Teaching Novels in the EFL-Classroom

Term Paper, 2011

14 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Literary Texts in the EFL-Classroom
2.1. Why is literature used in the EFL-classroom?
2.2. How to find appropriate literature?

3. Working with the Text
3.1. Pre-reading phase
3.2. While-reading phase
3.3. Post-reading phase

4. Text Sample: “Gracey” by James Moloney
4.1. Topic and style of the novel
4.2. Reasons for selecting this novel
4.3. Lesson outline
4.4. Explanations on the lesson outline
4.4.1. Introduction/Pre-reading phase
4.4.2. While-reading phase
4.4.3. Collecting results
4.4.4. Transfer
4.4.5. Didactic reserve/homework

5. Conclusion



1. Introduction

Literature is one of the most important features of the English-as-Foreign-Language- classroom (EFL). It can be taught through different methods and genres. In the course of the seminar we got to know some of these methods which help to design interesting and creative lessons. Since there was the introduction of a certain standard of education in 2003[1], having the function of improving the culture of learning in secondary schools, it becomes obvious that literary texts are an essential part of the education plan. Education is not seen as retrievable knowledge anymore. It is looked at in its entirety. Therefore, the school should teach pupils to be independent und to develop their own personality. Of course, this also means thinking over the old teaching methods and pay attention to interdisciplinary factors. This aspect is especially important as English - apart from German - can be considered the most important subject concerning the fields of creativity and communication. Additionally, the acquirement of a foreign language leads to intercultural competence, identity formation, change of perspective and tolerance. Thus, it is also particularly literature that pays attention to these goals.

In this term paper I will focus on the teaching of novels and their impact on language teaching. For this reason I will firstly answer the questions why literature is important in EFL-classrooms and examine which kind of texts are appropriate for teaching. Afterwards, I will talk briefly about the reception of novels with the help of pre-, while- and post-reading phases. Finally, all these theoretical aspects will be part of the last chapter, where the young adult novel “Gracey” by James Moloney will serve as an example. There will be a lesson outline to demonstrate how the previous points could be put into practice and to display which competences are most acquired and improved.

2. Literary Texts in the EFL-Classroom

According to Johann Aßbeck, teaching literature is first of all the following:

“Literaturunterricht bedeutet zunächst nichts anderes, als über diese Irritationen, über die unterschiedlichen individuelle Textrezeptionen ins Gespräch zu kommen um im Gespräch die eigene Textrezeption zu erforschen.“[2] But of course, one should take a closer look at this topic as there are different types of literature and not every piece of literature is appropriate for the EFL-classroom.

2.1. Why is literature used in the EFL-classroom?

Generally, one can state that “literature offers a bountiful and extremely varied body of written material which is important in the sense that it says something about fundamental human issues, and which is enduring rather than ephemeral.”[3] Especially “authentic literature”, such as newspapers or advertisements, is essential in this context as it contains genuine and undistorted language. Through these types of literature learners get the impression of really using the language meaningfully as they read the same texts as native speakers and consequently learn common “forms and conventions of the written mode”[4] and “gain familiarity with many features […] - the formation and function of sentences, the variety of possible structures, the different ways if connecting ideas”[5]. Especially the variety of different genres provides several forms of speaking situations which do not only display everyday communication, but also other types of it that are “sometimes elaborate[d], sometimes marvellously simple […]”[6].

Another fundamental topic which is taught through literature is culture. Of course pupils do not have all the opportunity to visit the foreign country whose language is being learned and its culture. So, “indirect routes”[7] are necessary to understand it. For this reasons, not only videos and radio programmes are used but also literature. What literature provides is though that the imagined world in novels makes the reader know what the characters in a particular country may feel, enjoy or talk about. Additionally, historical novels can demonstrate what “life was like in that other territory”[8].

All in all, literature is crucial as it can be seen as one of the basis for further activities in the EFL-classroom which lead to the active use of the target language either through speaking or through writing tasks. In other words: “The study of literature provides practice in reading comprehension and can greatly enhance students’ vocabulary as well as their ability to synthesize and think critically […]”[9].

2.2. How to find appropriate literature?

If one wants to read literature in class it is necessary to find appropriate literature which is suitable for the learners in the prevailing class. One possibility to find the right literature is the division into the “three C’s - catalogue, canon, criteria”[10].

