The significance of reading in the English class. A lesson plan with Khaled Hosseini's "A Thousand Splendid Suns"

Seminar Paper, 2011

15 Pages, Grade: 1,7



1 Introduction

2. Didactic Analysis
2.1 Reference to Syllabus
2.2 Purpose of Lesson Plan
2.3 Summary of the novel

3 Methodical Analysis
3.1 Portrayal of the procedure
3.2 Lesson Plan of lessons 1-12
3.3 Detailed Lesson Plan

4 Résumé

5 Conclusion

6 Bibliography

1 Introduction

Teaching English as a foreign language means a great challenge which would certainly be answered by all English teachers in the affirmative. Today every school in Germany offers English as school subject, even the primary schools. Consequently it must be put great emphasis on teaching it accurately by taking into consideration any aspect of English language acquisition when learning it, for example the acquisition of a distinctive vocabulary, the ability to use grammar rules correctly, the ability to spell correctly, the ability to understand what is been said when native speakers talk in English which we call listening comprehension. Another very important part of learning English as a foreign language is undisputedly reading comprehension. The ability to read out correctly, to understand what is been read and to be able to work with a text effectively is not only a competence that should be concentrated on in the foreign language but also in the mother tongue. The PISA Study is a perfect proof of this which will be mentioned later on. In this paper I will try to accentuate the importance and significance of reading in the English class. In order to illustrate this I will introduce the novel A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, an American author and doctor with Afghan origins, and use it for the elaboration of the importance of reading activities in the English class. Initially I will focus on the didactic analysis which includes the reference to the syllabus. The syllabus is of course the signpost in terms of guidelines when planning the lessons, choosing age-appropriate media and methods. What role does reading play in this context? What is said in the syllabus when it comes to reading? The next step would be to explain why I have chosen A Thousand Splendid Suns in this context. For what reason I am of the opinion that it can be read in the grade and school given below. I also focus on the topics that can be made use of in class when working with the novel, which aspects given in the text could be used to discuss it with pupils. Then the novel will be summarized in short by also taking into account the author's vita in short to have a better understanding of what is important in the usage of the book. After this didactic analysis there will also be a methodical analysis which includes a portrayal of the procedure which means this contains information about which school and which grade should consult this novel in class. Also important is here the duration of the text work and the alternation of tasks to avoid monotony which will be explained later on in chapter 3.1. This portrayal is followed by the lesson plan which is worked out for twelve lessons. One of the lessons, namely the second lesson is explained in detail in tabular form which also informs about the time that is given to each step during the lesson. The résumé focuses on the point whether this novel is appropriate for the given

class or not and the reasons for this. In the conclusion there will be a personal opinion on the question in how far this novel is highly recommended for reading comprehension in the English class and if so, which conditions must be there to use this text accurately. Moreover the importance of reading in school per se is mentioned to point out whether it is essential or not.

2. Didactic Analysis

2.1 Reference to Syllabus

Why reading in the English class? What is the importance of reading texts in the foreign language? “Reading is like an infectious disease: it is caught not taught. And you can't catch it from someone who hasn't got it himself”[1] This quotation refers to the fact that the motivation to read is an essential premise to develop a reading competence. In this context the foreign language class should contribute to the establishment of an age-appropriate reading culture. So as I mentioned beforehand the enhancement of reading in the English class is undisputedly an enrichment in terms of establishing foreign language skills but it also stimulates reading in general, for example in the mother tongue. Statistics prove that there is a massive lack of reading motivation in the case of children. The PISA Study, for example, found out in 2001 that many children hardly read or do not read at all. 42 % of them do not read because of the pleasure to be experienced and 31% are of the opinion that reading means a waste of time. Interestingly enough, 55% of the boys are nonreaders. The interest to read diminishes intensely: This is given for children aged 8 to 10 and those between 11 and 13 years of age. So what the school has to do here is to convey basic reading experiences. Hurrelmann (2003) says that pupils rarely read in class in order to gain emotional benefit and aesthetic pleasure. Texts used in class should be age-appropriate respectively appropriate for the pupils, the topics should be interesting for teenagers, for example they should include aspects like the transition to adulthood, the search of one's identity, problems with parents, teachers and peers. They should not overcharge in a linguistic manner, the difficulty level should also be appropriate. Authenticity is also essential so that the pupils can better understand what the text says. And they should get the opportunity to be included in terms of choosing literature in the class. Furthermore the text should allow various kinds of motivational methods for textual work.[2] In terms of

