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Ways to make literature learning exciting for your older child:strategies for teachers and parents

Updated on August 30, 2012

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.

Macbeth Story Steps
Macbeth Story Steps | Source

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

One Tribe

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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    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      That's the way that they enjoy learning! Thanks for sharing, Paul!

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      7 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand


      This is an awesome hub for anyone to read who wants to make the learning of literature exciting for older children. I have used many of your strategies with success while my 6th grade EFL students were reading fairy tales such as Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunsell. My students especially liked me telling the story in a few sentences with dramatic emotion. They also liked learning the story through songs and getting dressed up to act out the fairy tale. Thanks for the great resources in this hub. Voted up and sharing. Also Pinning and Tweeting.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      Hi K Burns!! Glad to share these! These introduce kids to reading, but there's always nothing like a good book. Glad to connect with a fellow literature lover!! Thanks do much for coming by!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Joan! Glad you like these. They'll never replace a good book, though, just meant to entice the restless young ones to read a little more! Thanks for coming by!

    • joanveronica profile image

      Joan Veronica Robertson 

      8 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Hi Michelle, this was a fantastic read, congratulations, you really know how to use attractive teaching strategies that work! I admire you for your effort and courage, it takes courage to create teaching that is "different" Voted up, awesome, beautiful and interesting. Have a good day!

    • K. Burns Darling profile image

      Kristen Burns-Darling 

      8 years ago from Orange County, California

      As the mother of three, (a son 18, and two daughters ages 17, and 5) I have stressed the importance of reading all of their lives. I loved this hub. I also have equated songs with poetry, and often refer to Simon & Garfunkle as the greatest poets of their generation. Thank you for a wonderful guideline for reminding our kids the importance of literature in their lives. Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting and shared.

    • profile image


      8 years ago


      I love all the strategies and that makes learning so much easy and fun. Teachers and parents will be very glad to read this.

      Great hub!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      Glad you've enjoyed it, Rema!! These won't ever replace reading, though, that remains an important key to learning. Thanks for coming by and the warm compliment. Thank you so much!

    • remaniki profile image

      Rema T V 

      8 years ago from Chennai, India

      I loved your strategy of using songs to teach poetry. Very innovative hub midget38. Enjoyed reading the various strategies that would enhance the learning process. But for committed teachers like you who have the best interest of their students at heart, education would have been a forced activity today. Thanks very much for the knowledge. Sharing, tweeting and pinning too. Cheers, Rema.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      Glad you've remembered, Lipnancy!! Hot Seating is a favorite among both teachers and students. They always find it fun!! Thanks for coming by!

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 

      8 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      Most schools need more teachers like you! My high school teacher did dress in costumes for the characters that we were studying. I always thought this was fun.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      Thank you for coming by, Hyphenbird, and I'm glad that you've found these useful. It sounds like your son is a great reader, and should be encouraged!! I can see through your lovely poems that you do love to read and am glad your son has this wonderful trait as well. I appreciate you coming by and always look forward to it!

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 

      8 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      Thanks for the very useful and interesting tips. I am so blessed that my boy loves to read and is successful at it. He just started fourth grade this week and tested at 7th grade, 3rd semester. So I suppose we are doing it right. Since I love to read, I am grateful he does too.

    • Mama Kim 8 profile image

      Sasha Kim 

      8 years ago

      This is an absolutely fantastic hub!!! I'm thinking about home schooling (partially, he can still take some classes in public school) and this will come in handy!! they're only 3 years and 8 months so I'll have to bookmark this for quite some time ^_^ Wonderful! ^_^ voted a bunch and shared all over!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      Glad these are useful, Patty. You could try them on your kids.....pity that these days, people have lost interest in reading. These should be used with reading! But, they are a hook. If you can get them interested, it's easier to get them started on reading. Thanks for coming by!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Mary!! Thanks for that vote of confidence! These are great for starters and overviews of books; kids still have to read. In this day an age though, reading isn't really something many kids love to this prompts them a little bit. Thanks for coming by!

    • Patty Kenyon profile image

      Patty Kenyon 

      8 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      Michelle, AWESOME, AWESOME Job!!!! Well, okay you always do a Awesome Job, however, as a parent I find this extremely useful for making Literature exciting for kids!!! I personally love literature and your ideas have a way of making it fun and exciting to learn!!!

      Voted Up, Awesome, Interesting, Useful, and Shared!!!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      8 years ago from Florida

      Very interesting Hub. I wish I'd had teachers like you when I was in school. You have some wonderful ways to make learning exciting for students.

      I voted this Hub UP, etc. and will share this good info.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks TT! Actually, it's my favorite too. It's good for giving confidence to the shy ones! You could try with your little boy. Thanks for the read, my friend!

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 

      8 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      Michelle, I really REALLY like strategy #5! What a great idea to really bring a story alive. You have come really great ideas for driving the knowledge home. Great job. Voted up and more! :)

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks Janine, for the wonderful compliment!! Glad you've enjoyed the strategies!! Thanks for the vote and the share.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 

      8 years ago from New York, New York

      Michelle, as a fellow teacher, I absolutely loved this article. I had some pretty good English teachers when I was in school, but wish I would have had you. You really outlined some very good and innovative ways to teach English to older children. Bravo and I of course am sharing, voting up and tweeting too!!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      Ways to make literature learning exciting for your older child:strategies for teachers and parents


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