Presented at Liberlit 2016, Tokyo Christian Women’s University, February 22nd, 2016

Abstract

The obstacles to the teaching of literature in a foreign language are many. Learners can struggle with lexical and grammatical complexity, idiomatic or metaphorical expressions, and contextual misunderstandings. These obstacles should not prevent teachers from introducing literature, however. This presenter suggests a three stage approach to literature in language classes. In the first stage, the teacher introduces the source material by recasting it via its adaptations (such as comic books, graded readers, television, radio or cinema versions). In the second stage, the learners recycle cultural and linguistic elements to demonstrate their understanding of the literature. Finally, the learners respond to the piece by remixing it and creating a version of their own, in relation to their own cultural context. By allowing the learners to understand foreign language literature on their own terms, we can provide the liminal space for intercultural development.

Introduction

Lazar (1993) identifies three models for working with literature in language classes.

1. Language-based literature teaching, which uses literature primarily as a source for language to study and analyse.
2. Literature as content, in which the students cover specific literary texts in much the same way that they might in their first language.
3. Literature for personal enrichment, in which learners use literature in order to become more intellectually and emotionally involved in language learning.

Does the teacher focus on literature through language, or language though literature? If literature is the focus of academic study and the goal is better understanding of the themes and theory of literature in English, the teacher will need to provide language support – perhaps very little at the graduate level, but maybe a great deal for undergraduates. I would posit that the average university undergraduate in Japan lacks sufficient English proficiency to study literature without significant scaffolding. Thus it may be more profitable to switch our focus and teach language through literature. I would suggest that many of our undergraduates are potentially capable of thinking critically about literature, it is just that they lack practice. Lazar’s models are not mutually exclusive. By using a creative multiliteracy approach I believe we can enable our learners to reach a greater understanding of literature in another language.

What is Literature?

Unsatisfactory as it may be, much like ‘art’, ‘literature’ can anything named as such. If it is deemed so by cultural arbiters, it may be recognised as literature. We can also say that literature foregrounds language and / or has an aesthetic element. In comparison to other texts, literature tends to leave space for interpretation (consider the importance of clarity and precision in an instruction manual or a train timetable as a counterpoint). Finally, I think literature contains the possibility for universality. To quote the theme for this conference..

“Literature conveys subtle truths universal to the human condition. The best study of literature engenders personal responses in student readers and allows them to achieve moments of epiphany, discovery and personal transformation.”

Bringing Literature to the Learner

Source Material - New Page-4

There are many ways in which learners can be supported linguistically and cognitively in their efforts to learn from English literature. I propose a three stage cycle.

Recasting
Activities for activating schemata and preparing the learner for the source material. These activities may use reference materials (such as news videos or short biographical readings) to support contextual or content knowledge, or may involve pre-teaching challenging but significant vocabulary.

Recycling
Activities for exploring the source material together. These activities could focus on the dramatic aspects of the work (such as readers’ theatre) or look at the text critically (as with reading circles).

Remixing
Activities for expanding on and responding to the source material. These activities may be personal (such as asking the learner to write a letter to a character), or collaborative (like staging a recreation of a scene or making a trailer for a cinematic version)

Case Study One: Never Let Me Go

In Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2005 novel, the reader follows narrator Kathy H and her classmates Tommy D and Ruth C as they leave the ‘protective’ environment of their boarding school, Hailsham, and make their way in the world as carers and donors.

Recast

There are some complex ethical, cultural and scientific aspects to this story, and in order to help the learners approach the book / film with confidence these can be introduced through discussion and short video clips. We considered images of the traditional English boarding school, organ donation and cloning and the students were asked to speculate on how these may be connected in the novel. We concluded by watching the trailer for the film and discussing the opening quote.

The breakthrough in medical science came in 1952.
Doctors could now cure the previously incurable.
By 1967, life expectancy passed 100 years.

The uncomfortable truths in ‘Never Let Me Go’ are masked by euphemisms (death is ‘completion’, for example), and there are other terms used frequently in the book which have a special significance . I collected these into simplified glossaries and had students explain their lists to one another.

