The Approaches To Teaching Literature English Language Essay

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What I needed next was a guiding structure and time frame. I assumed a 45 minute teaching unit for an introduction to the subject matter, for example, the vulnerability of nature, and another 45 minutes to discuss why we should care about nature. The following double lesson was supposed to examine one work of art in detail, preferably in group work. Rounded off by 45 minutes of bringing together the results of the group work, and another 45 minutes of addressing ethical issues and developing possible solutions, my six lesson concept seemes reasonable and viable. I wanted to approach the complex topic of teaching environmental ethics and sustainability by giving the students access to various authentic texts with the help of various media. Although a diachronic approach - by including texts from the beginning of the environmental movement to the latest developments - would be a viable option, I decided to focus on mainly contemporary texts in order to emphasize present-day significance. I also limited the selection of texts to North American literature and culture, although there would be interesting options to include, for example, post-colonial environmental art forms.

3.2 Contextual factors

Thanks to Herr Dr. Rudolf Desch and Herr Sebastian Lang (Q11 class teacher), I had the opportunity to perform my exemplary teaching concept in a Q11 class of the Albert Schweitzer Gymnasium in Erlangen. Prior to my test-teaching, I visited and observed the class and got a good overall impression of the students and the local conditions.

3.2.1 The class

My first impression of the class, which consists of 21 students, was very positive, although there were minor issues that required some adaptation of my concept. The most noteworthy characteristic of the class was the tranquil atmosphere that bordered at times on passivity and inactivity. It sometimes took a couple of unpleasant seconds of silence before one of a handful of very competent students made a meaningful and helpful contribution to classroom interaction, while showing high English language proficiency. The other students did not seem to be particular uninterested but only spoke upon request of the teacher, and only as much as necessary. Although I quickly noticed the heterogeneity of the class, the gap between the students with higher and lower performance levels and degrees of knowledge did not appear to be too big. Nonetheless, when I was designing the teaching concept, I tried to design motivating tasks and appealing learning materials, and to enhance intrinsic motivation by means of addressing the conative domain, in order to increase the students' willingness to learn and to partake in classroom interaction; and when I was actually conducting the lesson complex, I tried my best to appeal to the students' extrinsic motivation by means of addressing the affective domain, for example, by establishing and maintaining an encouraging and positive classroom atmosphere, and by reducing negative evaluations in order to ease anxiety (Riggs and Gholar 2009, 10).

As effective learning in the dynamic social context of classrooms depends on factors like the multiplicity of identities, roles, relations, and purposes of its members, it is always difficult for a teacher that is not familiar with a class to respond adequately to each student's interests, need, problems, and capabilities, but I intended to let the students contribute as much of their own experiences and foreknowledge as possible. Especially with a subjective topic like environmental education, a communicative classroom is essential, because

My lesson concept actually fits perfectly into the course syllabus of the class, since they had been discussing Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932), dystopias in general, and had been watching the escape-from-dystopia science fiction film The Island (2005) prior to the implementation of my lesson concept. Therefore, I could proceed from the assumption that they had some prior knowledge of dystopias.

3.2.2 Teaching/learning environment and the school book

Since I was planning to utilize a lot of media, I considered the properly functioning laptop-projector unit as an enormous benefit and a tool that enriched the lesson. Although I had a backup plan for having to teach without a computer, it would have slowed the teaching process down and resulted in a lot less vividness. Sound and image quality were sufficient and handling was intuitive. The blackboard and overhead projector were, in this case, of minor importance but nonetheless helpful.

There was enough room in the classroom so that, for example, while working in groups, concentration was not disturbed by another group sitting in immediate proximity.

The school book Green Line: Oberstufe Klasse 11/12 contains a topic entitled "Saving the planet" (Ashford et. al. 2010, 164-173) that starts off with statements on "Our environmental footprint" (ibid., 164) and explains who is already affected by climate change. It features an advertisement by SPURT, a spoof aviation-industry lobby group that satirically proclaims . There is also a featured article titled . In addition, there is a miniature fact file on climate change that states:

The next chapter, titled our "Eco-friends" (ibid., 168), critically discusses Al Gore's quest to inform people of climate change, for example, through his documentary film An Inconvenient Truth (2006) and many speaking engagements, wich he earns millions of dollars from. Moreover, the school book comprises an abstract of T.C. Boyle's eco-dystopian novel, A friend of the earth (2000), that displays a rather bleak version of what our future might look like, and a listening comprehension section of Severn Suzuki's famous speech at the Earth Summit 1992 in Brazil.

All in all, although it is (in my opinion) missing a great deal of information on climate change and environmental destruction in general, on why we should care, and on possible solutions, I appreciate that a topic like this is so extensively discussed in a school book.

This leads to the assumption that the topic should also be in the Bavarian curriculum and syllabus, since school books are usually designed according to the state's educational guidelines.

3.2.3 Curriculum and syllabus

In Germany, state governments supervise and influence what is taught and learned in schools. They define the standards, purposes, contents, procedures and forms of evaluation which find their way into schools by way of curricula, syllabuses, and guidelines for school books. The ISB in Munich is in charge of developing the Lehrplan for Bavarian Gymnasiums and specifies what is to be achieved through teaching and learning in each particular grade and subject.