reading comprehension the Bavarian syllabus for the tenth grade Realschule emphasizes that it is the aim of the English class for pupils to be able to deduce long and unknown texts on their own and to interpret them. They shall be able to perceive the author's intention, the genre of the text and the structure of the text referring to the content. It is important that the pupils understand authentic texts with few unknown language elements. The tenth grade requires topics like aspects of society, culture and science deriving from the English speaking world. In preparation for language acquaintances that take place extracurricular, authentic listening and reading texts play a great role in this grade. In this context it is vital that texts are included that enhance the person to utter statements or enable the exchange of ideas. As far as reading comprehension is concerned it is the aim of the English class at Realschule that pupils get the ability to interpret authentic material for projects and presentations independently, for example in the Internet. They learn how to read simple literary texts among others autonomously and to compare topics in various papers, for example quality press and popular press.[3] The syllabus of Hesse for the tenth grade Realschule says – to name another German syllabus – that reading skills are essential for the following tasks: a pupil should be able to isolate a text thematically by its title and by using his or her foreknowledge. This knowledge should then be used to classify the texts. Moreover reading should be put emphasis on so that the children can filter out the essence of a text, and recognize the main problem that is portrayed in it.[4] So it can be concluded that reading in the English class is indispensable and an essential part of foreign language acquisition as well as the acquisition of vital skill in terms of textual work both in English and in another language.

2.2 Purpose of Lesson Plan

The decision to chose this novel is evident. It is relatively new as it was first published in Great Britain in 2007. Usually students tend to prefer books that are not that old of date. Moreover the first novel of the author Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner, gained so much recognition that it is obvious that this book will be interesting for students, too, as far as the latter know the first novel for it is important to also take the students into consideration when choosing a book to work on in class. For Realschule I would recommend it for the tenth grade but not earlier as the topics in the novel require a certain maturity because of

topics such as domestic violence, the position of women in society and social isolation

among other things. Furthermore the vocabulary given in the book is better suited for students older than 15 years as they have a greater vocabulary and possess more knowledge about the foreign language than their younger school friends. A Thousand Splendid Suns offers a wide range of topics pupils can effectively work on. First of all it draws a colorful picture of Afghanistan in general as a foreign country, culture and nation but also the Afghanistan as it was like before the Russian Invasion and the later reign by the Taliban and last but not least the post-Afghanistan with all the violence and war it has to face today. Some of the facts and issues that are mentioned in the text are taken from the Afghan history and are consequently authentic. So we gain an insight into the historical facts of Afghanistan over the years. Another aspect that can perfectly be used in class when working with the novel is the gender aspect in Muslim states like Afghanistan where women seem to be completely without rights. This also includes domestic violence when talking about Afghan women who miss almost all sorts of rights which is mirrored in the marriages of those women if we think of the polygamy in Afghanistan, for instance, which is quite common there. Apart from that one great aspect of the novel is certainly friendship as this is almost the only thing that makes it possible for Rasheed's two wives to bear all the violence and the cruel life they seem to be doomed to. These topics can all be treated in class and will certainly meet a positive response.

