Sunday, October 21, 2012

Using Literature to Teach Language and Culture

Moeller, Aleidine J. "Literature: A Rich Resource for Teaching Language and Culture in Context." 

This article discusses the need for foreign language students to interact with literature in their L2 while they are acquiring a language. Textbooks can often feel dry and inauthentic, whereas literature provides a valuable source of comprehensible input and an authentic, meaningful text that connects back to the culture of the L2. The author supports an approach to literature that focuses on the reader's response and personal experience. Some of the considerations when choosing a text are: linguistic level, length, vocabulary, age of students, reader motivation, "whether the text expands cognitive, aesthetic, and emotional development," and "whether the text promotes cultural understanding" (Moeller 35). 
The author provides a variety of types of activities that can be done with a work of literature. One example she gives of a pre-reading strategy is to introduce a picture depicting the story and ask the students to create a story about what they see in the picture. This seemed like a really innovative, fun, affectively engaging way to introduce a story. It gets students interacting using the L2, which is the goal, and gives them more motivation to find out what happens in the story. 
Another activity that I thought seemed valuable was the "$20,000 pyramid" activity, which is kind of like playing the game "Taboo" in your L2 with vocabulary words. One student has to describe six vocabulary words in a column. This game seems especially ideal for building proficiency and encouraging output while lowering the affective filter.
I believe that incorporating authentic, classic literature into the language learning experience is critical. Too often language learners are reading dry, contrived texts out of a textbook that don't offer a real meaningful, valuable, quality reading experience. I hope to incorporate some of these activities into my classroom. 

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