The term catalogue means that one can find brochures in which books are listed according to age or reading ability. Teachers knowing their class can then select a book which is relevant for the class and which provides new ideas for teaching. Canons, on the other hand, help to find so-called good literature. In other words, canons may serve as a guideline, even if they sometimes also pose problems, as some works could be too difficult for certain age groups. This would be then counterproductive as pupils could lose interest.[11]

Therefore, it can help to examine some several criteria with regard to different keywords, e.g. school, learner and text. Regarding school, it is essential to look at the kind of school and the level (primary, secondary). Secondly, one should focus on the learner and his characteristics. The centre of attention should be at the age, the level of proficiency, interests and background. “If [the text] is meaningful and enjoyable, reading is more likely to have a lasting and beneficial effect upon the learners’ linguistic and cultural knowledge […]. Books [should be] relevant to [their] life experiences, emotions, or dreams”[12]. All these points are of great import if one wants to achieve that pupils participate actively in class. But, the most significant part of selection is to analyse the text itself. Which length has the text? What is its linguistic difficulty? Is text-related media available? Can it be used as methodological material, such as lesson plans, worksheets or analysis? Or does the text provide exploitability for language leaning (skills, competences)?[13] These are questions useful to decide if a text is appropriate.

Another approach to selecting a literary work is to combine teacher initiative and student decisions.

3. Working with the Text

Having finally selected the appropriate novel for the class, there is another question to be answered, namely how to use this literature in class so that it is enjoyable and understandable for the learners and, at the same time, fulfills the teacher’s goals. To initiate these processes needed to understand the language, the content and the cultural implications of a foreign-language text, the working is divided into three phases: a pre-, a while-, and a post-reading phase. All these phases aim at supporting the learners’ interaction with the text so that they can develop strategies for interpreting it.

Additionally, it highlights the fact that reading and understanding is a complex process which must be trained step by step.[14]

3.1. Pre-reading phase

The pre-reading phase is a “’learning to learn’ skill. It is about how to read or meet a text and therefore promotes the learners’ awareness of their responsibility for their own learning”[15] In other words, it is used for preparation and is therefore a key element for the ensuing phases. For instance, it targets at arousing the pupils’ interest, curiosity and intention and wants to get them in the right frame of mind for the unknown text. Furthermore, it helps to find out and activate students’ background knowledge, both culturally and linguistically and to possibly provide additional information.

Conceivable pre-reading activities could be for example the following: visual or acoustic media (pictures, videos, photos etc.), brainstorming or other introductory texts (e.g. journal articles).[16]

3.2. While-reading phase

To guarantee the learners’ text reception and to encourage them to active reading is the first goal of the while-reading phase. As longer literary texts cannot be read completely in the classroom and therefore have to be perused at home, learners have to be animated by special tasks or work sheets. Through these methods, the pupils should learn to be creative, to record important facts, to develop and be able to articulate personal opinions and reflect on the text.

There are many examples of while-reading activities, as they can be both playful and systematic. An example of a playful activity could be “jumbled phrases”, where sentences of the text must be put into the right chronological order. In contrast, there can be systematic activities, such as “Multiple Choice”-questions where students can test their current knowledge.[17]

3.3. Post-reading phase

After the reading it is crucial to include post-reading activities. These activities make pupils apply their analytical and creative skills to the text but also beyond it. They could for instance tackle new insights or supraindividual problems.

To achieve this, one could let pupils rewrite (into another type of text), expand or clearly define text passages. Another possibility could be that learners act critically and personally by, for example, writing a reading recommendation[18] or expand their vocabulary by finding words in a dictionary.

4. Text Sample: “Gracey” by James Moloney

4.1. Topic and style of the novel

The novel “Gracey” by James Moloney deals with three main topics: complicated relationships, search for identity and racial issues. The topic of relationship contains the emotional tension between her and her brothers, especially after her mother’s death and the problems she has to face with regard to the aboriginal community she lives in. The further topic, identity, refers to Gracey’s inner conflict. On the one hand Gracey tries to behave and wants to be like the white people and eventually discovers that she has white ancestors. On the other hand she wants to fight for the Aborigines’ rights and starts to accept her culture and heritage. The last, most important topic is then racial issues, including the unemployment and former mass killings of Aborigines and the community’s reaction to it.[19]

The style of the novel is also very interesting and offers a lot of possibilities for teachers, as there is not only one single narration. The majority of the novel is told in Gracey’s point of view or rather in the first person and past tense. In contrast, there is Dougy’s - Gracey’s little brother - part of narration, also told in the first person, but in present tense. Both narratives make the novel very authentic as both protagonists describe the events emotionally so that they appear as very genuine and as true characters to the reader.[20]

4.2. Reasons for selecting this novel

The novel “Gracey” by James Moloney is very appropriate for learners of English, especially the “Easy Reader”-Edition. In the book cover the following is stated:

This edition has been abridged and simplified to provide graduated reading exercises for students of English. Vocabulary and sentence structures have been selected because of their high frequency and practical value to the learners. Words which are difficult to understand in context or fall out of the Easy Reader frequency modules are explained by footnotes in simple English or by illustrations.[21]

Apart from the linguistic reason of selecting this novel, it is also suitable because of its topic. Its main themes which are complicated relationship, the search for identity and racial problems are always topical and interesting to discuss as everybody already faced at least one of them. Consequently, these themes offer of possibilities for including the whole class in a lesson. As the whole novel deals with Australia and their native inhabitants it is maybe needed to “consider how much background, [for example the social values, one has] to provide for [the] students”[22] beforehand so that all the conflicts are understandable for the readers.

