News from the editorial team

Dear readers,

I dare you to ask your EFL learners “What comes with great power?” Chances are they will know the missing bit to one of the most famous quotes from the world of comics and superheroes. Do read on if you need to dust off your superhero knowledge!

With recent superhero movies taking over where comics started, a new canon has been years in the making, a canon which teachers would be wise to consider. When students struggle to find personal value in the ‘classic’ canon – that is important literary works, agreed on by people who are usually far older than the average EFL student in school – it might be time to utilise the canon students already bring to class. Numerous heroes nowadays follow archetypical stories of love, loss and self-sacrifice. And the best bit for teachers and learners alike: The original versions broadcast into the world are widely available in English. This is authentic language material waiting to be used, created already with a young audience in mind. Let me introduce you to two examples:

“With great power comes great responsibility” is the catchphrase from any story about Spiderman, a young man transformed after he was bitten by a radioactive spider. Yes, this transformation serves as an obvious symbol for puberty and its challenges, superpowers or not, but at the same time, it can be so much more. One of the latest instalments, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, passes the torch from well-known white protagonist Peter Parker to Miles, a young black boy, who in turn is trying hard to fill the shoes of his idol. The film’s message is as fresh as it is classic: Having superpowers surely help, yep, but for someone to be of service, to become a hero to their community, there is no alternative to facing the challenges posed to them. (For another example revolving around a heroine look no further than 2019’s Captain Marvel.) Isn’t this a message about responsibility for oneself and for others which we should be teaching to our students?

Another example of a brilliant start down your superhero-fuelled rabbit hole is Black Panther, the 2018 movie which shone a bright light on late actor Chadwick Boseman and fictional Wakanda. After decades of watching heroes the stereotypical white middle-class male could identify with, it is about time to look for diverse role models. Enter Black Panther, a black man who has to convince both his fellow citizens and the world that there is a future of peaceful co-existence for all of them. Stemming from a Peter-Parker generation myself, I cannot possibly put into words what it might mean to a child to see a person who looks like them succeed on the big screen. I do know, however, that we all profit from having a range of role models, and I will gladly suggest that superheroes like Miles or T’Challa (Black Panther’s real name) become role models for my students.

There are several advantages of working with cross-media material: Go back to the original comics and have their pictures trigger a discussion in class. Maybe edit out the speech from the speech bubbles and have your students write their version of the dialogues? Have them track down differences between the movies and the comics and how that influences a story – media literacy, anyone? These movies usually include speeches of manageable length addressing core values of human life: honesty, dedication, courage. And of course, superhero stories being movies, lend themselves nicely to the myriad of teaching sequences you can find when dealing with films. For some inspiration, why not start with these ideas covering Black Panther in the Classroom?

If you have a superhero story you would like to recommend to the EFL world, do share it with us, please. Growing up, your students will need all the super-charged, super-fast and super-reliable help they can get to navigate a challenging period. So let me double-dare you, fellow EFL teacher: Use your great power, and responsibly lead your students along the way towards a new canon: their canon.

Thank you for your time and feel free to get in touch!

Rico, on behalf of the Lit4School team


A picture is worth a thousand words… But does that also ring true in the EFL classroom? Whether it be a funny comic strip in the daily paper or a thought-provoking graphic novel, they all represent authentic parts of modern media that can help fuel that spark of interest in students.

Comic strips gained massive popularity in the early 20th century, adding a bit of humor to everyone’s daily newspaper. A century later, comic strips continue to occupy a permanent spot in most newspapers, with themes ranging from light humor and puns to political commentary. A prime example of this success can be found in Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Waterson, a comic strip series featured in over 2400 newspapers from 1985 to 1995. The story of 6-year-old Calvin and his stuffed tiger Hobbes enchanted readers left and right. But of course, fans of comic strips couldn’t be expected to hoard newspaper cutouts to reread their favorite parts, right? And so, the 1930s marked the start of ‘the Golden Age of the Comic Book’. Marvel Comics flooded the market with superheroes we still know and love today, shaping the comics industry as we know it. Comic books can also be collections of periodical comic strips, as is the case with Zits by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman. Making its debut in 1997, Zits comics narrate the everyday life of 15-year-old Jeremy; a teenager living in Ohio. But suburban life and high school come with their own set of problems, along with a healthy dose of Mom, Dad, you’re embarrassing me! 

Following the raging success of comic books, the 1970s made way for a new sub-genre of comics: the graphic novel. Also described as a “visual novel”, the graphic novel doesn’t have a clear definition per se. In general, this genre includes a standalone story accompanied by or consisting completely of illustrations. Young readers can find a lot of joy and beauty in graphic novels. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy offers beautiful illustrations along with a heartwarming story about an unusual friendship. Though not quite as wholesome, Diary of a Wimpy Kid tells the story of a preteen’s desperate yet humorous attempts to become “popular” at his school. A wonderful example of a graphic novel with no need for words at all is The Arrival, a multifaceted story about migration, multicultural societies, and hope.

