Since my childhood, I have always found the greatest pleasure in reading. I would spend hours devoted to the pages of my favorite stories; I would never get enough.
In spite of that, when it came to literature classes, the only word that comes to my mind is tedious.
Those classes were largely limited to hearing the teacher reading out loud, followed by a round of the most annoyingly simple questions about the text, while all the students struggled not to fall asleep on their desks.
That is, instead of helping us develop a taste for literature and create reading habits, it made us think of books as an academic obligation, unfit to be enjoyed, and of no importance beyond the limits of the classroom.
Books do not only improve the reading comprehension skills and provide general knowledge on people, places, or ideas but widen the confines of the reader's imagination and give him/her a better understanding of the world we live in.
Today, I thought of some things that I would have liked to see implemented in my literature classes when I was younger.
They all point in the same direction: an alliance between teachers and students to make the most of the time they have and create an environment based on critical thinking and curiosity.
Learn About and Share Students' Reading Habits and Favorites
What could be better for the first day of class than breaking the ice by inviting the students to share their literary preferences?
Do they like to read? How often do they read after school? What kinds of books do they enjoy the most? If they do not like reading, why? Do they like to watch movies or series? Which other activities do they prefer?
I believe it is very important for the teacher to know who he/she is dealing with to be able to plan the classes for every group of students. If most of them do not like to read, asking about their hobbies and interests can help to identify an author or genre they might like and find attractive.
Discuss the Context Behind the Books and Their Authors
Reading a book is not enough to understand it. For example, if you want to interest your students in the classics, it might be a good idea to explain to them why are these stories so famous. A book, like everything related to art, is not created from anything, but as a consequence of something.
When was the book written? Which events of the time influenced its writing? Which events of the author’s life were important for him/her to write the book? What characterizes his/her style? How did the book influence literature at the time?
It is useful to situate what we read in a historical, political, and social context, not simply for the pleasure of learning more things, but to understand what the author was trying to say to us.
This is also a good way to prove to students that writers are not beings of a privilege intelligence who lived in remote times, but ordinary people who had things to say and who managed to express themselves through the written word. This will make the reading experience feel closer.
Assign Creative Writing Activities
This was my favorite thing to do when I was at school. Encouraging students to write their own stories, create a new version of the one they have read, or tell it from the point of view of a different character are examples of entertaining activities. The variety of ideas and opinions resulting from this can be very interesting, and it will probably surprise the teacher.
You can also use technology! Many teachers believe that the possibilities are reduced to watching a movie, but that is a very limited perspective. Why not ask students to create a video or a book trailer? To do that, they would have to prepare their own script, look for places to shoot the scenes, and plan the edition. Most children and teens are really skilled when it comes to technology, so it is a good way to challenge them in their area of expertise.
Give Students a Chance to Share Their Preferences
Most of the teachers do not have the slightest idea of which books are in fashion or have more acceptance among young people. It is striking for the students to see a teacher who is modern, who shows interest, and is open to try new things.
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The fact that many teenagers do not read paper books, but consume a lot of material from websites such as Wattpad or fanfiction.net is something that needs to be considered.
Being aware of the movies and series that are most popular at the moment can also be useful to suggest books related to those topics. Above all, it is important to give the students the chance to give their opinion and propose titles they would like to read.
Logically, not all the books in the program can be replaced, but giving them the chance of participating makes them feel more at ease and awakes their sympathy for the subject.
Host Debates to Foster Critical Thinking
Books are not only to read but to make us think and develop critical thinking. A debate about the impression that a book left in the students is an excellent way of closing any reading activity.
Convey Passion in Your Lesson Plans
This is the most important. It is assumed that if a teacher decides to teach a subject it is because it is something he/she is passionate about. Enthusiasm is highly contagious and generates curiosity more than any other thing.
A teacher can be in charge of the most boring subject that ever existed, But if when he/she stands in front of the class, the students can notice that this person loves it and considers it to be important, then it is impossible for them to not feel captivated.
Reading the right book at the right time can change a life, so every teacher may have in his/her hands the possibility of a change of unsuspected magnitude.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Literarycreature
Literarycreature (author) from Argentina on September 29, 2020:
Knowing about other countries' educational systems is always interesting to me.
It is curious that the elementary years have a more varied literary program.
I grew up in a small town, so I cannot speak for the majority of schools in my country, but in mine we were barely in touch with literature at all before reaching high school. Once there, we were exposed to some Latin American authors (That are great by the way!) but not much else. For example, we never read a Shakespeare play. My classmates had no idea who Hamlet was! They were not even interested, and classes did not help much.
I am glad you pay attention to your students and foster their abilities as much as you can. We need more teachers with that attitude around here!
Thank you for your comment!
Stephanie Bradberry from New Jersey on September 21, 2020:
I have found the American educational system very stymieing for exposure to literature and choice all the way from K-13. But ironically the most variety can be found in the elementary years. Due to standards and inflexible curricula, many wonderful scholars, writers and avid readers fall through the cracks. It was often through my personal curiosity of what my students enjoyed writing and reading that I found their true skill set and ability to write. I personally made the time around and outside of school hours to foster these talents and unknown passions for different genres not covered in school or part of the standard curriculum.