How To Create A Literature Lesson Plan

Posted: November 11, 2010 in Teacher's Guide

There were two sample lesson plans based on an excerpt or a short story. Both followed a similar lesson plan format, outlined below. This sort of lesson plan works well for extracts from stories, poems or extracts from plays.

Stage One ( Warmer )

There are two different possible routes you can take for this stage:

  • Devise a warmer that gets students thinking about the topic of the extract or poem. This could take several forms: a short discussion that students do in pairs, a whole class discussion, a guessing game between you and the class or a brainstorming of vocabulary around that topic.
  • Devise a warmer that looks at the source of the literature that will be studied. Find out what the students already know about the author or the times he/she was writing in. Give the students some background information to read (be careful not to make this too long or it will detract from the rest of the lesson; avoid text overload!). Explain in what way this piece of literature is well-known (maybe it is often quoted in modern films or by politicians). This sort of warmer fits more into the cultural model of teaching literature.

Stage Two ( Before Reading )

This stage could be optional, or it may be a part of the warmer. Preparing to read activities include:

  • Pre-teaching very difficult words (note: pre-teaching vocabulary should be approached with caution. Often teachers “kill” a text by spending too much time on the pre-teaching stage. Limit the amount of words you cover in this stage. If you have to teach more than seven or eight there is a good chance the text will be too difficult.)
  • Predicting. Give students some words from the extract and ask them to predict what happens next. If it is a play, give them a couple of lines of dialogue and ask them to make predictions about the play.
  • Giving students a “taste”. Read the first bit of the extract (with their books closed, or papers turned over) at normal speed, even quickly. Ask students to compare what they have understood in pairs. Then ask them to report back to you. Repeat the first bit again. Then ask them to open the book (or turn over the page) and read it for themselves.

Stage three: understanding the text, general comprehension

Often with extracts or poems, I like to read the whole thing to my students so that they can get more of a “feel” for the text. With very evocative pieces of literature or poetry this can be quite powerful. Then I let students read it to themselves. It is important to let students approach a piece of literature the first time without giving them any specific task other than to simply read it. One of the aims of teaching literature is to evoke interest and pleasure from the language. If students have to do a task at every stage of a literature lesson, the pleasure can be lost.

Once students have read it once, you can set comprehension questions or ask them to explain the significance of certain key words of the text. Another way of checking comprehension is to ask students to explain to each other (in pairs) what they have understood. This could be followed up by more subjective questions (e.g.. Why do you think X said this? How do you think the woman feels? What made him do this?)

Stage four: understanding the language

At this stage get to grips with the more difficult words in the text. See how many of the unfamiliar words students can get from context. Give them clues.

You could also look at certain elements of style that the author has used. Remember that there is some use in looking at non-standard forms of language to understand the standard.

If appropriate to the text, look at the connotation of words which the author has chosen. For example, if the text says “She had long skinny arms,” what does that say about the author’s impression of the woman? Would it be different if the author had written “She had long slender arms”?

Using poems

  • have students read each other the poem aloud at the same time, checking for each other’s pronunciation and rhythm. Do a whole class choral reading at the end.
  • Ask students to rewrite the poem, changing the meaning but not the structure.
  • Ask students to write or discuss the possible story behind the poem. Who was it for? What led to the writing of this poem?
  • Have a discussion on issues the poem raised and how they relate to the students’ lives.

Using extracts from stories or short stories

  • Ask students to write what they think will happen next, or what they think happened just before.
  • Ask students to write a background character description of one of the characters which explains why they are the way they are.
  • Ask students to imagine they are working for a big Hollywood studio who wants to make a movie from the book. They must decide the location and casting of the movie.
  • Ask students to personalise the text by talking about if anything similar has happened to them.
  • Ask students to improvise a role play between two characters in the book.

Using extracts from plays

Most of the ideas from stories (above) could be applied here, but obviously, this medium gives plenty of opportunity for students to do some drama in the classroom. Here are some possibilities:

  • Ask students to act out a part of the scene in groups.
  • Ask students to make a radio play recording of the scene. They must record this onto cassette. Listen to the different recordings in the last five minutes of future classes. Who’s was the best?
  • Ask students to read out the dialogue but to give the characters special accents (very “foreign” or very “American” or “British”). This works on different aspects of pronunciation (individual sounds and sentence rhythm).
  • Ask students to write stage directions, including how to deliver lines (e.g. angrily, breathlessly etc) next to each character’s line of dialogue. Then they read it out loud.
  • Ask students to re-write the scene. They could either modernise it (this has been often done with Shakespeare), or imagine that it is set in a completely different location (in space for example). Then they read out the new version.

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