What are your favorite comics? Take the day to bask in the nostalgia, have a laugh and share them with us!

Sarah


Freedom of the press is probably one of the highest public goods we have. It grants us access to a diverse variety of information and thus the opportunity to form a critical and comprehensive opinion and to engage freely with more controversial topics. I think that’s a good reason to talk about press freedom.

Although we are used to the freedom of the press in Germany, it wasn’t that long ago that it was implemented. While other Western countries like Great Britain, Sweden, France, and Belgium acted much more progressively after the end of the totalitarian period, Germany, still divided into smaller states, restricted press freedom. After the March Revolution in Germany in 1848, more liberal press laws were introduced. However, when the German empire was founded 23 years later, regulations were implemented again. So it was only with the founding of the Weimar Republic that a censor-free press law was adopted just to be abolished again in the Third Reich, of course. The GDR never allowed any journalistic freedom unlike the Federal Republic of Germany at the time. In the end, you might say that Germany as a whole has enjoyed these high-held privileges since the reunification.

The World Press Freedom Day promotes the belief that freedom of the press and freedom of expression provides a basis for mutual understanding and sustainable peace. “It serves as an occasion to inform citizens of violations of press freedom – a reminder that in dozens of countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended, and closed down, while journalists, editors, and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered.”(unesco.org) And we don’t have to travel to the other side of the earth to experience the oppression of journalism. In Turkey, for example, journalists are imprisoned for publishing dissident opinions. Many have to leave their country to be safe. Can Dündar is one of them and wrote about his life and experiences before and in prison. Lebenslang für die Wahrheit is just one of the books he wrote about the political circumstances in Turkey. And even though it might not be school literature, Dündar and his story are definitely worth integrating into German/English/Politics/etc. classes when discussing the press and its rights.

In dystopian literature, the freedom of the press and expression are amongst the first rights that are taken away as control over the distribution of information equals control over the distribution of knowledge equals the control over society. At least, that’s the causal structure described in many dystopian texts from Huxley, over Orwell to Atwood. Of course, most of these are quite extreme examples, which, however, makes them so great for engaging with the subject critically. George Orwell even wrote a preface to Animal Farm that describes the process of the book’s publication which was difficult because he so harshly criticizes the Russian regime.

I think history and literature show that press freedom should not be taken for granted. Today is the perfect day for a little impetus for thought, be it with a dystopian novel, newspaper articles, or some TV. It’s important to talk about the freedom of the press and actively appreciate the opportunity of a differentiated discourse!

Stay positive and tolerant and have a great day!

Sarah-Sophia


April 30th: John Boyne

English · 30 April 2021

Happy Birthday, John Boyne!

One of Ireland’s most successful contemporary authors turns 50!

John Boyne is a brilliant writer who never judges what is wrong or right. But what he does is to invite readers to follow his characters through their everyday lives – wherever, whenever the setting is – and let the reader judge themselves. When the characters get confronted with unbelievable, terrible occasions, John Boyne tells in an unexcited and sensitive manner what is going on. He avoids being loud and flashy, avoids pointing at mistakes and faults his protagonists might do. And because the texts’ moods are very calm, the reader is shaken up and shocked when he or she reveals the dark side of the presumed banalities John Boyne presents in his stories.

Surely, most readers will connect John Boyne to “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas”, which explores nationalism and the cruelty of concentration camps through children’s eyes. Another novel named “Stay Where You Are and Then Leave” tells the story of Alfie, whose father serves in World War I and writes letters to his son. Suddenly, the letters stop, and Alfie tries to find out where his father is. It is a novel about war and traumas, the shellshock, and the deep love between father and son. Finally, the book was rightly awarded the Gustav-Heinemann-Friedenspreis in 2015.

But John Boyne is not tired of telling new stories about other subjects, apart from war. His latest novel, “My Brother’s Name is Jessica” for young readers, was published in 2019 and tells how protagonist Sam Waver experiences the transitioning of his older brother into a woman.

Happy Birthday, John Boyne! We are looking forward to more brilliantly told stories, sharply analysed social criticism and brave protagonists.

Melanie


April 28th: Harper Lee

English · 28 April 2021

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it” – Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird

Winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, this novelist has long been recognized for her incredible contribution to the discussion around racial inequality. In honor of Harper Lee’s birthday, I’d like to highlight her famous novel To Kill a Mockingbird which we feature on this platform! Her first and only publication until 2015, To Kill a Mockingbird won a Pulitzer Prize and continues to captivate its readers with its insight and warmth. Set in the American South, the story is told from the perspective of six-year-old girl ‘Scout’. When Tim Robinson, an African American resident, is falsely accused of raping a white woman, Scout’s father Atticus agrees to defend Mr Robison in court – but the community turns against him and his client. Most definitely still relevant 60 years post-publication, this thought-provoking novel is a must-read for teachers and students alike!

