In my experience working at a bilingual school I have introduced literary texts in the last year of secondary education both to improve learners’ language skills through extensive reading together with creative writing, and to introduce them to the realms of stylistics and literary criticism through a process of description, interpretation, and evaluation (Short, 1996:3).
This introduction began as an experiment in 2006 in a course which combined EFL instruction and Literature (Banegas, 2008:208-214). Later it was decided to systematise such an approach; therefore, a new course was designed under two components taught by different teachers though working collaboratively: English, and English Literature and Creative Writing. It is within this latter component that I will attempt to introduce the activities which follow based on the reading of “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas”. This means that students already have some knowledge of and about Literature in Spanish and English.
The selection of such a novel responds to the positionwhich suggests that learners should be provided with material that is relevant to respond to and encourages critical thinking by reflecting on History and the complexity of human affairs (Aebersold and Field, 1997). In other words, non-trivial readings will prompt meaningful, let alone authentic (Cunningsworth, 1995:88), reactions from our learners. In addition, I have taken into consideration my learners’ level of L2 communicative competence in order to ensure that this piece of literary discourse contributes to language revision and further acquisition by revealing its creative and expressive potential of language within new sociocultural meanings (Ferradas Moi, 2003:406). At this stage, it should be added, they have already studied WWII in History in Spanish.
Although the set of activities based on “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” are addressed to a very specific group of learners, teachers can adapt them according to their own learners, aims, background knowledge and resources.
In this post I'll share some pre-reading activities which will continue in Part III.
Pre-reading activities for “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas”
The following activities will attempt to cover some of the reasons behind the use of literature in ELT.
First, it becomes essential that we create an atmosphere which raises our learners’ motivation and expectations by setting up the topic or general framework of the novel to explore.
The aim of this opening pre- reading activity, then, is to raise students’ involvement by associating the novel to their own life experiences.
Aim: To raise interest and involvement by talking about students’ childhood.
Materials: Striped, if possible, pyjamas.
Time: who knows? Not too long…not too short…yes…there…just about right…perfect
- The teacher shows them the pyjamas and asks them the following questions for group participation:
Did you use to wear pyjamas?
Do you still wear them?
What stage of your life are they connected with?
2. Once the teacher elicits the word CHILDHOOD, he writes it on the board so as to prompt a brainstorming session:
- The teacher asks students to work in pairs to
a. brainstorm ideas about childhood.
b. talk to each other about:
i. a good memory from their childhood
ii. a frightening experience and
iii. their pyjamas (if they ever wore ones)
4. Plenary session: teachers and students share their ideas and experiences with the rest of the class.
ACTIVITY: NEVER JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER
Aims: To focus on the text itself and generate predictions and expectations.
Materials: Book covers from “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” (slide show, photocopies?).
Time: What is time anyway?
- The teacher shows them (students may be given photocopies of each cover) a book cover in which the title has been deleted.
What do you think the title of this book is?
Any connections with our previous activity?
Students are to work in pairs and then get together with another pair and in fours come up with a title. It might help them see that the title can be long as it covers most of the cover. Titles will be shared and commented.
- Now the teacher shows them another cover and tells them that it is also from the same book. Again students are asked to pay attention to the design. Probably the teacher might want to draw students’ attention on the boys.
Again, what do you think the title is? All I can tell you is that it has to do with a boy.
Students work in groups and go over their first title. They tell the rest of the class their new version and provide support from the cover and their own triggered schemata.
3. The teacher now shows them a last cover, again with no title, and tells them that the title actually has six words, where two are nouns and one is an adjective. He can even write on the board something like this
______ _______(noun) _______ ________ ________(adj.) _________(noun)
Students rework on their titles, share their versions and the teacher finally (before they have a heart attack or kill the teacher) tells them what the title is.
This is all for now...