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Ways to make literature learning exciting for your older child:strategies for teachers and parents
During my tenure as a teacher of English Literature, I had the benefit of collecting and keeping a few strategies for teaching that I am now about to share as a writer. Reading a novel has become increasingly forgotten with the rise of the internet and modern technology, and I am now about to share some of these strategies that I hope will benefit newer teachers, more experienced one and parents alike. With the increasing numbers of ‘digital natives’ - young people who use the internet voraciously - a heavier responsibility has been placed on the shoulders of teachers and parents to make language learning more engaging. However, these strategies are not intended to replace the reading of the novel. Rather, they are meant to complement reading. Reading,should still be introduced together with these methods of teaching language.
Strategy One: Story Steps
This is a strategy that I find the simplest to use. It really involves just creating a set of blank stairs using the text box function on Micro Soft word and filling them with the plot of the story. Good for getting a child to remember the sequence of plots, I make sure that my teenage students have sets of these as simple notes for exams in their literature files.
The strategy can be varied. Some of the steps can be left blank, and as you discuss the story with the children, get them to fill in the gaps rather than writing all of the plot there for them. The children can even fill these in while discussing the story in groups.
Strategy Two: Story Mapping
Again, an easy strategy to use. Children draw mind maps of the story and fill in the plot in the bubbles. This again teaches plot and plot sequencing, and can be an effective way for students to understand characters.
With the advent of software like Simple Mind and Mind Miester, Children can easily put the plot of the story in a map and retain these maps as notes for reference.
Strategy Three : Story Telling : Telling a story in a few sentences
There are many ways to go about telling a story, and I share one of these ways today. It involves the teacher as a story teller, She tells the story in seven sentences. Again, I demonstrate with Macbeth. This can be used as a strategy to grab a child’s attention and introduce him or her to any book. The strategies can be written down and narrated dramatically for engaging effect.
- Macbeth meets the witches, who tell him that he is to be the Thane of Cawdor.
- Lady Macbeth, his wife, fuels his ambition and tempts him to kill Duncan.
- Macbeth kills Duncan while he is asleep.
- Macbeth’s conscience is plagued as he sees visions, and Lady Macbeth becomes his bolder.
- The witches warn that Banquo will be a threat to his kingship, and Macbeth hires assassins to kill him and his son.
- He sees Banquo’s ghost and becomes paranoid when he learns of his son’s, Fleance’s escape.
- The witches warn him that “none of woman born’ will harm him, but he does not really take the warning seriously.
- The witches warn him that Birnam Wood will move to Dunsinane Hill, and he does not take this seriously.
- He kills Macduff’s family,and Macduff leads a camouflaged army through Birnam Wood to Dunsinane Hill for revenge.
When I'm 64
Strategy Four : Using Songs
I use songs to teach poetry all the time. I introduce you to three of my favorites for this. The oldest would be When I’m 64 by the Beatles, which itself is a cute little poem about growing older, and follow up questions can be asked of the child about the song.
Another would be Juliann Lennon’s Saltwater Welts in my Eyes, which can be used as a metaphorical poem. The “rock revolving” in the song is of course, the Earth. Again, follow up questions can be asked of the students.
If your students have a mind for something more modern (which is unsurprising) introduce them to One Tribe, a song by the Black Eyed Peas, which can be used as a poem to teach students about racial tolerance and understanding. This song does not always obey the rules of grammar, so it may just be used to introduce students to the fact that songs can be poems too.
Saltwater Julian Lennon
Strategy Five : Outrageous Teaching and Hot Seating
Many times, I would dress up as Lady Macbeth in a longer skirt and get students to ask me questions about the story. Boys in the class could be Macbeth as well. If your students are rather shy, get them to write the questions down and pass them to you and you, as the character in the story, can answer them.
Be aware that hot seating, a really popular technique, requires that teachers may have to prompt students to ask the correct questions. Get them to ask questions only pertaining to the characters in the story. They may otherwise ask something silly, like “Are you married?”, a common phenomenon for teens.
Strategy Six: Cooperative Learning: Writing a paragraph of the story.
To introduce younger teens to the elements of a story - the orientation, plot, climax, resolution and conclusion - I usually get the students into groups, using the Numbered Heads Together technique. I number them off,1 to 5 and get the 1s to sit together in a group, 2s and so on. This ensures that no one is left without a group, because it happens when children just want to work with their friends.
They then work each on a paragraph of a story, with someone doing the orientation, plot and so on. This is a common technique for essay writing.
A video I created : Red Sky in the Morning Chapter 7
Strategy Seven: Animated Videos
There are sites which make animation an easy task for all those who wish to have their hand at it. This, again, is great for teaching students about the plots and characters in stories. For those who have never heard of these sites, they are Xtranormal and Goanimate, both of which make animation accessible. Here I include a video for a novel which I taught, Red Sky in the Morning by Elizabeth Laird, about how a young teenager copes with a baby brother who is born with Hydrocephalus, a handicap which entails that his head is too big.Here, I use a video I created to introduce the plot of Chapter 7 to students.
Strategy Eight: Social Networking
Teachers can make use of social networking to reach out to their students online. Over the past few years, I have created many social networks to encourage the love of literature and reading. I have started my own group, We Love Literature on Facebook,here.
Do exercise caution with social media and do not allow students to use it as a platform for nonsensical posts or flaming. Have strict rules and be the administrator of the site yourself.
Strategy Nine:: Storyboarding
Storyboarding is an excellent way to get students excited about reading. It is always a thrill for them to see a story in the form of a comic. WIth Comic Life, another exciting tool, comics may even be created by students online. I have often got students to do this.
If a teacher finds it too troublesome ( I have found it so many times) to bring students to the computer laboratories in school, it is good to use the old formula - just draw a comic on pen and paper. It is a good way to integrate art and language learning as well.
I hope that teachers and parents will find these strategies useful. In later articles, I will share how to combine them in lessons.
Disclaimer: These strategies are not intended to replace the reading of the novel. Rather, they are meant to complement them. Reading,is to be introduced together with these methods of teaching language.
Copyright (C) by Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin
No part of this work is to be reproduced without prior consent of the author.
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