Teaching Migrant Youth Literature in a Secondary I School Using Drama Activities

Term Paper, 2019

22 Pages, Grade: 7


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. The Definition of Literature
2.1 The Novel - a form of Literature
2.2 Young Adult Literature - a subgenera of the Novel
2.3 Migrant Youth Literature - a form of Young Adult Literature

3. The importance of teaching Literature in a Foreign English Language Classroom
3.1 Teaching migrant youth literature in a foreign English language classroom
3.2 Teaching “Be Strong, My Abela” in a 10th grade of a secondary I school as an example of migrant youth literature

4. Conclusion

List of literature


1. Introduction

The process of migration is an intensely personal experience. It seems easy for societies who live in peace and are well-off to judge people who migrate to the countries they live in. However, no one knows how painful it feels to leave a place that home for years. Literature is a cultural artifact that enables readers to cross borders. Migrant youth literature offers students the possibility to have an insight across the borders that are constructed by society. Besides that, migrant youth literature offers an intercultural and multilingual map of the world that redraws boundaries by building bridges between people.

The following term paper deals with teaching migrant youth literature in a foreign English language classroom by using drama strategies in a 10th grade of a secondary I school. The second chapter of this term paper analyzes the term literature and defines its subgenres novel and young adult literature. Referring to that, the second chapter concludes with the analyzes and description of migrant youth literature since it is fundamental for this term paper. The third chapter explains the importance of teaching literature in a foreign English language classroom by using drama strategies with the focus on migrant youth literature. For this purpose, the novel “Be Strong, My Abela” is taken into consideration for teaching a 10th grade of a secondary I school in migrant youth literature. The term paper ends with a conclusion about the necessity of teaching migrant youth literature in a foreign English language classroom.

2. The Definition of Literature

The term literature has already arisen before writing was invented as a form of verbal art that was used for communication purposes. At that time, literature was a medium to express experiences, thoughts or feelings by utilizing “the artistic form of the word” (Ngara 4). As a consequence thereof, literature was orally produced and handed down within stories from generation to generation. After writing was invented, people learnt to compose literary texts written down on something physical (Ngara 4f.).

The following chapter deals with literature as a term used to describe written material. The term literature cannot be precisely defined as a piece of writing. “Although countless literary theorists have tried to do so. Everybody seems to have an intuitive understanding of (…) literature” (Thaler 14). Terry Eagleton boils the term literature down by claiming that literature can be “anything (…), and … any belief that the study of literature is the study of stable, well-definable entity (…) can be abandoned (…). Some kinds of fiction are literature and some are not; some literature is fictional and some is not; some literature is verbally self-regarding, while some highly-wrought rhetoric is not literature. Literature, in the sense of a set of works of assured and unalterable value, distinguished by certain shared (…) properties, does not exist” (Showalter 21).

Obviously, Eagletons definition of literature is vague but describes what literature is: constantly changing and evolving (Lombardi “What Literature Can Teach Us? Communication and research skills - and how to be a better human being”). However, one can assign a written text as literature by analyzing the language used in literary texts because "[l]iterature often uses a heightened[, expressive] and excessive language“ (Showalter 21). Ngara additionally explains that the language in literary texts imparts “emotional experiences, (…) challenges the intellect and provokes the imagination (…)” (6). Despite this, literature can be classified in six categories “to structure and order the (…) amount of [existing literary] texts” (Thaler 17) (Appendix I). The most influential category within literature is the genre since every literary text is based on a genre. “Genres are ‘constructs based on socio-cultural, literary and social consensus’” (Vosskamp, cited in Thaler 18). A Genre is characterized by features and distinctive styles in the form they are composed (Thaler 18). The three main genres are categorized as lyrical texts - poetry, narrative texts - prose and dramatic texts - drama. Each genre can further be broken down in subgenres (Appendix II). This term paper deals with the genre of prose since the topic of it is teaching migrant youth literature in a secondary I school which is covered in the narrative texts of novels.

