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Teenagers: Reading and Fantasy Books Essay

Why should teachers use children? s literature, especially fantasy books, in TEFL at basic schools? Is it good or useful to use fantasy books and literary texts with teenagers at basic schools? Is there any relationship between literature and the study of language? Are teenagers at basic schools able to read literary texts and fantasy books from British and American literature in the original? The aim of the thesis is to present the principles and tips of using fantasy books with teenagers at basic schools, especially on the basis of my interest in this topic and through my own teaching experience.

My diploma thesis is divided into two parts. In the first theoretical part it deals with general questions relating to the use of children? s literature and fantasy books with teenagers. It also gives some reasons why language teachers should include children? s literature and fantasy books in English lessons. It demonstrates teachers? motivational strategies that can be used to support teenagers? interest in literature. It also tries to answer how teenage literature can help teenagers to develop their language. The second practical part offers using teenage literature and fantasy books with teenagers in practice.

It provides examples of activities used with teenagers in English lessons based on three famous fantasy stories. The practical part also includes a short research with 7th, 8th and 9th graders which provides the results of the pupils? attitudes and interests in teenage literature and fantasy books. 6 1. WHO ARE TEENAGERS? Teenager according to the Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners can be defined as “a young person between the ages of 13 and 19” (2002:1474).

Another interesting definition can be found on the Internet web site Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia: “Adolescence (lat.Adolescere, to grow) is a transitional stage of physical and mental human development that occurs between childhood and adulthood.

This transition involves biological, social, and psychological changes. ” According to The Royal College of Psychiatrists during adolescence there can appear a large gulf between parents and their children or between teachers and their students. Teenagers can come across a lot of problems during their puberty, such as: • Physical problems – physical changes of the body • Psychological problems – people of this age start to think and feel differently •

Sexual problems – sexual ability and experiences are very sensitive topic • Behaviour problems – teenagers and their parents or teachers usually complain about each other? s behaviour • School problems – teenagers often refuse to go to school for some reasons, for example emotional problems, bullying, etc. • Eating problems – weight can be a big problem during puberty • Drugs and alcohol – many teenagers experiment with alcohol and illegal drugs (2004). Difficult times come and go, but most adolescents do not develop serious problems. It is important to say that, not only parents but also teachers can have a positive impact on teenagers?

lives. Teenagers are probably the most interesting but also the most problematic students to teach. Each teacher has to remember that teenagers are often very sensitive and brittle. Teenagers are very sensitive about their identities, tired of school and bored with nearly everything. They value love and friendship very much, they do not want to lose their face in front of their peers, they are often undisciplined and difficult to motivate. For most teenagers, the teacher may not be the person who wants to help, but rather the 7 potential enemy. At this age, it is vital to get the level of challange right.

Where this level is low the teenagers are usually bored and not satisfied, where it is high they are discouraged and de-motivated. It is the teacher? s task, to make language teaching interesting for the students. According to my experience, it is very important to find interesting topics for teenagers, treat them like adults, encourage them to express themselves, and accept their own views and opinions. Literature is definitely a very good resource for the teenagers. It can help them to develop their moral values, or to decide what can be the best way to go, what is right.

In general, it can help them to go through this difficult period. Reading books, according to my opinion, belongs to one of the best hobbies. As far as I can remember from my teen years, reading make you think. To think about moral values, about relationships, about cultural differences, about differences among people, or maybe to think about the whole world.

To take, for example, Harry Potter books, the teenagers can see and understand better the relationships among each other. They can learn that it is very important to have good friends who are always ready to help. Another example could be Roald Dahl?s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where the moral values of the characters are described not only in the good but also in bad ways.

The teenagers are not always behaving in a right way and this book offers also one lesson, that such behaving does not usually mean an award. 2. IMPORTANCE OF MOTIVATION One of the most important thing in using children? s and fantasy literature is motivation. Motivation is inseparable part of teacher? s job. Further on to agree with Harmer that “motivation is some kind of internal drive that encourages somebody to pursue a course of action.