4.3. Lesson outline

See annex. Due to practical reasons and the fact that most of the lesson outlines are made in German, this outline is also in the German language, whereas the explanations in the following are in English.

4.4. Explanations on the lesson outline

The lesson outline was created for an 8th grade which started with the topic of ethnical identities and already knows some facts and the problematic of this theme. The novel “Gracey” by James Moloney should therefore support and expand this knowledge. It is the first lesson of this series and the pupils do not have the books yet.[23]

4.4.1. Introduction/Pre-reading phase

After having greeted the pupils, the teacher starts the lesson with the pre-reading phase. For this phase he - for practical reasons the male form will be used - consults pictures of the original novel and presents them to the students with the help of an overhead projector. The task is to describe the pictures very detailed so that every part of the picture is highlighted. For instance, it is important that pupils recognise the crane in the background of one of the pictures. For this reason, unknown words should be then written down by the teacher on the board, as they are important for the text phases of the lesson. The main intention of this part of the lesson is that pupils require communicative competences namely verbal skills, the ability to discuss and cognitive competences such as coherent thinking. The overall aim of the showing of pictures is to arouse the pupils’ interest and curiosity for the story. For this part of the lesson I planned about 10min which may be not enough if the pupils start discussing some of the pictures trying to imagine a story which could fit to the images.

4.4.2. While-reading phase

After the discussing of the picture, I would lead to the next part of the lesson by telling the learners that all the pictures are part of the novel they would read in class. Then, I would hand in the first part of chapter one of the novel as a copy and a worksheet. It is


[1]Cf.“Bildungsstandards der Kultusministerkonferenz.” schulministerium.nrw.de. Ministerium für Schule und Weiterbildung des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen. 17th March 2011 <http://www.schulministerium.nrw.de/BP/Schulsystem/Qualitaetssicherung/Standardsetzung1/KMK/inde x.html >.

[2]Johann Aßbeck. “Pre-reading activities und ihre Auswirkungen auf das fremdsprachliche Rezeptionsgespräch” in Jarfe, G. Literaturdidaktik - konkret: Theorie und Praxis des fremdsprachlichen Literaturunterrichts. Anglistik & Englischunterricht 61. Heidelberg: Winter, 35.

[3]Joan Collie and Stephen Slater. Literature in the Language Classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987, 3.

[4]Collie and Slater, 4.

[5]Collie and Slater, 5.

[6]Collie and Slater, 5.

[7]Collie and Slater, 4.

[8]Collie and Slater, 4.

[9]Richard Beach and James Marshall. Teaching literature in the secondary school. Orlando: Craig McClain Photography, 1991, 17.

[10]Engelbert Thaler. Teaching English Literature. Paderborn: Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh GmbH & Co. KG, 2008, 18.

[11]Thaler, 19.

[12]Collie and Slater, 6.

[13]Cf. Thaler, 18-20.

[14]Vgl Nünning, Ansgar und Carola Surkamp. Englische Literatur Unterrichten 1. Grundlagen und Methode. Seelze-Velber: Klett, 2008, 71.

[15]Bassnett, Susan and Peter Grundy. Language Through Literature. Singapore: Longman, 1993, 50.

[16]Cf. Nünning, Ansgar und Carola Surkamp, 72.

[17]Cf. Nünning, Ansgar und Carola Surkamp, 79.

[18]Cf. Nünning, Ansgar und Carola Surkamp, 80.

[19]James Moloney. “Teachers notes on Gracey.“ jameymoloney.com.au. James Moloney’s Homepage. 23th February 2011. < http://www.jamesmoloney.com.au/Teachers_Notes_for_Gracey.htm >.

[20]Cf. < http://www.jamesmoloney.com.au/Teachers_Notes_for_Gracey.htm >.

[21]Moloney, James. Gracey. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1994.

[22]Gillian Lazar. Literature and Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993, 53.

[23]Cf. Andreas Nieweler. Fachdidaktik Französisch.Tradition - Innovation - Praxis. Stuttgart: Klett, 56. 9

Excerpt out of 14 pages


Teaching Novels in the EFL-Classroom
University of Paderborn
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ISBN (Book)
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EFL-Classroom, James Moloney, Teaching Novels, Teaching Literature
Quote paper
Cristina dSF (Author), 2011, Teaching Novels in the EFL-Classroom, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/270530


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