2.1 The Novel - a form of Literature

The following chapter explains the term novel by defining its major features. A novel is a form of literature that belongs to the genre of prose. The narrative text in a novel is based on realistic fiction. In consideration of this, it is necessary to describe the term fiction. Fiction is a written story created by the imagination of an author and is divided into the “categories (…) realistic (…) and non-realistic fiction” (Ngara 36). Realistic fiction comprises an imaginative story, which is an imitation of life and therefore “reflects social reality” (Ngara 36). Since a novel is based on realistic fiction it gives an accurate description of the reality and “can be very close to the real experiences of [people]” (Ngara 38). Besides that, the language used in fiction is much closer to the language of everyday speech which ensures the reader an easy access to the story of the narrative (Ngara 39). The most essential literary elements of a novel are defined as the story, the plot, the setting, the characters, the theme, the writer’s style and technique as well as the voice (Ngara 36f.; Bond 250ff.). It is necessary to know these elements in order to understand and analyze a novel as well as to discuss its content.

1. The story is a concatenation of events that take place in a time chain. The events are somehow linked together to form the story dealt within the novel (Ngara 36).
2. The plot is an aspect of the story and shows how a series of events interact with each other whereby the meaning of the narrative is illustrated. Usually the plot unfolds chronologically but some authors use different stylistic methods such as flashbacks or multivoiced narratives with overlapping time frames (Bond 252). Beyond that, the plot “tends to develop out of conflict between the protagonist and some external experience, antagonist, or internal crisis” (Bond 252). The process of struggle to manage or get out of the conflict, creates action and results in the development of the storyline. Even though there is a variety of possibilities to create “plot development, stories in the traditional novel tend to include rising action, as the character works through a variety of complications; a climax, when a resolution of the conflict occurs; and falling action from the climax leading to the story’s conclusion” (Bond 252).
3. The setting describes the spatial, temporal or social context and the mood in which the story of a novel takes place. It can either comprise a very detailed description or can simply imply “a few descriptors to create a sense of the milieu” (Bond 252). Besides that, the setting “can have an effect on the events of the plot, reveal character, or create an atmosphere” (Bond 252).
4. The c haracters are the people in the theme of a novel. A character occurs as a fictional representation of a person and interacts with other characters. A novel has at least one main character - the protagonist. However, a story can also have more than one protagonist. Other characters perform the roles of minor or supporting people who help the protagonist to develop. Besides that, there is mostly also an antagonist who acts as an opponent (Bond 251f.). The protagonist plays a major role in a novel because this character presents someone with whom readers identify themselves and who draws them into the story. “The reader comes to know a protagonist (…) [by] the narrative voice’s descriptions, (…) the actions of the character (…) [and] the thoughts or dialogue of others in relation to the character” (Bond 251).
5. The theme in a novel is the main concept that is going to be explored in the narrative. Therewith the author includes one or more subjects that depicts the discontinuities of life which are explored during the narrative. As a consequence thereof, the author tells a story which portrays society, life or human experiences and emphasizes social, political, cultural or moral issues in order to make the reader aware of these issues. The implementation of characters within the story who deal differently with these subjects illustrate the diversity of perspectives within society. A novel can contain multiple themes that are explored and reflected within the story (Ngara 37; Bond 254).
6. The writer’s style and technique refers to “the use of language and [the] method of handling, [the] theme and [the] characterization” (Ngara 37). There is no guide for authors to use a specific style or technique to write. Every author has a unique style to construct a narrative. However, depending on the novels genre (romance, mystery, drama) an author may make use of specific linguistic devices such as images, symbols, words or sentence structures (Ngara 37). Beyond that it is up to the authors style to use dialogues, monologues or to tell “intertwined stories in multiple voices” (Bond 254).
7. In a novel the term voice is classified as the narrator’s voice and the character’s voice. The narrator’s voice relates to the author’s style of writing. This includes the author’s “tone, choice of words, selection of subject (…)” (Wiehardt “What Voice Means in Writing. The Difference Between Author Voice and Narrator's Voice”). Furthermore, the narrator’s voice constitutes the scenes in a novel, constructs the characters' identities and issues the contextual insights of the story. Besides that, the character’s voice puts words, phrases and ideas differently together than the narrator’s voice (Wiehardt “What Voice Means in Writing. The Difference Between Author Voice and Narrator's Voice”). In this case authors make the characters use colloquial language, slang, vernacular or dialect to reflect contemporary language forms and to create authenticity (Bond 253). Beyond that, the character of a person is illustrated by the character’s voice: “[s]ome people are authoritative, while others are pompous, funny, chatty, or warm” (Wiehardt “What Voice Means in Writing. The Difference Between Author Voice and Narrator's Voice”). Additionally, the character’s voice tells a story from the perspective of the protagonist. However, both voices impel the story in a novel. The tone of a story is part of the voice. The “[t]one refers to the attitude created by the story toward its subject” (Bond 253).