If we perceive a goal and if that goal is sufficiently attractive, we will be strongly motivated to do whatever is necessary to reach that goal” (1991:3). 8 Goals can be very different, and individuality of a person plays a big part of it. The useful distinction can be between: • Short-term goals – for example to pass a test; to read a book, etc. • Long-term goals – to communicate with people of a target language community; to get a better job, to change the attitude towards reading; to be successful, etc. According to my teaching experience, short as well as long term goals are very important for most of the teenagers.

Even though most of them will never admit it, they like to show off among their friends, they want to be successful and better than their peers, and some of them want to be even better than their parents or teachers. Reading books in English could be a big challange for them. Harmer divides motivation into two categories (1991:3):

• Extrinsic motivation • Intrinsic motivation Extrinsic motivation is concerned with factors outside the classroom, and the factors can be, for example student? s attitude to the language, parents? attitude to the language, student?s previous experience as language learner, student? s attitude to the reading in general and important parts are also teacher and student? s peers.

On the contrary, intrinsic motivation is concerned with factors inside the classroom. Such factors can be physical conditions, method, the teacher and success. It can have a possitive effect on learning and using literary texts if the teacher tries to make the classroom as pleasant as possible (e. g. pictures or students? works connected to the reading on the walls, board easily visible). The methods the teacher is using are also very important.

Interesting methods and activities can surely be motivating for students, but if the method is boring the students can become de-motivated. Still one of the well-known activity among the Czech teachers is to read any English text chosen by the teacher, translate it into Czech and answer some questions prepared again by the teacher. It does not take much time to 9 prepare but it will definitely not motivate the students, especially teenagers to read for pleasure.

One of the most important factor affecting intrinsic motivation is the teacher. For students, according to researches, the teacher?s personality and relationship with students are very important parts. Other things which students appreciate are interesting and motivating classes, teacher? s fairness to all students and also teacher? s knowledge of the subject.

To motivate the teenagers to read for pleasure can be a difficult task for the teacher, especially in the world of modern technologies and computers. As the researchers say, the teacher? s personality is very important for students, and it can be a big advantage in reading classes if the teacher shows his or her own enthusiasm for reading.

The students? success or failure can influence intrinsic motivation, too. All teenagers at the basic schools are able to read, some of them are better readers and some of them are worse. It is on the teacher how he or she sets the goals and tasks at which the students can be successful. Students, especially teenagers, need to see a point to working with literary texts. Many of them have grown up with watching TV, playing computer games, chatting on the Internet or reading magazines and comics popular among teenagers. But these media provide a short-term satisfaction, they change topic and scene fast and do not need full concentration.

On the contrary, reading books requires concentration and patience. Therefore, a lot of teachers agree that using literature in English language classes can be very difficult and demanding task. But what can be also very important for students is the teacher? s own enthusiasm for literature. It is necessary to agree with Carter and Long that “students will be better motivated to read a literary text if they can relate it to their own experience” (1991:19). As it has been already mentioned above, motivation belongs to foreground in the classroom. 10 3. CHILDREN? S AND JUVENILE LITERATURE AND FANTASY BOOKS IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE.

TEACHING To use children? s or juvenile literature in language teaching is still not a common practice at basic schools. This is partly because using literature in the lessons can be time-consuming, and partly because some teachers feel that they do not know how to use literary texts with children. Therefore, the purpose of this chapter is to explain what children? s literature is, what fantasy books are, and why to use them in the English lessons. 3. 1 What is children? s literature? Children? s literature according to the Internet web site Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia “… is for readers and listeners up to about age 12.

The term applies to books that are actually selected and read by children. ” Another interesting definition is given by Pokrivcakova: “Children? s and juvenile literature is a notion used for a set of literary texts (fiction, drama, poetry, and some non-fiction) written especially for children between the ages of one and sixteen”(2003:9). It is clear that most of children? s literature is read by children, but many classic books that were originally mentioned for adults are now thought of as works for children, for example Daniel Defoe? s Robinson Crusoe or Mark Twain?s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

On the other hand some works originally written for children are also read and enjoyed by adults, for example J. K. Rowling? s series of Harry Potter. 11 3. 2 What does fantasy mean? Fantasy according to the Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners can be defined as “a story that shows a lot of imagination and is very different from real life”(2002:503). Undoubtedly, children of all ages like to read fantasy books and enjoy watching fantasy stories, including fairy tales, animal and toy fantasies or sword and sorcery stories.