Sarah


“From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in everything,
That heavy Saturn laughed and leaped with him.”
– William Shakespeare, Sonnet 98

Because it’s unknown on what date Shakespeare was born, Shakespeare Day is celebrated on his death day. He was christened on the 26th of April 1564 and died almost exactly 52 years later. Shakespeare was loved in his time already and his popularity only grew, I would say. Today he is still one of the most celebrated and widely read British authors. I don’t think reading Shakespeare is a very effective way to access the great bard as much of the feelings, wit, and atmosphere is lost. Shakespeare has to be experienced, has to be acted out, and/or watched to get a full grasp of his plays.

Usually, every year a Shakespeare festival takes place in Mühlheim an der Ruhr with open-air performances of one of his plays delivered by The Lord Chamberlain’s Men. The members are traditionally only male actors which might seem strange at first. A few years ago, I sat in the audience enjoying Romeo and Juliet, and despite even Juliet looking slightly brawny and having a teeny-tiny five o’clock shadow, I cried my eyes out when they parted and in the end died.
For is it not Shakespeare where the most lovely, most sorrowful, ghastly, and witty words are to be found?

Shakespeare’s Globe is of course a gigantic tourist attraction but definitely worth a visit (provided that it’s possible again), not only for a live performance but also for a tour through the museum which is huge. At the moment they still have online shows but plan to make in-person performances possible again in mid-May. Today and tomorrow, they host an event in collaboration with the University of California exploring the relationship between Shakespeare’s works and climate issues – you can still register for it.

Lit4School features some of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets, adaptations, and related literature as they provide superb insights into the Elizabethan era, especially when looking at them in a more analytic and critical way comparing the plays with the period itself. Apart from the originals, the occasional easy-reading edition is available as well, making Shakespeare more accessible for a younger audience as well, I, Shakespeare and Mr. William Shakespeare’s Plays being two examples.

The cornucopia of Shakespeare literature and media all around the world shows that the playwright has not lost his relevance, still inspiring fruitful ideas.

On that note: “Fair thought and happy hours attend you!” (Merchant of Venice)
Cheers to Shakespeare and his spectacular legacy!

Sarah-Sophia


World Earth Day has always held a special place in my heart growing up. As a kid, I used to attend the annual World Earth Day festival, hoping to snag a cute wolf T-shirt or get a butterfly painted on my face. But of course, World Earth Day isn’t about us, but everything around us that we so often ignore or take for granted. The first World Earth Day in 1970 marked the start of an awareness of climate change and its consequences. Pollution in the air was no longer seen as a natural consequence of industrialization, but a dangerous sign of the deteriorating environment. Now, World Earth Day aims to raise awareness of the urgent need for change. The official Earth Day Website offers digital events all about the environment from April 20th through 22nd. This includes panel discussions, presentations and more. Don’t forget that today, teachers also have the opportunity to register for a free school ticket for one of the Earth Day performances! Of course, there is an abundance of literature that can help spark the discussion about climate change in the EFL classroom, regardless of age and language level.

  • How to Bee by Bren MacDibble is set in a world where have bees have gone extinct. As a result, children must take on the job of hand pollinating plants. And even though 9-year-old Peony is technically too young for the job, she’s convinced she would make a great bee.
  • In Watership Down by Richard Adams, a group of rabbits is forced to flee from their home due to man-made destruction. Their home is collateral damage in a construction project, leading to a search for safety and new beginnings.
  • Dear Future Generations: Sorry by Prince Ea offers a reflection on the current climate change and environmental destruction. The speaker’s apology to “future generations” is accompanied by practical advice on how to reduce your carbon footprint and build ethical consumer habits. This would be a great conversation starter about the practicality of the speaker’s advice and the students’ own ideas.
  • The dystopian novel A Friend of the Earth by TC Boyle details the life of 75-year-old Tyrone. Set in 2025, climate change has lead to mass extinctions. His memories date back 40 years, describing his activism against deforestation that he took part in with love interest Andrea.

In honor of World Earth Day, give your pets or plants an extra hug today! If you have suggestions for literature about climate change and striving for change, let us know!

Sarah


“Would you like an adventure now or shall we have tea first?” – Lewis Carroll

Although this is a day originating in the UK and is mostly celebrated by the British, I think Tea Day is worth being implemented in every tea lover’s calendar. Especially in the current situation of social distancing and isolation, it is important to take the one or the other hour and make it special. Having a spectacular tea time might just be the thing to do! Of course, a cosy fifteen minutes tea break could also do the trick, in the end, it’s all especially about the joy of the moment.

The British also developed many different kinds of “tea times” and celebrations. There is, for example, high tea which is set at a dinner table between 5 and 6 pm. Also, there is low tea which takes place a little earlier in the afternoon and instead of sitting around a dinner table, comfy armchairs and low coffee tables are used, hence the name. Moreover, there seem to be endless options of food to serve with your tea: from tiny cucumber sandwiches and scones to actual meals, there is an inexhaustible number of suggestions and recipes. So, it’s definitely fun to browse through the internet reading about the different etiquettes and customs.