A closer inspection of the Lehrplan for Q11 and Q12 English classes (ISB 2004) reveals that my teaching concept is compatible with the general guidelines of the ISB. The main subject matter of the classes should be authentic texts from different areas of life, including ambitious auditory and audiovisual texts. The development of communicative competence and improving language skills seems to be the main objectives for Q11 classes. Listening to and reading of complex authentic texts, as well as being able to work with, analyze, and discuss the texts, and oral and written expression and mediation skills, should be improved. Being able to understand and respond to complex conversations, discussions, and speeches, as well as being able to comprehend and work with various kinds of texts on a wide range of issues, is an important goal of my lesson concept. It also aims to help students be able to actively engage in classroom interaction by contributing their own thoughts, opinions, and feelings in oral and written form. As already indicated in the school book Green Line by including a section named "Saving the planet", ethical questions concerning environmental problems, such as climate change and energy policy, and potential solutions should be employed to contribute to intercultural learning and cultural studies. In addition, general objectives like learning strategies, methods of working independently, media and social competences are mentioned in the Bavarian curriculum and syllabus for Q11 English classes.

3.3 Theoretical approach

I wanted to give the students access to a variety of resources by employing different types of media with various styles, forms, and points of view. I believe it is important to involve the students in various meaningful tasks of listening, speaking, reading and writing, working in groups, and giving them opportunities to interact in English with others. Literature and media didactics were thus an indispensable starting point for designing the teaching concept.

3.3.1 Didactics

The wide area of didactics [1] is broadly defined as the art or science of teaching. Of particular interest in this paper are the topics and issues discussed in the field of research of Teaching of English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), which is used to refer to situations in which someone learns English in a formal classroom setting. TEFL itself is a complex and heterogeneous field, but I nonetheless consider it important to briefly outline two key developments in the following. As the deficits of the two for a long time predominant elements of English classes in German schools - Landeskunde (regional and cultural studies) and language acquisition through the grammar-translation method which had replaced the audio-lingual and audio-visual method after the Second World War - became obvious in the 1970s,

Communicative language teaching does not target imitation of language use and

. Instead, CLT targets the development of communicative competence, which includes grammatical, discourse, sociocultural, strategic, and mediation competences (ibid., 21ff.).

Since the late 1990s, intercultural communicative competence (ICC) is the main objective in the EFL classroom, it refers to the ability to understand both one's own and foreign cultures, and uses this understanding to communicate with others effectively and appropriately. As a complex phenomenon, intercultural communicative competence encompasses several components, such as the affective and cognitive level, skills of interpreting and relating, skills of discovery and interaction, and critical cultural awareness (ibid., 24ff.).

The negotiation of different meanings, and, at times, the need for a change of perspectives, might also be decisive for being able to profit from the lesson concept presented in this paper.

3.3.2 Literature didactics

Through work with literary and other texts that represent different aspects of a culture, and, therefore, form the basis for the negotiation of meaning, intercultural communicative competence is fostered in the EFL classroom.

3.3.2.1 A brief history of teaching literature

Throughout the early years of the past century, there was the belief that if students of English as a foreign language were continually exposed to the classics of literature - supposedly the best examples of the English language - they would somehow become proficient in the language (Short and Cadlin 2000, 91). However, both the difficulty and the inaccessibility of many literary texts to non-native English speaking students, and the lack of a consistent and suitable methodology for the teaching of literature, instead produced the opposite effect, resulting in the gradual disappearance of literature teaching from the language classroom. From the 1960s to the 1980s, structuralists emphasized the correctness in grammatical form and repetition of a restricted lexis, which was not easy to bring together with the teaching of literature, since literary texts in particular have

. Furthermore, the communicative approach to language teaching during the 1970s and early 1980s emphasized the study of the language for practical purposes, and since literature has no obvious practical uses it does not contribute to the

. The inclusion of literature was

. During this period, surrogate literature replaced authentic texts, and dialogues proliferated as a means of communication and gave the student the necessary tools to communicate in the most practical manner (Short and Candlin 2000, 91). However, during the 1980s there was a strong reawakening of interest in literature and language teaching.

But what exactly makes literature potentially beneficial to education? Nowadays, literature is appreciated in the EFL classroom for providing

. Literature often features multiple layers of meaning, and it can effectively initiate discussions where students share feelings, opinions, or attitudes towards the texts - it encourages interaction of the students with the text, with fellow students and the teacher, and with the content matter that the text represents. Therefore,

and help to develop the students' critical abilities.

3.3.2.2 Approaches to teaching literature

Depending on the objectives of a lesson, teachers can, according to Carter and Long (1991, 2), choose between three models of teaching literature that are associated with specific pedagogic practices and differ in terms of their focus on the texts: the cultural model, where the text is seen as a cultural artifact, the language model, where the text is used as a focus for grammatical and structural analysis, and the personal growth model, where the text is the stimulus for personal growth activities.