2.2 Young Adult Literature - a subgenera of the Novel

A novel has a lot of subgenres that cover different themes. Besides that, an author may also write a novel for a specific target group. For this purpose, the literary elements as well as the language of the narrative text used within these novels can vary. The most common target groups are children, young adults or adults. The following chapter deals with young adult literature since it represents the most popular form of literature that is featured in school syllabuses and read with students.

Young adult literature consists of the same literary elements as every other type of novel (see chapter 2.1). However, its content differs from that of other novels. First of all, young adult literature is written for young people between the ages 12 and 18. Furthermore, the narrative text of young adult novels has at least one protagonist as well as other characters who are teenage boys or girls with whom young people somehow identifies themselves (Thaler 20). Besides that, the stories and subjects within the narrative texts broach the experiences of young adults or cover issues that are relevant for them such as friendship, love stories or mobbing (Thaler 20; 102). Therefore, novels appeal very authentic and are read with pleasure since young adults feel a connection to the story (Thaler 20). In addition to this, young adult literature consists of an edgy content in which teenagers are “confronted with difficult situations (crime, violence, sexuality, drugs etc.) [that] encourages destructive and immoral behavior, or (…) helps readers deal with real-life challenges” (Thaler 102). Beyond that, the language used in young adult literature is simple and conforms the language spoken by young people themselves. As a consequence thereof, depending on the city and country the narrative takes place it is common to have dialogues in the storyline that are written in youth language, a specific slang or everyday language.

2.3 Migrant Youth Literature - a form of Young Adult Literature

The following chapter explains the term migration, depicts the emergence of migrant literature and concludes by describing migrant youth literature as a form of young adult literature.

In general, the term migration describes a long-term shift of a person or more from the main place of residence to another place that is of great distance and is located beyond the administrative boundaries of the main place of residence. This can include a movement from a village to a city within the national boundaries or a movement from a country to another. People who decide to migrate or are forced to migrate leave their homes and cultural settings in order to live in another setting. Significant motifs for changing the place of residence for the longer term are classified in five categories: labor migration (migrating to another place to find a better livelihood), family migration (migrating to another place to raise a family), educational migration (migrating to another place for the aspiration after education), forced migration (migration to another place due to persecution, discrimination or violence) and lifestyle migration (migrating to another place in search of adventures or a more quiet live) (“Dossier Migration”). However, the process of migration affects the lives of individuals and communities:

“Migration is an important factor in the erosion of traditional boundaries between languages, cultures, ethnic group (…) and nation-states. Even those who do not migrate are affected by movements of people in or out of their communities, and by the resulting changes. Migration is not a single act of crossing a border, but rather a lifelong process that affects all aspects of the lives of those involved” (UNESCO, cited in Geraghty and Conacher 5).

