Welcome to part 1 of the second episode in my series on teaching literature in the second-language classroom: what literature to teach.

Today's Agenda

My name is Frank Bonkowski, online English-language course creator at English school courses and language professor at Cegep de Saint-Laurent in Montreal.

In today’s episode on teaching literature, I will review the seven reasons to teach literature I talked about in episode one.

Next, I will look at the four literary genres that I use in teaching literature as well as the four English speaking countries that I visit in my teaching.

Then, I will present 10 questions that I ask myself when teaching literature. Finally, I will mention the names of four iconic authors who never fail to fascinate learners.

An excellent tool for teaching literary analysis in the blended classroom is my online course, How to Write a Literary Analysis.

Literary genres in different English-speaking countries

In the first episode, I pointed out that teaching literature is authentic, culturally enriching, language focused, engaging, real world centred, universal, and motivating.

In my literature class, students study four different genres of English literature. These include short stories, poems and song lyrics, novels, and plays.

To represent the four different English-speaking countries, I have chosen the national animals of those countries: the American eagle, the British lion, the Irish unicorn, and Canadian geese.

The pieces of literature I use in class focus on American, British, Irish, and Canadian literature.

Questions to ask yourself

How do I choose the pieces of literature that I use in my teaching? Here are 10 questions I like to ask myself.

  • Is the author famous or infamous? In other words, is there something eccentric or remarkable about the author? I like my students to study the author’s life as well as his or her body of work in general.
  • Is the other female or male? I like to have a mix of both men and women represented in the pieces I teach.
  • Is the piece of literature somehow representative of the period? Are there intellectual, cultural, social or economic issues relevant in the piece?
  • Are the characters memorable? A strong protagonist or a malevolent antagonist always catch the interest of students.
  • Is the plot gripping? In other words, is there compelling conflict in the story? Is there a resolution to the story or is conclusion open-ended?
  • Is there a universal message? Great pieces of literature have enduring themes that appeal to all ages and cultures.
  • Is there something special about the point of view in the piece? The narrative slant can give the piece such a different meaning.
  • Does the piece provoke discussion? This is so important to engage student interest.
  • Finally, is the piece available online and in the public domain? I post links to the readings in my course plan.

Iconic English-Speaking Authors

There are so many authors to choose from? So which authors work best for students year in and year out? Here are four iconic authors that learners love reading and talking about?

There’s the brilliant British writer, George Orwell, who coined words like “Big Brother” and “doublethink.”

There’s the imaginative Irish writer, Oscar Wilde, who uses beautiful metaphorical language in whatever he wrote.

There’s the amazing American writer, Edgar Allan Poe, who constantly scares us even today with his stories.

Finally, there is the celebrated Canadian poet and songwriter, Leonard Cohen, who charms us with his poems on the themes of sex, religion, and beauty.

This episode was brought to you by How to Write a Literary Analysis, on sale now.

In part 2 of what literature to teach coming soon, I talk about specific American, British, Irish and Canadian authors and the works I use in the literature classroom.

See the video version of this post.