What Is Literature

We asked colleagues on the Languages fora : What is Literature ?

Some short answers, all contributed by practising teachers :

Literature =

short stories
new articles
adverts , posters
magazine articles
scenes from plays
poetry/song lyrics
poem forms such as 'haiku, Elfchen, luunes 
fairy tales / Maerchen
tongue twisters
myths and legends
Cartoon strips, comics
film clips

Some answers may be controversial (as examples of Literature). There is no doubt however that they are all useful Texts for exploring with language learners.

For Primary - children’s books that are sometimes written for slightly younger children, with bright illustrations and limited and readily understandable text. Repeating patterns, with authentic intonation, make these a great resource, and children really like joining in.
- books including those written originally in English and become international children’s classics

Poetry including Goethe for KS2, my personal fave, yes, Erlkönig is on its way, with a range of Beethoven pieces to play around with the reading out loud mode!

I believe strongly in introducing young learners to text in all its different forms: poetry, stories, songs, magazines, posters, penfriend letters/emails, websites (e.g.  1jour1actu.com)   It is surprising how it enriches their understanding of the language and its culture.  One thing which I think is absolutely essential, however, is to ensure that the texts you are introducing are related to their age. 
So, although I understand the need for teachers to put texts in front of  KS2 learners which are simple, I think above all we should avoid those which are "babyish" in their content.  We are more likely to interest and motivate them if the content inspires their imagination or relates to their interests.  

I have taught Urdu language to the learners of all ages and found that at 7-8 years, they were interested in illustrated stories and children’s poetry books that included monsters, fairy tales, animals and nature.
Age 9-10: a bit higher level of texts and poetry was useful and short drama was introduced with simple role play. Read half of the story in the class and letting them make up the end. Use of bilingual books and poetry books was useful,
developing a range of language skills related to pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar.
Age 11-12: encouraging students to move beyond the textbook to be more adventurous in their language use through composing a piece of poetry or prose.
The last words of the 2nd and 4th lines of the above Rubaai were perfectly rhyming in Urdu. They can appreciate poetry and are creative at this age if they can be helped with some vocabulary they can write good poetry and prose. The guidance for their selection of topics and their individual work ( by discussion)within a framework has always been my main method, sometimes by giving them examples of good texts like the above poems.
Age 13-14: Enabling students to explore culture and identity, expressing their perspectives through their stories,online stories, sharing with their cousins back home sometimes and with the the classmates and friends in the other schools. So the creativity and collaborative work goes on with the good use of technology. Some schools use video technology too but I did not have this facility.

Pedagogical approaches, mostly useful ones have been to allow leaner autonomy, giving choices, encouraging collaborative work between peers. Bilingualism can be more motivating with different sounds, words, scripts and patterns and different cultural meaning, also connections between languages creates interest and motivates to learn a language. I do not mind them mixing some words of English while speaking Urdu sometimes in the class to enable them to be fluent in their speech. But they also know that they will have to improve and will not be able to mix English during their GCSE exam. Thematic approach can be useful for multilingual stories and digital storytelling.

What is Literature? In my opinion a simple definition can be that literature comprises of all authentic poetry and all authentic prose that includes cultural and historical contexts of a language.
‘Exalted thought and exalted expression’ as one great man once said ( I can’t remember the name). But when teaching a language, one can not blindly follow this particular definition of the literature. We need to keep the learners in sight and select the literature that is suitable according to age, level of development, interest etc. and which does not only motivates them to learn that language but also develops their critical thinking and creativity.



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