Published 13th January 2017
If you’re a TEFL teacher you may have a passion for the language and enjoy a bit of reading – a lot of us do; maybe you are even a literature fundi. Reading is not only an interesting pastime but it can be an enjoyable way of gaining exposure to a language. From Hemingway to Dickens to Crichton, authors are able to open up a whole new world for us to discover when we open their books, and this can include exposing us to a new language.
Since reading is such a great way to help in learning a language, surely we should incorporate reading into our EFL lessons? – not only in our coursebooks but by actually using works of fiction. After all, if reading Jodi Picoult makes you want to read more, there’s no reason why it wouldn’t do the same for your learners.
How to include literature in the classroom
First of all, there is the issue of the levels of our learners. Using novels as they are can be very challenging for our learners. Considering that this kind of reading should be fun, giving our learners texts which are too difficult for their level would be demotivating and defeat the purpose. This is where graded readers come in.
Graded readers are English works of fiction which have been adapted for English language learners. Some of them have been written specifically for learners, while others are classics which have been rewritten. Graded readers are a great way to offer literature to even your lowest level learners.
With higher level learners it can be possible to use authentic texts rather than graded readers. Of course, using a full-length novel can be a bit intimidating and time-consuming, but short stories are a useful alternative. Again, thinking about what is currently popular can inform your decision as to which stories to introduce to your learners.
In terms of practical issues regarding books in the classroom, there are a few activities you can use. You can choose to have a dedicated lesson to free reading. This encourages your learners to read in their free time and for pleasure rather than specifically for learning purposes, but you might not have the time in your curriculum. Another option is to let your learners read for homework and organise a book club within the class, which reports back on their books every week and offers reviews and recommendations.
Using literature in the classroom is a fantastic way to expose your learners to the great works of fiction of English. Don’t assume your learners are familiar with popular English authors. Instead, show them a range of different writers, genres and styles and hopefully they will soon be reading in English for pleasure.