In Germany, we do have similar rituals; they are, however, mostly located in the north. I, myself, love a long afternoon tea and use my very own fancy tea set consisting of little cups, saucers, a sugar and a cream pot, and the teapot. While in the UK, black tea is mostly drunk with milk, in the north of Germany, cream is used. And it’s tradition to pour it in, preferably with a special cream spoon, counterclockwise – to slow down time, which I find incredibly cute! Of course, tea is also an often-used prop in literature and other media. Apart from the mad hatters in Wonderland, which probably first come to mind, the hobbits also love their tea. In the Hundred Acre Wood, Christopher Robin and his friends have a fabulous time at their tea parties. Since the beloved beverage experienced a great boom in the Romantic and Victorian era, it is only natural that the Bennet sisters have the one or the other cup, and in The Importance of Being Earnest, they have long conversations about tea and cake and even about cucumber sandwiches. In A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Arthur Dent needs his tea even when exploring space, just like the beloved Enterprise captain Jean-Luke Picard, and even if the answer to everything is 42, tea might sometimes be an even better one.

“If you are cold, tea will warm you;
if you are too heated, tea will cool you;
If you are depressed, it will cheer you;
If you are excited, it will calm you.” – William Ewart Gladstone

So, whatever tea you fancy the most and however you like to drink it, take a cup and some time to do nothing but enjoy! And then have some more.

Sarah-Sophia


April 17th: Chaucer Day

English · 17 April 2021

“Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote,
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licóur
Of which vertú engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye,
So priketh hem Natúre in hir corages,
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages […]”

This introductory quote taken from the General Prologue of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (c. 1400) marks the beginning of a competitive storytelling competition of 30 pilgrims on their way to Canterbury. April 17th is quite an extraordinary day that, for once, doesn’t mark a birthday but peculiarly the first reading Chaucer performed of his Canterbury Tales at court in 1397. Being his greatest work, even though he died before he could finish it, it is special because he wrote and performed it in English. As the common language spoken at court was French, using the Vernacular, the language of the peasants, was unusual. The Canterbury Tales are still widely read and loved because of its wit and social criticism, and on top, it is possible to read and to understand without any special training.

Of course, there is a considerable number of easy-reading editions and video summaries that also provide an excellent insight into these famous satiric short tales. Geoffrey Chaucer ingeniously found the right tone and speech repertoire for each of his pilgrims according to their class and characteristics creating humorously exaggerated personalities. If someone would ask me about my favourite literary work was, I couldn’t possibly choose a single text but The Canterbury Tales definitely make the shortlist and an amusing pastime.


If you too want to get your mind out of the present for a little while and peek through a window into the past, look into the one or the other story!

HAPPY CHAUCER-READING!

Sarah-Sophia


You may write me down in history With your bitter, twisted lies, You may trod me in the very dirt But still, like dust, I’ll rise. […] Up from a past that’s rooted in pain I rise I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide, Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.” – Maya Angelou, Still I Rise (1978)

These empowering lines originate from the pen of award-winning author, poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou. Born on April 4, 1928, Marguerite Annie Johnson experienced sexual assault as a child and became involved in the sex industry as a young woman. Angelou suffered from racial injustices of the Jim Crow Laws in the American South and fought together with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X in the Civil Rights Movement. Her autobiographies and poems have been internationally recognised and been used for educational purposes ever since. On Lit4School we feature four of her poems: Still I RiseCaged BirdPhenomenal Woman and Amazing Peace as well as her inspiring autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969). Her works often feature encouraging speakers and passages demanding for protest and resistance against injustice, racial or gender stereotyping and discrimination, while also exploring female identity, family and loss. Angelou’s inspiring writing is suitable for interdisciplinary teaching projects on racism and segregation and should also be related to current cases of police violence against people of colour in the US or the Black Lives Matter protest movement.

Happy Easter, kind regards and stay safe everyone!

Simon


When we read, our minds grow wings; when we write, our fingers sing.” – Margarita Engle

There’s nothing better to escape reality than a good book, for adults and children alike. Books let us lose ourselves in worlds different from our own and are vital for children’s imaginations. This year’s motto for International Children’s Book Day is “The Music of Words”. So, in honour of today, here are some of my favourite picks for young readers! The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne transports its readers into a world full of history and magic, putting a spin on some of history’s major events. If you’re looking for something more “science-y”, The Magic School Bus is the one for you! This series unravels the magic of the human body and the world around us, magical anthropomorphic school bus and all! But just as books let us learn about ourselves, they can also bridge the gap between us and cultures unfamiliar to us. Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Maillard gives insight into Native American culture and the meaning traditional food can hold, complete with a recipe and heartwarming illustrations. The eco-critical picture books Clean Up!, The Boy Who Grew a Forest and Greta and The Giants remind us that no one is too small to make a differernce. Books can teach a multitude of things, but at times the most important part is the reading experience itself. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse features beautiful illustrations along with a story all about friendship that will make you fall in love with reading all over again. But watch out, or you’ll turn out like The Incredible Book Eating Boy! 