Recycle

Hailsham, the school which the main characters attend as children, dominates the narrative as a place of both comfort and fear. I selected three passages from early in the novel, in which Kathy H discusses the pavilion, the woods and the sales. Each student read a different passage, then presented it to their classmates.

Remix

Students are asked to respond to the story with short creative writing pieces. They also dramatise short passages from the script and stage them in their own context, or record short conversations between characters which didn’t take place in the book (for example, a discussion between Miss Emily and Madame, after Tommy and Kathy leave their home with Tommy’s artwork).

Some of the materials used for ‘Never Let Me Go’ and ‘Emma / Clueless’ can be found at the website I developed for the film class I teach. You can also find more information on student film making there.

Further Reading

Ali, S. (1993). The reader-response approach: An alternative for teaching literature in a second language. Journal of Reading, 37(4), 288-296.

Day, R. R., & Bamford, J. (1998). Extensive Reading in the Second Language Classroom. Cambridge University Press.

Culler, J. (1997). Literary Theory: A very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford Paperbacks.

Cumming-Potvin, W. (2007). Scaffolding, multiliteracies, and reading circles. Canadian Journal of Education/Revue canadienne de l’éducation, 483-507.

Erten, I. H., & Razi, S. (2009). The Effects of Cultural Familiarity on Reading Comprehension. Reading in a Foreign Language, 21(1), 60-77.

Gersten, R., & Jimenez, R. T. (1994). A delicate balance: Enhancing literature instruction for students of English as a second language. The Reading Teacher, 47(6), 438-449.

Hedgcock, J., & Ferris, D. R. (2009). Teaching readers of English: Students, texts, and contexts. Routledge.

Lazar, G. (1993). Literature and Language Teaching: A guide for Teachers and Trainers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lazar, G. (1994). Using literature at lower levels. ELT journal, 48(2), 115-124.

Liu, J. (2000). The power of readers theater: From reading to writing. ELT Journal, 54(4), 354-361.

What is haiku?

Haiku is a Japanese poetry form. Traditional haiku has a number of rules relating to both form and content.

Each poem consists of three lines, made up of five, seven and five syllables. The entire poem is seventeen syllables long, and can be recited in a single breath.
The first line should end in a ‘cutting’ word.
Every poem contains at least one proscribed seasonal word. These connect the poem to the natural world.
Haiku should relate personal experience and conjure up a visual image. Emotions and moods should be invoked rather than directly stated.

In modern Japanese haiku, and English language haiku, these rules may be ignored or adapted to serve the poet and his / her poetry. For example, urban haiku may not allude to nature at all. International poets may select different words to indicate the seasons.

Whitecaps on the bay:
A broken signboard banging
In the April wind.

(Richard Wright, 1998)

Translations of Japanese haiku into English often capture the mood better if the translator is not required to stick to the syllable structure too rigidly. You may agree that the second translation here is more elegant, even though it breaks the syllable rule. The writer should leave some room for the reader to develop his or her own interpretation.

furu ike ya
kawazu tobikomu
mizu no oto

(Matsuo Bashô, 1686)

an ancient green pond
a frog leaps in from above
splash! the sound of water

an old pond
a frog jumps
the sound of water

Haiku for Accuracy

There are a greater variety of possible syllable patterns in English than in some other languages, including Japanese and Nepali.

Syllable Formation-2

In English, a syllable can be fronted by as many as three opening consonants.

/triː/

onset – nucleus
ccc – v

Many English syllables also include a coda.

/bɜːd/

onset – nucleus – coda
c – v – c

Japanese does not allow this, and in fact almost all Japanese syllables consist of a consonant onset and a vowel nucleus. This leads Japanese speakers to add extra vowel sounds between consonants. Thus tree becomes to-ree. Speakers of languages which lack consonant clusters can benefit from the tight focus on phonology required for English haiku writing.

This tight focus can also be beneficial for both teachers and learners when working on grammatical accuracy. In a long form essay, the extent and variety of error correction is often overwhelming for students – receiving two pages of written work covered in red pen is demotivating, and most of the feedback is unlikely to lead to greater accuracy in subsequent work. Working on three line / seventeen syllable poem, however, learners can focus on prepositions, articles and auxiliary verbs within a very tight framework.

