Bringing literature to life - top tips for English teachers


English is a highly complex language but it can also be a joy to teach for many school staff, depending on how they go about it.

For teachers, there is a need to ensure that pupils are engaged with the subject matter, and they should be actively encouraged to question and criticise the works in front of them.

Not only does this enhance understanding, but it also means pupils can question things they may not understand.

Fortunately, there are an array of resources and useful tips out there that can help bring literature to life.

Communication is key

Regardless of whether a teacher has a small or large class, communication has a pivotal role to play in delivering lessons and engaging with pupils.

Encouraging healthy competition in a class can boost engagement, as pupils can be divided up into small groups for tasks, quizzes and other activities.

Encourage interpretation

Many texts leave plenty of room to stretch the imagination and to think outside the box, so teachers should design tasks that allow for a degree of creative thinking.

Role-play can allow pupils to see literature from a new perspective, while storytelling and using pupils’ own experiences can add a different dimension to lessons.

Look to film and TV

Many key literature works have been given the TV treatment, and while they may not always be a true representation of the stories, they can help pupils to visualise what they are reading.

Use short bursts of the films or TV shows in between readings to ensure that pupils understand what is going on and that they grasp the main points from the text.

Seek out guest speakers

If the opportunity arises, invite guest speakers into the classroom to either talk or participate – not only does this provide a different voice, which can increase focus among pupils, but it also gives a take on the literature.

You could ask pupils from the years above who have previously studied the work to present or look for members of the community who may be willing to give up their time, such as authors, publishers or illustrators.

Recognise the need for regular feedback

While a teacher’s feedback can help pupils to comprehend what they are reading and writing, teachers should also ask pupils how they think lessons are going.

This can provide valuable insight into what may or may not be working in lesson plans and can help to identify potential skills or areas where improvements can be made.

Encourage discussion and debate

Many of the key skills that result from understanding and questioning literature are incredibly useful later in life, as it can enable pupils to discuss and debate whatever works they are presented with.

Look for opportunities to encourage healthy discussion as much as possible, as this can be beneficial for pupils as one individual may have a different outlook to another.

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