How to Teach English Literature
English literature is a cornerstone of cultural history, including vital works that constitute the pinnacle of human artistic achievement. But it can be difficult to convey their richness and complexity to children. Many pieces of English literature are simply beyond children’s ability to absorb, while others leave them bored and restless. The purpose of teaching English literature to kids is to instill in them a love of the stories and to prepare them for more thorough study as they grow older. The right lesson plan can help you do this
Start with more accessible works. Many people grow up reading fiction. Fiction can capture someone’s attention and understanding quite easily. Elementary school students may have spent hours following the adventures of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy in “Little Women.” Modern-day students have delighted in the antics of Harry and Hermoine in the “Harry Potter” series. Use works that draw readers in with themes they can relate to in their own daily lives.
Work on vocabulary. Many works of art are art because the author uses language in a precise and thrilling way. Expand student vocabularies with a list of words that might otherwise remain a mystery to them. Encourage students to ask you if they do not know the meaning of a word.
Take them to see a play. Students who struggle with the subtleties of “Romeo and Juliet” may find a production of the play makes the work come alive thrillingly. A play based on a novel can help students understand the background of the novel and motivate them to listen more carefully to the written text. Look for low-cost productions. Many theaters offer discounts for students and teachers.
Have students write a novel of their own. Use works of literature to help students inspire their own self-expression and imagination. Ask them to begin by reading a scene from a book. Then have them rewrite the scene with their own characters or with family and friends from their own lives.
Ask students to read text out loud in class. Every student should read at least one paragraph from the book they are studying. Ask students questions about the material to have them illustrate their understanding of the book. Write questions on the board for other students to see and think about as they read.
Visit museums and others places that may have inspired the author of the piece you’re studying. If your students live in New York City have them visit the streets of lower Manhattan that Edith Wharton knew and adored.