good level. Asks intelligent questions and is happy to explain things to peers if they have any problems. Has lived in Britain for one year.
Africa: Good level and likes grammar! Also interested in business English. Again, works well with peers.
Pablo: Good level. Reads a lot of English. Gives the impression that he is a busy business man so maybe time to study may be a problem for him.
Yolanda: Very personable. Colloquial/informal vocabulary very good as lived in London for a while. Has a Greek boyfriend with whom she communicates in English because he does not speak Spanish.
Rocio: Recently joined group. Very good level. Has travelled to Britain and to Ireland and wants to return to Britain once she has finished her degree. Extremely motivated.

Materials: Short extracts taken from Bridget Jones´Diary (Fielding, 1997, pp.57-59) and The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole (Townsend, 1982, pp. 16-17)
Ideas to include for writing a diary entry, in White and Arndt´s Process Writing (1991, p.63)

Lesson rationale

I have chosen to use literature for this experimental lesson because I have always been interested in incorporating it in my classes, but I have never really thought about how to do it. I have decided to look at reading strategies with a focus on using context to infer meaning. It may be argued that, at advanced level, students have already developed reading strategies. However, from my experience, most students do not read outside of class as much as they should do. If they do read in English then it is often the case that they have to do it, rather than they want to do it. Most of the texts they are exposed to are probably work-related (most of the group are young professionals) and therefore fairly technical. This particular group also use the internet a lot which is a useful medium for English but many of the texts contain spelling mistakes and incorrect grammar. I have chosen the text Bridget Jones´s Diary because it is very topical at the moment with the recent release of the film. I thought it might be interesting for the students to see the text in its original version. Many of the issues in the book are 'women related' and there is high proportion of females in this group. The second text I have chosen is The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole because firstly it takes the perspective of a man. Secondly, the format is the same (a diary.) Finally, because it is a children´s book, I thought it might be more accessible for my students. I also wanted to choose texts that were funny to make the lesson more light-hearted. Finally, the diary entries are manageable 'chunks' of text to look at, which solves the problem of looking at too much text in a short period of time.

I want to find out what kinds of books my students are interested in reading and therefore using the book reviews seems the logical place to start. When the students read the reviews they will then give their opinion on whether the books described sound interesting to them. This will hopefully lead on to a quick discussion about whether students read books in English (if so, which ones?) and what the advantages are of reading in English for improving their general English language.

The next stage of the lesson will help students predict the personality of the main character in each of the books. By looking at the New Year´s Resolutions students can decide whether the characters are male or female, what habits they have and which things are important for them. This part can be personalised as I can ask the students if they write New Year´s Resolutions and what they are. Students can also establish the format of the texts they will be reading as most New Year´s Resolutions are written in diaries.

I want to do some reading for specific information before students start looking at the vocabulary so they can have a clearer idea of who the main character is and how their current situation stands. Because I am only using an extract from each book, the students need this 'background' information before trying to work out what the vocabulary items mean. Therefore, the students read the text and fill in the 'biographical' details about their character. Because some of the details are not really obvious in the texts, I will encourage the students to compare their answers before they start work on the vocabulary.

Most of the vocabulary items I have chosen to look at are quite colloquial which I think is useful for advanced students. I want the students to work together when deciding on the meaning of the items basically because it will be easier for them and the communication that takes place between them is genuine. I will monitor carefully and be available to help only if the students ask for it. The final activity of exchanging information and explaining the meaning of the words to each other is important because peer teaching is taking place, changing the focus to learner centredness rather than the focus being on the teacher who imparts the information.

I think the homework of writing the next diary entry is fun and a useful way to perhaps incorporate some of the vocabulary already looked at in class.

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