Haiku for Creativity

Traditional haiku writers may use a saijiki – a seasonal lexicon. Creating a saijiki in English is a useful activity for learners to review and recycle the English they already know before they create their own poems. Of course, teachers can ask their haiku writers to stick to a particular theme or to utilise vocabulary from a particular lexical set.

One traditional form of haiku is the haibun, a narrative broken up with haiku. Iida (2010) outlines a process from reading and interpreting the haiku of others to writing one’s own which takes a narrative / free-writing to haiku direction. Learners are asked to write freely about a moment they remember (perhaps on a particular day, to help them focus). They use these notes to create their haiku.

In haiga, poets illustrate their haiku. Either the illustration or the haiku can come first. In the classroom you may ask learners to write haiku for one another’s illustrations, or to bring a photograph from home to use as a prompt for a poem. There are many other ways in which a creative teacher can exploit the rich mental images conjured up by haiku.

Conclusions and Advice

You can choose which rules to follow and which ones to disregard, it all depends on your goal. If you want to work on pronunciation, focusing on syllable patterns seems more important. If you are more interested in working on vocabulary, then it may be better to allow more freedom.

Not every student can write an essay or a short story in English, but a three line poem is certainly achievable. What is surprising is how expressive such short poems can be.

Further Reading

Donegan, P. (2003). Haiku. Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing.

Higginson, W. J., & Harter, P. (1985). The haiku handbook: How to write, share, and teach haiku. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Hunke, M. (2014). Spoken language in motion: Acquiring German basic rhythm and dynamic stress through haiku and tanka. ことばの世界: 愛知県立大学高等言語教育研究所年報, (6), 111-120.

Iida, A. (2008). Poetry writing as expressive pedagogy in an EFL context: Identifying possible assessment tools for haiku poetry in EFL freshman college writing. Assessing Writing 13, 171-179.

Iida, A. (2010). Developing voice by composing haiku: A social-expressivist approach for teaching haiku writing in EFL contexts. English Teaching Forum, 48(1), 28-34.

Iida, A. (2012). Writing haiku in a second language: Perceptions, attitude, and emotions of second language learners. SINO-US English Teaching 9, 1472-1485.

Lee, B. Y. (2011). The Practice of Haiku Writing in Second Language Classrooms. Komaba Journal of English Education, 2, 23-44.

Yasuda, K. (1973). The Japanese haiku: lts essential nature, history, and possibilities in English with selected examples. Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing.

Presented at the Chubu Junior and Senior High School Seminar 2010

First of all, a guide to the five kinds of digital camera I discussed. The ‘traditional’ camcorder, the pocket camcorder, the mobile phone, the digital camera, and the webcam.

A Field Guide to Digital Video from darren elliott on Vimeo.

Then a digital video checklist of things to consider when choosing a camera for a job.

Activities

 

Transcriptions can be a simple way of noticing errors, reflecting on strategies, checking gaps in knowledge and reviewing language. Here is an example video transcription worksheet to give you an idea. Students can transcribe conversations, role plays or even monologues, although I think they should be unscripted initially. Research suggests (see Lynch, below) that transcription can be beneficial as part of a task process.

You may prefer to put the students behind the camera too, in which case you will need to train them in the use of equipment. If all your students have video facilities on their mobile phones, you could have them record short videos over the weekend to discuss in class on Monday – playback through the phones themselves makes this a fairly simple job for the teacher. These could be project or topic related, or you could give the students free reign to express themselves.

If you would like to be even more ambitious, you could release the students to make and edit documentaries, interviews, skits or commercials. You could exchange video messages with students in other countries, remake scenes from movies shot for shot, make news reports or create weekly soap operas. With the tools and the time, let your imagination run wild!

Recording and watching your own classes, or those of colleagues, can also be useful. Check Ruth Wajnryb’s excellent ‘Classroom Observation Tasks’ for ideas.

