This paper is written from a teacher’s point of view and it is going to deal with techniques and methods that have a great chance to bring literature back to its well-worth place: the classroom – whether it is a controlled learning process or an after school type activity. The paper is also going to answer the question: what should come first the book or the film in the learning / teaching process.
TECHNIQUES and METHODS
According to Edward Anthony, cited by Jack C. Richards and Theodore S.Rodgers in ‘Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching’ (2001) ”(…) technique is the level at which classroom procedures are described”.
Nowadays there are numerous teaching techniques that can bring literature back to the classroom. They can be used successfully if they are chosen carefully, taking into consideration the students’ age, comprehension level, areas of interest. It is also of great importance to bring in authentic materials for many reasons. Authentic texts – either written or audio – increase motivation, interest and engagement and encourage contextualization of both vocabulary usage and correct grammar. Authentic texts help students develop cognitive skills, provide cultural background and develop the sense of belonging to a certain culture. Literature for children, if properly chosen, can be considered an appropriate means for intermediate language knowledge students, provided the language is simple, the theme is universal and the patterns are predictable. Contextualization of the information and the interesting illustrations (if any) give an extra credit to the reading material.
Auditory techniques – books on tape, peer reading, and films – can be used for discussions; they can also lead to exciting writing assignments. Compared with the written texts from the books, students might be more interested in the pictures and sounds from the films, thus being able to concentrate on the story easier. As films are a good means of providing realistic examples of authentic language and show the actions and the communication aspects visually as well as verbally, they can be used successfully into the reading lessons. If the film is a book- based one, both the movie and the written text can provide the reader and the viewer, almost in the same time, a large linguistic acquisition and audio-video satisfaction.
Reading aloud will be considered a good technique to bring literature into the classroom provided some important aspects are taken into account: the choice of a balanced book collection at all grade levels; putting the information into a rhythmic pattern such as a poem, a song, a rap; the choice of texts that facilitate a cross-curricular experience.
Reading skills, enquiry skills, understanding and creativity can be developed through drama techniques (dialogue reading, role-play, acting out). They can also enhance character development and storytelling and can be used both in everyday classroom activities and in after school type activities. Literary texts and films can be explored to a higher extent through drama techniques as they both build on the students’ innate ability for fantasy and imaginative play providing a student – friendly context for exposure to language. They make use of TPR – total physical response – thus developing more than reading and speaking skills, it also increases socio-cultural knowledge, intercultural awareness and concentration and communication skills. Drama techniques provide opportunities for multisensory, kinesthetic responses to stories and stimulate visual reasoning and learning by doing at a number of different levels. Role-plays are fun and highly motivating activities when the real dialogues from the book that has been just read or the film that has just been watched are used.
According to Edward Anthony, cited by Jack C. Richards and Theodore S.Rodgers in ‘Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching’ (2001) ‘(…) method is the level at which theory is put into practice and at which choices are made about the particular skills to be taught, the content to be taught, and the order in which the content will be presented’.
Project based learning is an extension of the above mentioned techniques. Cooperative learning – in the format of a project – as a method of teaching is very popular among teachers and students as it is a dynamic approach to teaching and learning. There are endless methods that fit the project based learning approach. We will mention just a few, the most appropriate ones for the lower secondary level students, such as chapter / episode presentations; time period presentations; turning a text into a dialogue; read and make. All these methods have the advantage of leading the students into intensive reading; if the piece of reading is carefully chosen, students are expected to fulfill the reading activities easily, without having the impression that the tasks are a burden.
Students can be assigned these techniques in groups on both the given literary work (actually here I mean using literary work as language teaching resource) and the film adaptation. Turning a text into dialogues may be as challenging as watching the dialogue in the film and, turning it into a narrative. But the most rewarding method for students, after having tried all the above mentioned ones, seems to be the one in which the students are asked to read a text and then make a film adaptation of it by themselves by creating vivid descriptions and by discussing the impact of their work. And only after having done it, they should watch and compare with the ‘Hollywood’ or “Disney” film adaptations. It is no doubt that such a task should be assigned to the ones that are skillful enough in using the ICT and master, to some extent, the techniques that are to be involved in making and editing short films.
The most popular method that is tried and tested on my students (lower secondary level) remains the board game and card game method that can be applied both to teaching through literature and films. It is a very flexible method and not very demanding as soon as the templates are made. The method can serve the learners’ needs at any moment of the lesson, as well as in activities that are designed to be taken place in after school assignments. Again, the method is very well applicable to different kinds of learners, so as the ones that are into reading could chose the literary text while the ones that are more motivated by the video materials could work on the visual elements that seem to them to be more meaningful and alive and help them to bring the real world into the classroom.
As the using of films and the literary texts language teaching does not mean merely play the film for the students in the classroom or simply read the text, board game and card game method is one more time rewarding as it requires the students full participation in order to be able to accomplish the tasks successfully. The next group of students to use the games will not be capable of asking the questions until they have read and watched the film adaptation.
WHAT SHOULD COME FIRST – IN TEACHING – THE BOOK OR THE FILM?
There are teachers who consider that reading the book before watching the film is essential. Then, there are educators who consider that it is better to watch the film and only then read the book.
Some statistics claim that today’s teenagers daily spend more than an hour and a half listening to music, over an hour using the computer, less than an hour playing video games, about a quarter of an hour reading and 25 minutes watching movies (Rideout, Roberts & Foehr, 2005). For movies, that means 152 hours per year. This statistics is thus in favour of those who say that reading first is important. But everything is adaptable. Some of the books have to be condensed when adapted to the big screen due to the massive abstract words that cannot be transferred to the film.
In this way, considerable parts from the literary texts are omitted. This might not be a problem as far as films convey images and sounds that can, at a certain point, highlight other parts of the story in such a way that the message of the text is not altered or modified.
What teachers have to keep in mind when assigning tasks whether to read the book or watch the film is each student’s or group of students’ abilities. There are students who enjoy reading, debating, using their imagination, but there are students who are visual and they prefer watching films and developing speaking, acting skills by imitating or role playing what they have seen. As it is not necessary for films to be carbon copies of the book, in this case it is better to read the book first and then watch the film in order to start a debate on what is to be found in the film, what has been modified or even eluded and why.
Books and films have different roles. They can each have strong points: books are better in characterization, highlight more accurately the inner conflict, while films create a much better visual and acoustic effects.
Given the statistics above, maybe teachers should ask students to read the book first in order to develop imagination, creativity, enrich vocabulary which is more important than being told what to think while watching the film.
Rideout, V., D. F. Roberts, and U. G. Foehr (2005). Generation M: Media in the lives of 8-18 year-olds. Executive summary. Menlo Park, CA: Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
Jack, C., Richards, and Theodore S. Rodgers (2001). Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. Second Edition. Cambridge University Press.