Further on to agree with Pokrivcakova that fantasy is a genre that has become very popular in these years, especially because of J. R. R. Tolkien? s Lord of the Rings or J. K. Rowling? s Harry Potter (2003:99). According to her: “fantasy is a form of speculative fiction, which is an internationally recognised term for non-mimetic literature (it is not built rigidly on a mimesis principle; on the contrary, it includes both realistic and fantastical elements). ” As she also mentions, there are some differences between the “real” and fantastic world.

Fantastic or the secondary world is strange, bizarre or marvellous and it usually has its own rules; the ordinary logic or law of nature is inverted or subverted; frequently the imaginary kingdoms can appear; time is shifting regularly; some different ways can be used to enter it; and it is usually inhabited by strange creatures (2003:99). 3. 3 Why to use children? s literature and fantasy books? Literature has always had a great influence on each language; both literature and language have in general undergone a lot of important changes throughout the centuries, influencing each other.

There are many reasons for using children? s literature and fantasy books with teenagers in English lessons. Fantasy books are great for young children and teenagers because they show imagination and suspension of reality, the things that children, especially teenagers, are 12 good at. Fantasy literature is popular among children and teenagers because it introduces them the pleasure of reading from young age. Children? s fantasy stories can help to build positive reading habits in children and teenagers. As Pokrivcakova says “quality fantasy literature is generally considered to be a good exercise of children?s imagination and creativity.

It also bears a serious deal of morality in itself: the struggle between good and evil, questions of loyalty and devotion to friends, problems of decision-making and personal responsibility are probably the most frequent motives in fantastic stories” (2003:100). Carter and Long offer three reasons for the teaching literature: • “The cultural model: “Teaching literature within a cultural model enables students to understand and appreciate not only cultures and ideologies that are different from their own but also their own cultural roots. ” •

The language model: One of the main reasons for a paying teacher? s attention to a language model is, “to put students in touch with some of the more subtle and varied creative uses of language. ” • The personal growth model: One of the main point for teachers is “to help students to achieve an engagement with the reading of literary texts” (1991:2). According to Duff and Maley there are three other reasons for using literary texts: linguistic, methodological, and motivational. • Linguistic – literary texts offer a lot of “samples of wide range of styles, registers, and text-types at many levels of difficulty. ” •

Methodological – literary texts offer various interpretation and interaction among students. 13 • Motivational – literary text can be a motivator because “it often touches on themes to which students can bring a personal response from their own experience” (1992:6). Fenwick gives more universal reasons for using children? s literature in the English lessons: “We should teach it, for instance, because it can help to improve children? s reading. Equally important, it can help to improve their attitudes to reading. And by studying literature it is certainly possible for children to become more effective writers. Then there is a social factor.

The majority of teachers who have much to do with either adult or juvenile fiction are probably aware of its civilising potential. Used sensitively, literature can help children to come to terms with the real world. It can also allow them to fantasise in a harmless way. It can even be a form of escapism and, provided it is not overdone, there is little harm in that” (1990). To sum up this chapter, we can agree with Halliwell that: “Children delight in imagination and fantasy. …It is more than simply a matter of enjoyment, however. In the primary school, children are very busy making sense of the world about them.

They are identifying pattern and also deviation from the pattern. They test out their versions of the world through fantasy and confirm how the world actually is by imagining how it might be different. In the language classroom this capacity for fantasy and imagination has a very constructive part to play” (1992:7). Children? s fantasy literature can be an important part of English language classrooms. The right choice of the book can offer students new vocabulary, provides repetition of key words and phrases, and it can be a pleasure for the student to finish a piece of literature written in English.