Firstly, the cultural model represents the traditional approach to teaching literature and is often used in university courses on literature. Literature is treated as a product of and source of information about the target culture and enables students to understand and appreciate cultures and ideologies different from their own. As to the teaching practices, the model tends to be a more teacher-centered approach and requires learners to explore and interpret the social, political, literary, and historical context of a specific text, and there is little opportunity for extended language work.

Secondly, in contrast to the aforementioned model to teaching literature, the language-based approach emphasizes language itself as the literary medium. Teachers deconstruct literary texts in order to enable the students to access a text in a systematic and methodical way. Consequently, there is little engagement of the learner with the text other than for purely linguistic practice. Literary texts are used in a rather mechanical way to illustrate specific linguistic features such as literal and figurative language. The more learner-centered language model aims to help learners read and study literature more competently. Nevertheless, it seems that such a view ignores the real nature of literature, which is, above all, an expression of art created to communicate feelings, thoughts, and ideas. The readers' responses to the literary texts are totally neglected and the approach may result in demotivating teaching practices, spoiling any pleasure that the reading of good literature can give.

The third approach outlined by Carter and Long - the personal-growth model - is an attempt to bridge the gap between the previous two models by focusing on the particular use of language, as well as putting it in a particular cultural context. It highlights the students' engagement and interaction with the text and encourages the students to make connections between their own personal opinions, feelings, and cultural experiences and those expressed in the text. This process-oriented model focuses on the use of literature as a resource and aims to develop the language competence and literary competence of the students. Since

, students have to be able to interpret the text, construct meaning on the basis of their own experience, and develop critical awareness in order to become critical readers of literary texts and not passive consumers of whatever the teacher tries to teach them.

3.3.2.3 Working with texts

Although a product-based approach might be useful when you simply want to extract information from a non-fiction text, a process-oriented approach, where learners are involved through learner-centered activities, should be chosen by the teacher especially when dealing with literary texts.

But before you can work with a text, it has to be read, and this is a highly complex skill: Ideally, students should be able to integrate both bottom-up and top-down perspectives of the reading process. That is, they construct meaning by simultaneously extracting information from the text and bringing in foreknowledge, individual expectations, and personal experiences (Müller-Hartmann and Schocker-v. Dittfurth 2011, 87f.). Depending on the task and the desired outcome of a reading process, Müller-Hartmann and Schocker-v. Dittfurth (ibid., 89) identified four different levels of involvement of the students: you could make them skim for the gist of a text, scan for specific information, intensively and carefully read to fully understand the information, or extensively read for a long period of time.

Most process-oriented approaches to teaching literature feature the

. Pre-reading tasks are designed to conjure curiosity about the text and give the students an idea of the purpose of reading the text. By building up expectations of what the text has to offer, which they can test against the actual text afterward, the reading experience of the students is intensified. While-reading tasks are usually designed to guide the student through a longer text, for example, with easy-to-answer questions on a handout or the task of making notes. Post-reading tasks are particularly helpful in paving the way for students' communicative proficiency.

3.3.3 Media didactics

Media have always played a vital role in the foreign language classroom

The teacher and the students can be considered as personal media while the blackboard, textbooks, or maps are usually referred to as non-personal or instructional media. Non-personal media is either technical or non-technical and can be further differentiated in terms of the senses they appeal to, for instance, the visual, the auditory, and the audio-visual. With the rise of new media, the teachers' repertoire of tools to simulate learning environments has been largely extended over the last two decades, but these changes also necessitated teaching students how to make use of new media. The Bavarian curriculum fosters media education, which is embedded in several subjects and aims at providing students with media competence. This competence should enable them to orient themselves in a world nowadays dominated by audio-visual media. Media competence has become a key qualification, and comprises electronic and computer literacy. Its purpose is to support a conscious, critical, creative, and self-determined handling of media. Media competence means possessing the skills to effectively and reasonably use media for communication, and to be able to question and to judge it based on their effects, as well as to control them instead being controlled by the media (cf. Surkamp 2004, 2). Once the teacher has ensured that students are capable of using a specific type of media, for example, to find, organize, and make use of the information displayed, both teacher and students can draw from many advantages of multimedia teaching and learning situations.

Many media sources, for example, feature films, music videos, and visualizations, have very high production quality capable of showcasing complex content matter in a short period of time. Media stimulate interest in and draw attention to the content matter under discussion, and offer both cognitive and affective experiences. Apart from being a very powerful motivational tool, media are a very fast and efficient way of presenting and mediating knowledge. Students can experience worlds beyond their own, by showing native speakers in voice and image, and by adding a breath of real life, of culturally important situations and scenery into the classroom. Students may learn abstract, new, and novel concepts more easily when they are presented with the help of multimedia, since audio-visual media tools, such as video, are effective in communicating complex scientific concepts and helping viewers retain that knowledge (cf. Cowen 1984, 131-144). The traditional approach to teaching with the help of multimedia has in most cases been a teacher-centered one, since the teacher transfers expert knowledge to the students by designing learning environments. Nevertheless, if used in an appropriate way, media facilitate learner-centered teaching and intensify interaction among students.

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