Check out our previous post for some books that are ideal for story-telling and reading aloud in the classroom!

What are some of your favourite nostalgic children’s books? Let us know!

Sarah


All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts.” – Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII, Line 139

Have you ever thought to stage a scene or a whole play with your pupils? In contrast to narrative and poetic texts, dramatic ones are meant for performance in front of an audience. As a literary genre with both, textual (script) and representational spheres (performance), plays offer multiple possibilities and reasons for communicative and creative teaching activities in the language classroom. Indeed, one can and should analyse both the script (e.g. according to the setting, characters, themes and plot) and actual performance of a play (e.g. according to visual and auditory signs, spoken text, mime, gesture and external appearance of the actors) with beginners and advanced learners of English on their level.

However, plays are meant to be acted out. Therefore, building the dramatic competence should also incorporate the representational side of the genre: While performing a sketch, a scene or a whole play, your pupils will memorise chunks of language, they will practice their verbal and nonverbal skills, creativity and social interaction. Staging a play or musical can be a great bonding experience for the whole class. Younger learners will enjoy shorter forms such as role-plays, pantomime, freeze frames or reading a dialogue. The Reader’s Theatre offers scripts and short plays for learners of English on an intermediate level – this spontaneous form of theatre does not require costumes or memorisation. Two collections of comic strip versions of classical plays by Shakespeare offer stepping stones for younger learners.

Choosing the ‘right’ play for your students can be taught. To overcome historically grown national, ethnic and gender restrictions, we as teachers should open up the canon in selecting contemporary and transcultural forms of drama from the Anglophone world – apart from the classics by William Shakespeare. As we do feature quite a variety of dramatic texts from the British Isles and beyond, this is our selection of our favourite plays and musicals for you:

Sarah’s picks:

  • Annie by Rob Marshall (film/musical): Premiered in 1976, the musical Annie has captured many hearts and been adapted into three separate film adaptations. The film features the same songs, telling the story of orphan Annie, who longs to be part of a family. When she gets taken in by a billionaire for the holidays, she gets a glimpse of what she’s been missing.
  • The Mountaintop by Katori Hall: This drama offers a fictional depiction of the night before Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968. Set in King’s hotel room, it navigates themes surrounding death, philosophy, American history and the Civil Rights Movement. The short length and fixed setting make it a classic read-it-in-one-go type of play for older students.
  • Another option for a play related to American history would be Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhry, a comedy-drama about friendship and stereotypes in a time of segregation.
  • YOLO Juliet by Brett Wright: This drama provides a twist to a classic tale. What happens to Romeo and Juliet’s epic love story if you add smartphones to the mix?

Sarah-Sophia’s Picks:

  • Translations by Brian Friel: A short play about the language, communication, history and cultural imperialism in Ireland. It juxtaposes both languages and cultures (no worries, it’s still written in English) and emphasises the importance of language regarding fruitful communication. Translations provides an insight into the issues between Ireland and England and is a valuable addition to diversity in the English classroom.
  • I, Shakespeare by Tim Crouch: Crouch rewrote four of Shakespeare’s most famous plays for a younger audience: Twelfth Night (I, Malvolio), Macbeth (I, Banquo), The Tempest (I, Caliban) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (I, Peaseblossom). While the language of these plays is kept as Shakespearean as possible, the plays are shorter and easier to understand and follow. On top, the plays are told from the perspective of different characters as mentioned above in Brackets.
  • Lyle the Crocodile: This is a lovely children’s book by Bernard Waber but Kevin Kling and Richard Gray turned it into a musical of 36 pages. The webside playsfornewaudiences.org has a wide range of plays for younger students. They also display the most important information quite nicely in stating the number of pages, how many actors are needed, how long performance takes, and provide an age recommendation.

Simon’s Picks:

  • Monster by Walter Dean Myers: This award-winning, young adult drama novel follows a 16-year old African American boy who awaits his murder trial. But did he really commit the murder or was he just in the wrong place at the wrong time? A current issue, which might fuel your classroom discussion on justice an injustice in the United States.
  • Top Girls by Caryl Churchill: An empowering play about what it means to be a tough businesswoman in modern society. But must one ‘pass as a man’ to be successful as a woman? This drama allows you to problematise unequal opportunities in the labour market such as the pay gap, gender stereotypes and sexism.

Initiated by the International Theatre Institute in 1961, World Theatre Day reminds us to celebrate the rich and cultural diverse tradition of theatrical performances. Theatre connects people, encourages dialogue and fosters creativity. In the recent year, however, the COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted theatrical life and forced theatres to close. Live performances have been cancelled ever since and been replaced by social distance and online performances. As long as stages remain empty, dark and dusty, actresses and actors need to be supported. Acting for OthersTheatre Support FundActors’ Benevolent Fund and other funds have provided support and assistance for theatre workers in the UK. Also, many theatres offer tickets for live streams and online performances: London’s Old Vic Theatre will stage and stream Dr Seuss’s The Lorax from 14. – 17. April 2021. On Tuesday, the 22. April, teachers all around the world have the opportunity to register for a free school ticket for one of the performances on World Earth Day.