14 4. SELECTING AND EVALUATING SUITABLE LITERATURE To choose the right book may be the most difficult and important part of teaching literature. If the level of the text or the content of the story are too easy, the students become bored, on the other hand, if they are too difficult, the students feel frustrated. The teacher, dealing with the teenagers at the basic school, should not choose, for example, a simple story as The Cat in the Hat can be, but Ulysses by James Joyce is also not the right decisions. Many teenagers say that reading in English is very difficult.

They often complain that they do not understand the text and that is why they do not read. As Lazar says, there are three main areas the teacher should think about: • type of course – the teacher should think about for example, level of students; how intensive the course is; what kind of texts will be the most suitable • type of students – here the teacher should include age of students; students? interests or hobbies; cultural and ethnic background • factors connected with the text itself – for example, availability of texts; length of text; exploitability; fit with syllabus (1993:48).

What can be very difficult for the teacher is to apply these categories to the whole class. According to my teaching experience, most of the English classes at the basic schools are heterogeneous. It means that the level of the students is different, and also students? interests and hobbies are not usually the same. Nowadays, it is also normal, that teachers meet students from various cultures and ethnic minorities, and what is usual in one culture, in other can be totally different. The teacher needs to find a text which is suitable for most students in the class.

Lazar designed a checklist (app. 1) which can help to summarise these criteria (1993:56). 15 As Brown writes in his article for The Internet TESL Journal, when evaluating potential books, the teacher has to bear in mind the length and complexity of the story; the level of vocabulary; illustrations which can help students to understand both the vocabulary and the text; and his or her own enthusiams about a story (2004). For comparison with Lazar or Brown, Ellis and Brewster provide a detailed criteria (app. 2) which deal with five major objectives of language teaching.

They are then expanded into questions that the teacher can ask him or herself when choosing a book. Linguistic, psychological, cognitive, social and cultural objectives are mentioned here and they are related to criteria used for selecting storybooks (2002:11). 4. 1 My criteria for choosing the text When I am deciding which text would be appropriate for my students, I have to consider several factors. Level Choosing the right level of the text belongs to essential factors I have to bear in mind. Teachers should be careful not to choose the text which would be either too difficult or too easy for their students.

If the level of the text is too high, students get confused and lose interest in reading it. On the contrary, if the text is too easy, there is no challange for students to work and think about language because both grammar and vocabulary are clear and they get bored. The most appropriate level of a chosen text is the one where students have enough language knowledge to understand the main idea of the text but, at the same time, are encouraged to look for the meaning of unknown words and structures. This guarantees students? sustaining interest and concentration.

Moreover, at the end of the lesson they should have the feeling of accomplishing something – mastering new vocabulary items or grammar structure. 16 Content Based on my personal experience, considering the content is important especially when dealing with young children or teenagers. We need to get them interested in the story and maintain their concentration and enjoyment to ensure a good learning atmosphere. Content plays a vital role in choosing the right text and it also influences students? enjoyment of the lesson.

As far as I can remember from my teen years, my favourite genres were books for girls, fantasy stories and adventure stories. According to my experience, fantasy books are still very popular among teenagers especially thank to Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings series. It can be very useful and interesting to provide the teenagers with some samples of different books and give them the chance to choose one by themselves. Illustrations Basic school teachers know the importance of illustrations and pictures in the text because they are familiar with children nature and necessity of play in lessons.

Illustrations support childrens? understanding, attract their attention and enable their interaction with the story. Motivation Motivation is closely connected with the content of the text. The more interesting content, the more motivated students are to read the story. It should arouse their curiousity and make them want to find out more about English language and also culture. The story has to provoke a desire to continue reading and learning from it. Motivating students by a good choice of the text can be important and interesting even for those, who regard books as useless, to changing their negative attitudes towards reading.

Once they start building their confidence in reading, they take it up as their hobby, which is the main objective of every language teacher. 17 4. 2 Selecting fantasy books Further on to agree with Zaro and Salaberri it is necessary to state that it can be very difficult to find the main topics or areas of interest for teenagers. They may prefer to read contemporary stories which relate to their world, but we can say that fantasy stories are still interesting for them, even though they like more modern adaptations, for example science fiction (1995:4).

