Fun Classroom Activities for Teaching Literature
Nov 7, 2010Carol Rzadkiewicz
ENGLISH CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES – LUSI
When teaching literature in middle or high school, for the best results teachers should employ more creative methods than assigning essays or reports.
Teaching a novel is often difficult for many teachers, mainly because most students tend to lose interest the moment they’re told they have to read a book and then write a report or an essay on its literary aspects and/or merits. In fact, they are bored before they even begin. If teachers plan activities, however, designed to get students involved in the novel and bring its characters to life for them personally, that’s a different story entirely (pardon the pun), for students will then become engaged and active participants in their own education, as well as perhaps even have fun in the process.
The Importance of Teaching Literature to Students
According to Edward Proffitt, author of Reading & Writing About Literature (1990), “The truth of fiction is not the truth of history or of science, but the more personal truth of human feelings and disposition, communicated best when that substantial part of ourselves that understands primarily through the senses and the emotions is touched” (p. 31). In other words, we find in fiction what cannot be found in history and science: “an intimate sense of the inner lives of people, their deepest feelings, their conflicts and confusions, their most secret joys and fears” (Proffitt, p. 31).
This is why teachers need to find creative ways to teach literature. Otherwise, students will see literature as nothing more than pages in books filled with words that have no bearing upon their lives and fail to see the truth that only fiction reveals – the truth about themselves.
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The Role of Creativity in the Teaching of Literature
Director of the New York Center for Critical Thinking and Language Learning, Dr. John Chaffee maintains that since human beings have an almost unlimited capacity for creativity and their imaginations provide them with the ability to conceive of new possibilities and innovative ideas, the use of creative resources imparts a special meaning to learning activities.
For this reason, teachers need to develop lesson plans for the teaching of literature that allow students the opportunity to be creative in how they respond to literary works. Writing a report or an essay does not provide an outlet for creativity, so it’s no wonder that students moan and groan when they hear, “Write a two-page report” or “Write a 500-word essay.” In fact, if anything, such assignments stifle students’ creativity and, in so doing, help ensure that they will never learn the truth that only fiction reveals.
English Lesson Plans for Teaching Literature
Below are ten suggested group activities to get students engaged and interested in an assigned reading. Divide the class into groups, or let them choose their own group members, and then either assign an activity to each group or allow them to choose the activity they think they would most enjoy completing. Remember, if they enjoy it, students are far more apt to learn from an activity.
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Using Publisher or Adobe, create a newspaper for the setting of the novel (town, city, state, or general area), and write brief news and feature stories about the different characters and events. Also include appropriate advertisements and, of course, photos and/or other images.
Write a movie script, concentrating on one or two key scenes in the novel, and then create costumes for the characters, act out the scenes, and videotape the “movie” for presentation to the class.
Write a movie script, but change the novel’s setting to a different time (past or future) and place; for example, set Charles Dickens Great Expectations in 2030, on Mars or even aboard a spaceship.
Develop a pilot for a TV sitcom based upon the characters. Write the script, concentrating on one or perhaps two key events, which may be modified for creative purposes, assign roles, and then film the pilot for presentation to the class. (Students could also present the show in a live performance.)
Create an advertising campaign to promote sale of the novel, including a poster for a bookstore, commercials for radio and television, and ads for a magazine and a newspaper advertisement. (Tchudi & Mitchell, 1989)
Design a board game based upon characters and key events in the novel. Include not only the board for playing but also rules and clear directions. (Tchudi & Mitchell, 1989)
Create a comic book based upon the novel, depicting major characters as superheroes and including key events from the storyline, albeit with a little creative license.
Develop a website that provides an overview of the novel, its characters, and key events.
Create a talk show with the novel’s main characters as guests. Interview the guests, asking them questions about their behavior and key events in the novel. Film the talk show for presentation to the class.
Design a book jacket for the novel. Include the title, author, publisher, date of publication, etc; a synopsis of the novel on the inside flap; and a photograph along with the author’s bio on the back of the jacket. (Tchudi & Mitchell, 1989)
In summary, the suggested activities above are but a few, for there are countless ways to incorporate creativity into the teaching of literature. In fact, you might have some ideas of your own. If so, then give them a try. The important thing is that you get away from the old notion that assigning book reports and essays is necessary in order to teach literature effectively. It isn’t, at least not if you want students to see the truth that only fiction reveals.
If you found this article helpful, you might also enjoy:
“Fun Classroom Activities for Teaching Writing”
“Improve Writing Skills in English with Proven Teaching Techniques”
“How to Write A Book Report for an English Class”
“The Difference Between Creative Thinkers and Non-creative Thinkers”
Chaffee, J. Critical Thinking, Thoughtful Writing; Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002.
Proffitt, E. Reading & Writing About Literature; New York: Harcourt Brace, 1990.
Tchudi, S. & Mitchell, D. Explorations in the Teaching of English; New York: Harper Collins, 1989.
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