If you come across a brilliant new drama that you think teachers should know about, make sure to suggest it so we can feature it on Lit4School.

Enjoy your Easter holidays, kind regards and stay safe everyone!

Sarah, Sarah-Sophia, Rico and Simon


This past year has taught us to value many things we once took for granted. Consequently, it’s only fitting for this year’s World Water Day motto to be “Valuing Water”. Discussions about the value of water can be held with students regardless of age. On the UN Water’s website, you can find resources and information all about the World Water Day, including past themes, an interactive toolkit and guiding questions you can discuss with students. What does water mean to them? How does water or the lack thereof affect their lives? For younger students, the illustrated books Saving Tally and Somebody Swallowed Stanley are a wonderful introduction to environmental pollution, as the stories follow animals trying to navigate their way through an ocean filled with plastic. Older students could benefit from watching The True Cost. This documentary dives into the production of fast fashion and the damage it does to humans and the environment. Did you know that it takes roughly 2700 litres to produce a cotton T-shirt? Perhaps this day can help us value the many ways water sustains us and be extra thankful for that hot shower or dishwasher.

Have a wonderful day and stay safe!

Sarah


For oft, when on my couch I lie In vacant or in pensive mood, They flash upon that inward eye Which is the bliss of solitude; And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils.” – William Wordsworth, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” (1807) 

Since 1999 World Poetry Day celebrates and recognises intercultural, linguistic diversity in poetic expression with readings, exhibitions and recitations. Described as the ‘spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings‘ (William Wordsworth, Preface to Lyrical Ballads) and as an art, which ‘makes familiar things be as they were not familiar’ (Percy Bysshe ShelleyA Defence of Poetry and Other Essays), poetry is a literary genre that usually features (1) brevity, (2) density, (3) subjectivity, (4) musicality and (5) complexity. As for every other literary genre, definitions vary, but it might be safe to say that most poetic forms rhyme, follow a regular sequence of stressed and unstressed syllables (metre) and are, due to their density, rich in stylistic and rhetorical devices. 

Teaching poetry allows for flexibility, as poems are usually shorter and fit into one lesson. ‘Language cast in verse‘ (Michael Meyer, English and American Literature) comes in multiple shapes and poetic sub-genres (such as lullabies, Christmas carols, songs, odes, free verse, rap, sonnets and haiku) that you might want to explore with your students. Poems are available for different language levels and offer a great variety of topics that are mentioned in the teaching curricula. Most importantly, poetry can motivate your students, as it allows for creative classroom activities. The (1) pre-, (2) while-, (3) post sequence, provides a well-structured framework when applying poetic texts to the EFL classroom. (1) Before reading the poem to the class, you may introduce the author, explain the communicative situation, discuss or brainstorm about the title or familiarise your pupils with unknown vocabulary, phrases and grammatical structures. (2) The while-stage offers different possibilities for recitation such as choral-, role-, mood-, chain- and commented reading. Also, you can provide your class with incomplete or wrong versions of the text (gaps, jumbled and nonsense lines etc.) the students have to correct during the 1st and 2nd reading. (3) After you read the text twice with your students, you should check their global and detailed understanding by asking questions. This stage also allows for discussions on different perceptions or an evaluation and contextualisation of the poem. Vivid imagery, rhetorical forms, concentration, compression, reduction and the repetition of words, sounds and phrases charge poetic language with meaning and allow for analytic and formalistic interpretations during this stage. Excessive analysis, however, bears the chance of close readings, intensive reception and revealing reader responses, but also the danger of one-sided teaching, which can be perceived as ‘boring’ and ‘tedious’ by learners of English. Therefore, analysis and interpretation should always be accompanied by playful, creative and experimental tasks and activities e.g. adding a stanza or verse, collaborative creative writing, interpretative recitation or poetry slam competitions. 

Free resources for English poetry, such as poetryfoundation.orgpoetryarchive.org or poets.org, can be found on the internet. Also, Lit4School offers a great variety of poetic texts for every grade and school form. Here is a selection of our all-time favourite poetic texts featured on our platform:

Elementary School (Grundschule)

Middle School and School for Students with Special Needs (Oberschule und Förderschule)

Grammar and Vacational School (Gymnasium und Berufsschule)

Spoken word poems are a powerful phenomenon of contemporary poetry. Have you thought about using one in your EFL classroom yet? Here are a few examples, which also address current affairs such as #fridaysforfuture, #metoo and #blacklivesmatter:

We hope you enjoyed our second #EFLSpecial blogpost on poetry in the English language classroom. Soon, our third post is coming and this time dramatic texts will be explored and explained further.