Fantasy has a long history which begins in Greek and Roman mythology. According to Pokrivcakova there are these sub-genres of fantasy: • Animal and toy fantasies • Fantasies with eccentric characters and superhero fantasies • High fantasy • Comic fantasy • Dark (horror) fantasy (2003:100). Animal and toy fantasy According to Pokrivcakova stories about animals are very popular among children and teenagers. “… the attractiveness of fantastic animal stories results from children? s view of life and the world in which the ability of animals to act as human beings is absolutely realistic” (2003:101).

One of the most famous authors of classic animal fantasies was R. J. Kipling and his Jungle Book. Other authors who should be mentioned are Helen Beatrix Potter and her book The Tale of Peter Rabbit, and American writer Elwyn Brooks White and his Stuart Little. Toy fantasy is a sub-genre of animal fantasy, where the character is a humanised toy. The most well-known toy story is Winnie the Pooh by Alan Alexander Milne. 18 Fantasy with eccentric characters and superhero fantasy There are a lot of books in children? s and juvenile literature where in the main part is an eccentric hero.

Some of the most famous are Peter Pan written by Sir James Matthew Barrie, Marry Poppins by Pamela L. Travers and nowadays probably the bestselling Harry Potter by Joanne Kathleen Rowling. High fantasy It is another sub-genre of fantastic literature and its main features are spatial and temporary setting in parallel, or completely invented worlds. As Pokrivcakova says “high fantasies are always serious in tone, often dealing with the theme of the struggle between good and extreme evil” (2003:116). Some of the most popular high fantasies are J. R. R. Tolkien? s The Lord of the Rings and Clive Staples Lewis?

s The Chronicles of Narnia. 4. 3 Authentic materials vs. Simplified materials What is the difference between authentic and non-authentic texts? Simenson classifies materials for extensive reading into three types: “‘authentic’ (not written for language learners and published in the original language); ‘pedagogic’ (specially written for language learners with various types of control placed on the language); and ‘adapted’ (adapted for language learners from authentic texts according to various principles of control set out by editors and publishers in guidelines for adaptors)” (1987:41-57).

As Hedge suggests “for teachers of students with more advanced levels of language proficiency, especially those working with ESL learners in an English language environment, there may well be authentic material to hand. However, for EFL teachers with learners at lower levels of language proficiency, the choice seems limited to pedagogic or adapted readers. In choosing such material, the teacher is following the same principle as when choosing a textbook of appropriate language level” (2000:218). 19

According to Harmer authentic texts are designed for native speakers and nonauthentic texts are written especially for language students (1991:185). The advantage of using authentic texts is that the students can see a language as the author used it in the book. On the other hand, some of the authentic books may be very difficult to read and understand for students. On the contrary, there are specific books in which the language is simplified and abridged to make the book easy for language learners to read and understand. The book market offers a wide range of simplified readers at all language levels.

Learners may choose classical literature or contemporary literature in different genres, e. g. detective stories, fantasies, adventure stories, science-fiction, etc. Harmer suggests three reasons for using literature in language teaching – to become better readers, to acquire language and to achieve some success, and therefore he recommends to use authentic as well as non-authentic materials in language teaching (1991:186). Dealing mostly with the heterogeneous classes I have to agree with the experts that not only authentic but also non-authentic or adapted texts can be very useful in language teaching.

For example, for some really clever pupil is the major success to read Tolkien? s The Lord of the Rings in original but on the other hand for a weaker student reading a simplified version of e. g. The Jungle Book can be also very successful and motivating. Is is necessary to agree with Carter and Long that “learners of a language cannot be expected to read major prose works in the target language when they are still at elementary or intermediate level. It is for such learners that a very wide selection of readers is available.

The purpose of these texts is to improve reading skills. The principle of selection is that the work selected has a good story line, and has continued to be enjoyed by readers” (1991:146). The Longman Simplified English Series, which has a wide variety of titles, explains the aim as “to enable thousands of readers to enjoy without great difficulty some of the 20 best books written in the English language, and in doing so, to equip themselves in the pleasantest possible way, to understand and appreciate any work written in English.