2.3 Summary of the novel

The novel “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini is the second of his two novels at present. The author was born in 1965 in Kabul, Afghanistan. His parents were both working academics, his father being a diplomat and his mother a teacher of Farsi and history. The coup that took place in 1978 and the following invasion by the Russian military made the family flee for the United States where they received political asylum in the year 1980. They finally arrived in San Jose, California. His father started working there as a driving instructor. Khaled Hosseini works as a doctor and is living with his family, his wife and two children in Northern California. His first novel, The Kite Runner, has received a very high critical but also popular acclaim.[5]

The novel is divided into four parts, the first concentrates on Mariam, one of the female protagonists in the story, whereas the second part brings Laila, the second female protagonist, into focus. As far as the third part is concerned, it portrays a mixture between

chapters about Mariam on the one hand and those about Laila on the other. The forth and

last part of the novel then is again concentrating on Laila. These two women are, as mentioned beforehand, the main protagonists of the story. They both live in Afghanistan, with Mariam born in 1959 while Laila was born in 1978, and although they have derived from totally different backgrounds, they will come together and develop a very intense relationship in the course of the story.

Mariam is a fourteen-year-old Afghan girl who lives with her mother Nana in a so-called kolba, which is a sort of shack. They live in Herat which is a rural area of Afghanistan. As she is an illegitimate child, she is not allowed to contact her father Jalil, to visit him or even to live with him. However, Jalil who is rich and has three wives with several own and legitimate children visits her every Thursday. Nana, in the meanwhile does not approve of his visits and so she always tries to convince her daughter about the fact that he does this only to silence his conscience and not because he has emotional feelings for his illegitimate daughter. On the day Mariam turns fifteen she plans to leave her mother's home in order to visit Jalil because he had promised to come but did not show up. Believing that she has lost her daughter forever her mother Nana commits suicide which she had in some kind announced to Mariam already before. As Mariam cannot stay in the kolba on her own she is brought to her father Jalil's house where his wives extremely disapprove of the thought of having the illegitimate child of their husband in their home. Consequently she soon must marry 45 year-old Rasheed, a shoemaker, who abuses her throughout their marriage, mainly for the reason that his wife Mariam is infertile. He once had a family, a wife and a son whom he had lost long ago which made him frustrated and pessimistic towards life in general.

The other protagonist of the story, Laila, lives in Mariam's neighborhood after the latter has been married to Rasheed for many years. Laila who is a beautiful young girl is a close friend of Tariq, a young boy who lives near Laila with his parents. After the war had begun in Afghanistan, Tariq's parents deny staying any longer in their home town and so they leave the country. Unfortunately, Laila's parents get killed by a rocket as they were also attempting to leave Afghanistan. Laila's injuries make Rasheed and Mariam take care for her. After she has recovered Rasheed deceives Laila by telling her that Tariq is dead because she pleases him. This is why he really wants to marry her. As she is pregnant with Tariq's child she will not have any choice but marrying him. The child Laila gives birth to is a girl which makes Rasheed becoming abusive towards Laila, too. In the meantime Mariam and Laila become very close friends and make plans to escape from Rasheed. But

having failed only the first time, he deprives them of water for several days which almost kills Aziza, Laila's and Tariq's daughter. Years later Tariq appears outside the house. They are happy being reunited, but Rasheed hears of this as Laila let him in the house. His son Zalmai lets his father know about this. Furiously Rasheed starts to savagely beat Laila. Trying to help her Mariam kills Rasheed with a shovel. She confesses to the murder and will be executed, while Laila and Tariq leave for Pakistan with the two children Aziza and Zalmai, the latter being Rasheed's and Laila's son. The fall of the Taliban makes Laila and Tariq possible to return to Afghanistan. Together they fix up an orphanage where Laila starts working. She is pregnant with her third child which she will call Mariam.


[1] Cf. Fässler, Georg: Aufbaukurs Lektüre: Reading. Wintersemester 2010/11. Uni Erlangen-Nürnberg

[2] Cf. Fässler, Georg. Ibd.

[3] (6.03.2011)

[4] (6.03.2011)

[5] Hosseini, Khaled, A Thousand Splendid Suns, London: Bloomsbury, 2007. 415

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The significance of reading in the English class. A lesson plan with Khaled Hosseini's "A Thousand Splendid Suns"
Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg  (Lehrstuhl Fremdsprachendidaktik)
Seminar “Young Adult Fiction”
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Ayse Gökce (Author), 2011, The significance of reading in the English class. A lesson plan with Khaled Hosseini's "A Thousand Splendid Suns", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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