Literary regards, stay safe and tuned,

Simon


Most of us remember the stories, fairytales, fables and anecdotes our parents, grandparents and educators told us once. Ever since, quite a few of us have changed roles and become enthusiastic story-tellers. Today, on World Storytelling Day, we celebrate the rich and colourful heritage of an intercultural art, which also marks the first blog entry of our EFL Special “Literature in the (Elementary) Classroom”

Storytelling is a cultural practice, which already existed long before Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press and Caxton’s introduction of printing to the British Isles. The history of oral transmission is probably as old as language itself but remains an essential tool for the preservation of shared values and the diverse history of cultures all around the world, as well as for entertainment and educational purposes. Skillful storytelling demands the speaker to unfold the text meaningfully. To make the listeners hang on every word, the story-teller must interpret the story. When accompanied by movement, gestures, mime and music, storytelling inspires the imagination of children and grownups. Acting skills, improvisation, the effective use of intonation and audience involvement can enhance the understanding of the listeners as well. Here is a perfect example of storytelling, performed by Mara Menzies at the National Storytelling Festival 2019, organised by the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough. Festivals, such as the Scottish International Storytelling Festival, offer a great insight into the variety of different storytelling methods, traditions and techniques. 

In school, storytelling is usually found in the elementary EFL classroom but can be used in all forms of schools and at all levels of proficiency. The method (1) provides your pupils with authentic literature, (2) introduces them to new words, phrases and grammatical structures, (3) invites them to interact and imitate, (4) motivates them and (5) opens up a great variety of creative follow-up activities. Before you start telling the story, your students must be familiarised with unknown grammatical structures and new vocabulary. Choral repetition is an effective strategy that will help your pupils remember important passages. It is appropriate to include all learner types (kinesthetic, visual and auditory) when applying storytelling techniques. Therefore, you may want to use sensory stimuli to fuel their imagination by making them smell, taste, hear, see and feel the story. Also, to activate your pupils, you may want to ask questions or make them imitate aspects of the story. You might also use the technique to introduce elements of a literary text: characters, setting (time, place, atmosphere), plot, themes, conflict and point of view. To learn more about storytelling this resource by the QUA-LIS NRW or these guidelines and examples by the Landesinstitut für Schule und Medien Berlin-Brandenburg might be helpful. 

Contrary to the assumption that literature in the EFL classroom is just for pupils with advanced language skills, age-appropriate texts are available for all levels of English. Beginners usually enjoy shorter and visualised forms that rhyme, which are introduced, read and explained by the teacher. Well-chosen stories will enhance the motivation of your pupils and spice up your English teaching at school. Here is a selection of our all-time favourite children’s picture books, which are perfect for storytelling:

You will be surprised that even in times of distance-teaching storytelling techniques remain effective tools for language teachers e.g. by using videoconferencing systems or taped readings. There are quite some stories that are waiting to be told by you.

Stay safe everyone!

Simon


If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.”― Oscar Wilde

What do Lit4School and St. Patrick’s Day have in common? Well, both celebrate the rich cultural heritage of classic and contemporary Irish literature. Named after St. Patrick, who probably was not the first but the most popular Christian missionary, bishop and patron of Ireland during the fifth century. The feast day was found in the 17th century and remains a cultural and religious celebration in the Republic of Ireland e.g. in Dublin, Northern Ireland and the Irish diaspora until the present day. On March 17th, the death day of St. Patrick, public parades, festivals, traditional Irish music sessions (céilí) and church services are held. The green shamrock represents St. Patrick and the Christian holy trinity while the four-leaf clover traditionally symbolises luck. However, the festivities were also criticised for supporting Irish stereotypesexcluding LGBT groups and becoming over commercialised in recent years. 

On Lit4School, we do feature quite a variety of Irish authors – from more classical ones such as Bram Stoker, Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde and Seamus Heany  to more recent examples such as Anne DevlinJohn BoyneSarah Crossan… If you are looking for Irish Poetry, this beautifully illustrated collection of poetry for children and young adults is worth taking a look into. Do you like to learn more about Irish children’s literature? Well, we invite you to take a look at CBI – Children’s Books Ireland. CBI is the national arts and charity organisation of Ireland’s children’s literature and therefore offers great connections to Irish writers, illustrators and publishers. Check CBI’s literature recommendations for poetry, sport, emotional well-being and many more on their reading lists. Lastly, we would like to recommend a very remarkable Irish, who did the beautiful illustrations for a recent copy of “A Christmas Carol”. P.J. Lynch provides his readers with detailed pictures that convey a realistic view and an emotional message simultaneously. His pictures invite young and advanced readers equally to discover details and speak about the story, which contributes to the promotion of reading, especially for children. Check P.J. Lynch’s website if you want to learn more about him, his works and projects.

May you have all the happiness and luck that life can hold and at the end of your rainbows may you find your pot of gold or a beautiful piece of Irish literature.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day – Top o’ the mornin’ to ya all!

Melanie & Simon


Just for Fun!

English · 16 March 2021

A book doesn’t always have to have academic value to be worth reading. I’ve compiled some of my favourite novels, movies and shows to read or watch outside of the classroom – just for fun!