Migration is a process that can shape societies for centuries. In particular the 20th and 21st century register large waves of migration across the world. Due to political or economical circumstances people move to other places and leave their original places of residence (their homes) behind. As a consequence thereof, the process of migration shaped and still shapes the different aspects of social and cultural lives of societies, communities and individuals (Pourjafari and Vahidpour 682). Migration influences the coexistence of people and affects the social foundations of societies such as politics, economics and culture. Concomitantly, migration and the associated process of movement as well as human restlessness “has had a remarkable effect on literature” (Pourjafari and Vahidpour 679f.). As a consequence thereof, migrant literature arose as the written manifestation of the experiences and the conflicts people are faced to while migration takes place. Therefore, migrant literature deals with migration and the consequences migration brings along. For this reason, migrant literature covers different stories and is diverse - either thematically or structurally with the result that every storyline approaches in a certain way the experiences migrants and resident people make during the process of migration (Pourjafari and Vahidpour 680; Vlasta 4). Although the stories are different and vary from each other, issues such as “movement, rootlessness, and the mixing of cultures, races, and languages” are omnipresent for people who experience migration (Mardorossian 16). For that reason, these issues are important themes that are covered within migrant literature. Besides that, migrant literature further thematizes the difficulty of adaptation with the unknown culture of the host country and the subsequently emerging misunderstandings as well as contradictions while different cultures encounter each other (Pourjafari and Vahidpour 680). Furthermore, identity is a major theme that plays an important role within migrant literature since the characters, especially the protagonist, experiences a personal development and recreates itself. As a consequence thereof, the characters portrayed within migrant literature “try to cope with migration in different way[s]. This reaction varies from the experience of the uncertainty of the displaced characters as 'destructive, agonizing, and painful' to the experience of migration as 'productive, fascinating, and appealing'” (Frank, cited in Pourjafari and Vahidpour 686). Referring to this, the characters within migrant literature are confronted with cultural complexities which might end up with experiencing discrimination or racism since characters with a migrant background belong to the minority in their host countries (Pourjafari and Vahidpour 680). Associated with this, the migrant voice within migrant literature tells the readers “what it is like to feel a stranger and yet at home, to live simultaneously inside and outside one's immediate situation, to be permanently on the run, to think of returning but to realize at the same time the impossibility of doing so (…). It tells [the readers] (…) what it is like to traverse borders” (King, cited in Mardorossian 16).

From this it follows that migrant literature portrays the existing binaries people live in and builds a bridge between the own cultural roots and the new home (Pourjafari and Vahidpour 686). The stories within migrant literature emphasize the “experience of 'cultural in-betweenness, processes of intermixture, fusions or doublings of two or more cultures (…)” (Moslund, cited in Pourjafari and Vahidpour 686).

Another important aspect to name is that migrant literature can be either written by migrant or by non-migrant authors since migrant literature does not only tell the stories of people who migrate but also portray characters who were affected by migration and the meeting of different cultures (Pourjafari and Vahidpour 687). As a consequence thereof, non-migrant authors are able to reflect and analyze the process of migration with their own experiences, and further include other perspectives within their work of literature (Vlasta 4).

The following paragraph focuses on migrant youth literature since the topic of this term paper is teaching migrant youth literature in a secondary I school. Migrant youth literature is thematically based on migrant literature and is composed of the same literary elements as young adult literature (see chapter 2.1). As a consequence thereof, migrant youth literature is predicated on realistic fiction and pictures the stories of teenage boys or girls who were leaving their main place of residence and migrating to an unknown place in order to live a new life - either with or without their families. In some of these stories the young characters were seeking asylum due to economical, political or personal reasons. In other stories they were already living in their new places of residence as the second or third generation but do still have a migrant background wherefore they are in struggle with their identity due to the fact that they grow up between two or more cultures. Therefore, migrant youth literature does not only tell the stories of teenage boys or girls who experience migration firsthand but who still are affected by being a character with a migrant background. Another aspect to name is that migrant youth literature looks “at [the] life [of teenage boys or girls] after the movement happens (…) [and explores] what it means to live with a foot in multiple cultures while trying to establish a sense of self” (Jens “Powerful and Real: YA Books about Immigration”). Furthermore, migrant youth literature pictures teenage boys or girls who are affected by the process of migration and the experiences these teenagers make with migrant people. To sum up, migrant youth literature describes the personal experiences, feelings, perceptions and meetings of teenage boys or girls during and after the processes of migration.


Excerpt out of 22 pages


Teaching Migrant Youth Literature in a Secondary I School Using Drama Activities
University of Frankfurt (Main)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Drama, Drama activities, Englisch, English, Teaching, Migrant literature, migrant, literature, activities, migration, novel, young adult, abela, be strong my abela, foreign english language classroom, efl
Quote paper
Filiz Malci (Author), 2019, Teaching Migrant Youth Literature in a Secondary I School Using Drama Activities, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/587989


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