” 5. HOW TO USE CHILDREN? S AND JUVENILE LITERATURE AND FANTASY BOOKS Widdowson states that “reading can be seen as a kind of dialogue between the reader and the text, or even between the reader and the author” (1979a). Another interesting definition is written by Harmer: “Reading is an exercise dominated by the eyes and the brain. The eyes receive messages and the brain then has to work out the significance of these messages” (1991:190).

The advantage of reading is that the reader can decide how fast he or she wants to read a text, in comparison with listening, where the listener has to do his best with a text whose speed is chosen by the speaker. During reading the book the reader can think, make connections, agree or disagree with the author or find out better solutions than the writer. Reading literature is definitely a source of pleasure and it helps to develop a person in general.

5. 1 Reading as a purposeful process Pugh (1978) and Lunzer and Gardner (1979) described different styles of reading in their reading research project, and their terminology is used in ELT methodology: • “Receptive reading – is undertaken, for example, when a reader wants to enjoy a short story, follow a line of argument in a newspaper editorial, or understand the main stages in a textbook description of a manufacturing process.

• Reflective reading – involves episodes of reading the text and then pausing to reflect and backtrack, for example, when a reader wants to check whether a new 21 line of argument in a political text is consistent with opinions expressed earlier in the same article.

• Skim reading – is used to get a global impression of the content of a text. An example would be previewing a long magazine article by reading rapidly, skipping large chunks of information, and focusing on headings and first lines of paragraphs. • Scanning – involves searching rapidly through a text to find a specific point of information, for example, the relevant times on a timetable, items in a directory, or key points in a academic text.

• Intensive reading – involves looking carefully at a text, as a student of literature would look at a poem to appreciate the choice of words, or as a solicitor would study the precise wording of a legal document. ” The main point of making these distinctions is that different purposes for reading determine different strategies in approaching texts and also different rates of reading. Nowadays it becomes standard practice in ELT methodology to consider real purposes for reading outside the classroom and to include them in reading activities.

Rivers and Temperley, for example, make the point that: “Reading activities, from the beginning, should have some purpose and we should concentrate on the normal purposes of reading” (1978:187). The purpose can be of different kinds, for example, to get information; to answer the curiosity about a topic; to follow instructions to do a task; for pleasure, amusement, and personal enjoyment; to keep in touch with friends and colleagues; or to know what is happening in the world.

It is necessary to say that these purposes for reading can be easily adapted to using children?s and juvenile literature and fantasy books with teenagers. Because in our society English becomes part of language learners? environment, these purposes may be real-life ones for most of them. They can get information from the books, fantasy stories usually evoke curiosity and since fantasy literature is very popular among teenagers, they can keep in touch with their friends what is usually very important for young 22 people. Also reading and using fantasy books and stories can be enjoyable and amusing for them.

Even where it can be difficult to identify any needs, there still may be some motivational reasons for giving teenagers a range of purposes for reading and presenting them with a variety of texts, for example, articles, poems, or short stories. Not many coursebooks provide classroom activities to slow, intensive study of texts. Fortunately, it is now common for most teachers to find and use activities which encourage different speeds of reading, and different degrees of pre-reading and rereading, and searching through the text.

As Hedge explains “more importantly, however, it is now recognized that one text may be read in a variety of styles, and that readers will have different purposes at each stage of the reading process and will apply the appropriate strategies” (2000:196). 5. 2 Extensive and intensive reading There are two main reading styles which can be defined as extensive and intensive reading. McRae says that: “Extensive reading implies that students read outside the classroom fuller texts than the passages examined in class for purely language-learning purposes” (1991:43).

The materials used for extensive reading can be anything, for example, from short stories, or newspaper or magazines articles, to full-length fantasy books. Another interesting definition can be provided in the article by Bamford and Day that “extensive reading is generally associated with reading large amounts with the aim of getting an overall understanding of the material. Readers are more concerned with the meaning of the text than the meaning of individual words or sentences” (1997).


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