Novels:

  • In case you loved The Hunger Games, you should take a look at the recently published prequel! A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes tells the story of soon to be villain Coriolanus Snow and his rise to power.
  • If you enjoy morally grey characters, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo has a lot to offer. This novel tells the same story from multiple perspectives. Set in a fantasy world reminiscent of Amsterdam, five outsiders set out on a journey to stop the spread of a drug lethal to humans and addictive to Grisha, people with magical abilities.
  • Moving from fantasy to science fiction, The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey is the first novel in a trilogy all about aliens, conspiracies and survival. Each wave comes in a different form of attack, from power outages and tsunamis to lethal viruses. The story follows 16-year-old Cassie’s fight for survival after a devastating loss.
  • The award-winning Flavia de Luce Mystery Series by Alan Bradley has captured the attention of teens and adults worldwide. The novels follow 11-year-old Flavia, a budding chemist, who finds herself solving one murder mystery after another. For an introduction to the series, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is the way to go.

Movies:

  • Mean Girls is seen as one of the most iconic comedies about “the high school experience”. The film covers everything from cliques and popularity to manipulation and self-image. 16-year-old Cady has never attended a public school. So when she enters high school, she feels like fresh meat being thrown to the wolves. Although she finds friends quickly, she gets wrapped up in the Mean Girls clique. Before she knows it, Cady finds herself in the middle of a convoluted plan to take down the queen bee, Regina George. And as much as she hates Regina George, Cady’s actions seem more and more in line with what a mean girl would do.
  • Mrs Doubtfire is an example of a comedy that hasn’t aged and is still relevant today. The film shows the life of a family following a hard divorce, after which the mother, Miranda, is granted sole custody. Unable to cope with the absence of his children, the father, Daniel, decides to pose as a nanny to be close to them. And so “Mrs. Doubtfire” is born.
  • The award-winning film The Devil Wears Prada features multiple famous actors and is definitely not just for fashion lovers. Andy is an aspiring journalist who hasn’t found the right job yet. Although she has no interest in fashion, she applies at “Runway Fashion Magazine” and intrigues chief editor Miranda Priestley enough to land the job as a junior assistant. Miranda’s ridiculous demands and expectations start to destroy Andy’s social life, but spark her ambition and, unexpectedly, her love for fashion.

TV Shows:

  • The 100 is a post-apocalyptic science fiction show with a straightforward concept. Following earth’s destruction via atomic bombs, humans fled to space to wait for the radiation levels to be survivable. The rules on board the Ark are tough, any adult who breaks them is sentenced to death and “floated” into space. But when their space ship starts running out of oxygen, the leaders send 100 teen delinquents to the ground as a last resort before mass population reduction. They thought the teenagers’ main struggle would be surviving radiation, but no one could foresee what (or who) was in store for them. The show features 7 seasons, specializing in morally grey characters and impossible situations. When does someone stop being the good guy? How far can one go before they are no longer worthy of redemption?
  • Staying in the realm of science fiction TV shows, Westworld also provokes analyzing and pondering. Set around 40 years into the future, amusement parks are all the rage. However, these aren’t ordinary amusement parks. Robots have been perfected to the point of being indistinguishable from humans, which makes them the perfect attraction. They don’t feel pain, and you can do whatever you want to them without being judged. This shouldn’t be a problem as they’re just machines, right? Or are they? The show explores the idea of where consciousness begins.
  • It should be noted that both shows mentioned are ages 16 and up, mainly due to violence and gore.

Also, we do feature the new category “Beyond the Classroom”, which is meant for an advanced audience of English literature, movies, audiobooks, plays etc. The new cluster features literature and media that do not fit the topicalities of the curricula or that, due to their length and complexity, do not match the teaching environment of the EFL classroom. Exploring this section will provide you with several classic and contemporary suggestions beyond the classroom for your reading, viewing or listening list. 

I hope you have a wonderful week and enjoy checking out some of my suggestions! Do you have any favourite novels that you read “just for fun”? Let us know!

Sarah


Dear users,

Growing up is a process that all of us have to go through. Lit4School started as a vision in June 2018, became reality with our prototype, which was launched in April 2019 and grew into our final version, which has been available since November 2019. Ever since, we’ve been working on publishing new entries and blog posts to provide you, as teachers of German and English, with a well balanced, transparent and dynamic canon of literature and media for your classroom that you can select from.

As the title of this blogpost indicates, we do have reason(s) to celebrate: Together with the German side of the project, our platform currently features over 400 entries. Also, we have a brand new illustrated frontpage thanks to our web developer Jonatan Steller and our graphic designer Susanne Haase. Moreover, we have reviewed and revised our topic clusters and arguments in favour – a process we believe is necessary to ensure quality and topicality. A few days ago, we published our 300th English entry on Lit4School, and if you are wondering what No. 300: Voyage of the Sparrowhawk is about, you may have a look here. Currently, we are working on a suggestion form for advanced contributors, the “about us” section and means to make our entries more visible and catchy for you.

Thanks to all contributors and users of our resource, who have made this vision a reality.

Kind regards and stay safe everyone,

Simon