Links

Vimeo is the video hosting service I use. The pro service is cheap, has a massive 5GB weekly upload limit, can be password protected, and looks great. It is also free of the awful commentary one comes across on youtube, with a great community of artists, animators and film makers. Students can visit the site directly and watch the video just by typing in a pre-agreed password. No registration or log-in required.

Dropbox provides free online storage, back-up, and synching between computers. Premium services are available, but if you can get your friends to sign up to the free package you get free bonus storage. Your students don’t have to sign up to anything, you can upload video files and send students a download link by email. Very simple.

WordPress is a great blogging platform (this blog is a wordpress blog) to which you can directly upload video, as long as it not too large. Some services allow you to post by email. Each of the four student blogs I am administrating this semester has a unique email address. I give this email out to the students and they can post text, photos or videos to the communal blog to share. A great way to collaborate on projects, and to stay in touch over the long summer holiday.

There are absolutely hundreds of digital video formats available, some rare, some very common. This list helps you figure them out, and free software like Any Video Converter will help you convert them if necessary.

I have bookmarked a lot of stuff which turned up during online research here at diigo … have a look around!

Further Reading

Allan, M. (1985). Teaching English with Video. Harlow, UK: Longman

Geddes, M. & Sturtridge, G. (Eds.) (1982). Video in the Language Classroom. London: Heinemann.

McGovern, J. (Ed.)(1983). Video Applications in English Language Teaching. Oxford: Pergamon.

(Three fantastic books. Not only are many of the ideas and activities still relevant today, but issues such as format incompatibility and teacher techno-fear seem to have quite a history….)

Brewster, M. (2009). Lights, Camera, Action. English Teaching Professional, 64 (September), 59 – 62.

(Some really great practical activities, highly recommended)

Shrosbree, M. (2008). Digital Video in the Language Classroom. The JALT CALL Journal, 4/1, 75 – 84.

(Slightly more technical, also practical)

Grayson, K. (2010). Flippin’ Out. Technological Horizons in Education Journal, March, 35 – 38.

(Useful overview of a number of handheld ‘pocket’ camcorders, although already dating fast!)

Lynch, T. (2007). Learning from the transcripts of an oral communication task. English Language Teaching Journal, 61/4, 311 – 319

Stillwell. C., Curabba, B., Alexander, K., Kidd, A., Kim, E., Stone, P. & Wyle, C. (2010). Students transcribing tasks: noticing fluency, accuracy, and complexity. English Language Teaching Journal, 64/4, 445 – 455.

(Two of many articles exploring the value of transcription)

Two workshop prezis from JALTCALL 2010 at Kyoto Sangyo University, Japan, May 29th – 30th 2010.

Parallel Learning: How online teacher development informs classroom practice

Video blogging and Podcasting: Interviews with English Language Teaching Professionals

As you can imagine, there is a fair bit of overlap between the two sessions, so I chose to use the ‘flavour of the month’ presentation tool to make one big slide with two different pathways. It was really fun mapping it out… I am not sure if it helps me think differently, in a less linear fashion, or if it just panders to the mind’s natural inclination towards multiplicity. But this is my first paper run through….

Anyway, I am not sure whether it is such a bad thing to have ones thoughts marshalled into straight lines by PowerPoint or Keynote. Something about Prezi does scream ‘Big Fat Gimmick!’, but let’s enjoy the whizz bang fireworks while they last.

Because I hate decontextualised slides so much (one of the greatest dangers to academic discourse today, I’ll venture, is the proliferation of mute online slideshows, stripped of the only thing which gives them a life) I have recorded a run through with commentary so you know what all the pictures mean. It’s forty minutes condensed into twenty, so it’s both too long to watch online and not long enough to make any sense. Apologies for the mumble, everyone else is asleep and I really ought to be myself.

Parallel Learning: How online teacher development informs classroom practice from darren elliott on Vimeo.

I made this using iShowU HD, which works very nicely. Screentoaster also seems good, but a bit more obtrusive.

If you were at either of the sessions in Kyoto, thanks! Questions or comments are very welcome.