For students to be motivated to participate in classroom discussions, teachers must create an engaging content for them that will pique their interest, captivate their creativity, and give them something relevant to discuss.
WOU’s School of Education, Humanities and Social Sciences (SEHS) Senior Lecturer Dr Alexander Funk Yun Leong was presenting a virtual talk titled “Using Literature in the Language Classroom” on 26 March 2022. About 45 people attended the event organised by SEHS, including Dean, Assoc Prof Dr Thomas Chow Voon Foo.
Dr Funk defined literature as an artistic work that has some creative value and will last a long time, regardless of when it was written. “Literature is available everywhere, and it is not only used in schools but also by individuals in the commercial world to engage readers and potential consumers.”
He illustrated the example of a commercial advertisement that incorporated poetic wordings like the “fabled gardens of Assam” and “a tea to solace your midnight” to create imagery in the reader’s mind.
“We can explore literature by using poems,” he added. He suggested that teachers conduct a survey before class starts to gauge the students’ reading habits and interests in order to kindle their curiosity.
“Kahoot is a great online resource that can be useful when conducting an online or a physical class, if students are allowed to have devices in the classroom. Teachers can use this tool to get quick responses and keep students engaged.”
Students can also participate in a walkabout activity that involves teachers selecting any form of literature, like poetry, to paste round the classroom. Students are required to read the poems, place themselves next to the poetry they prefer, and then reflect and discuss on the meaning of the poem in their respective groups.
“Choral reading is another activity that can be done in the classroom. Teachers gather students and instruct them on how to deliver the poetry or written material, as well as perform reading aloud as a group,” Dr Funk shared.
Reading aloud is a technique that promotes better understanding because of the intonation and emotions from the reader’s voice. “It will help strengthen the link between the written and verbal forms, and this is also useful for learners with dyslexia,” he highlighted.
He also suggested that teachers create ready-made reactions in the form of emojis for younger aged groups who may not know how to express themselves, as this is a good way to elicit response. “Teachers can use poetry as a teaching tool for any subject they are teaching; it is not limited to language classes,” he emphasised.
Dr Funk shared a poem by Edward Arlington titled “Richard Cory”, which talks about experiencing difficulties in life and dealing with depression. “When we address difficult topics such as depression among upper secondary and college students, this poem makes them reflect poignantly due to its powerful message.”
During Q & A, he asserted that “it is always preferable to get responses from listeners rather than prescribing answers”. He said this encourages students to recognise and share with their teachers what they experience from a particular piece of literature.
WOU offers a 120-credit Bachelor of Education (Hons) in Primary Education (BEPE) programme and Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in English Studies (BAES) programme through open distance learning (ODL).