L’ Austen Your Eyes- Happy Valentine’s Day!

“If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more”– Jane Austen, Emma

Valentine’s Day, a day filled with love, appreciation and the celebration of romance. Typically it is associated with gifts of red roses, chocolates and hearts in all colours and shapes. While these traditions are fun and romantic, I love to cycle back to literature on this special day. 

Growing up I was never really fond of having any trace of romance in my books and I would immediately put them down if they did. This only changed when I discovered the works of Jane Austen which would deeply influence my future perception of literature. If I remember correctly I was just interested in reading again when entering year 10 because of my English teacher who helped me improve my English skills at the time and she recommended Pride and Prejudice. At the time it was an extremely scary project to pick up a Jane Austen Classic and understand anything but I am glad that I fought and pushed myself through it and incredibly grateful to my teacher for believing in me. Finishing the novel changed the way I approached literature altogether, it was no longer a task that had to be done but I started to read because I wanted to, because I wanted to dive into those fictional worlds, simply because the love Jane Austen described in that one book deeply enchanted me. 

Pride and Prejudice

The story revolves around the Bennet family consisting of Mr and Mrs Bennet and their daughters Jane and Elizabeth, our protagonist who is also called Lizzie, Mary, Lidia and their youngest Kitty. With the arrival of a new neighbour, the rich young gentleman Mr Bingley, a party is thrown in his honour where the reader first meets him and his best friend Mr Darcy. Darcy’s pride is noticeable from the very first moment which unfortunately causes him to insult Lizzie and strangle their relationship as it and several other events only fuel her prejudice and hate. After a rejected declaration of love from Mr Darcy he writes Lizzie a letter explaining himself which changes her view completely and she eventually accepts his proposal after his second confession. 

Lizzie Bennet is the second oldest of five daughters and her father’s favourite child. She portrays a typical Austen female lead, a witty and smart young woman who is independent and not afraid to speak her mind, who desires to marry for love rather than social status and convenience, which was not the standard of the time. Throughout the whole book, it becomes clear that she portrays the “prejudice” part of the title as she judges people from the beginning based on her perspective, whereas Fitzwilliam Darcy on the other hand portrays pride, which he calls his greatest weakness. This pide changes the way he is perceived throughout the whole novel, not only by the characters, especially Lizzie, but also by the readers.  

The novel’s themes make its love story rather bewitching¹ by showing that marrying for love is possible even in a time where marriage was all about social status, it showed that love could defy everything and that if people were meant to be, they would find their way to each other. 

Talking about the great love story of Pride and Prejudice…

Having difficulties reading Jane Austen’s works, or other works from authors of the time, seems to be what TikTok would call a canon event. However, to still bring it closer to younger generations who might be intimidated or overwhelmed by the book’s length or language, especially as an L2 learner, YouTube offers the perfect solution. In 2012 the first episode of “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries”, a web series in the form of vlogs, aired. The series shows a modern, digital take on the classic from 1813, translating it into modern language and also modern problems. It is an easy way to understand the storyline and the characters before or after reading the novel itself. I watched it during the lockdown in 2020, purely for amusement but I soon realised that even though I had read Pride and Prejudice several times at that point, the YouTube format always opened up new perspectives and discussions about the literary work. 

[link: www.youtube.com/@LizzieBennet]

But do the romance books of our time have the same effect Austen’s work had? This is a question that everyone has to answer for themselves. Personally, I prefer reading her love stories over popular romance books from our time. Many books are rather similar in their plot and love story, whereas Austen created something revolutionary at the time, something new defying the social norm. In my eyes, Romantasy novels come closer to such classics than romance novels because of the complexity that accompanies them. But this is just my take as I read more fantasy novels than romance. 

What do you prefer- Austen’s Classics or contemporary Romance Novels?

What is your favourite love story? What book do you think about or would you recommend when asked for love stories for Valentine’s Day?

Further Recommendations for the romantic feeling:

  • Emma (1815)
  • Emma (dir. Autumn de Wilde, 2020)
  • Persuasion (1817)
  • Persuasion (dir. Cracknell, 2022)
  • Pride and Prejudice (dir. Wright, 2005)
  • Sense and Sensibility  (1811)
  • Sense and Sensibility (dir. Lee, 1996)
  • Mansfield Park (dir. Rozema, 2000)
  • Becoming Jane (dir. Jarrold, 2007)
  • Divine Rivals (2023)
  • Red, White & Royal Blue (2019)
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses (2015)
  • Fake Dates and Mooncakes (2023)

¹ “You have bewitched me body and soul. And I love… I love… I love you.”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Lisa A.


On January 3, 1892, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Growing up in poverty and already having to grieve his parents at the young age of 12, his childhood did not seem to be an easy one. Regardless of this series of unfortunate events Tolkien successfully graduated from Oxford University and secured his employment as a Second Lieutenant in the British Army. 

However, it is not just his biography that makes his persona so important but his literary works that are still immensely popular today. 

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings

  • Lord of the Rings is a book series most people have probably heard about, if not even read it themselves, or watched the movies. Its trailblazer The Hobbit was originally a children’s book published in 1937, however, the story world grew enormously and a high fantasy world emerged. 

Leaf by Niggle

  • This is one of Tolkien’s short stories that is not as well known as the Lord of the Rings franchise. The character Niggle is an artist, however, the part of society he resides in does not appreciate art in any way. Because of this, he only paints for his own pleasure, and he took on the big project of painting a great tree. The work starts with a single leaf and grows around it. Because of his good character, he takes time off his work to help his neighbour, unfortunately, while doing so, he falls ill. Due to this, he is sent on a journey as a gardener to a forest. He discovers that this forest is the one he had painted all along and the tree he sees in real life is the perfected version of his flawed painting. 

Further Recommendations

  • The Silmarillion (1977)
  • Unfinished Tales (1980)
  • Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics (1936)
  • The Rings of Power (dir. J.A. Bayona, 2022)

Lisa A.


The same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?” is the first part of a quote from the famous TV Short “Dinner For One” from 1963, originally written by a British author, Laurie Wylie. Today I would like to introduce this work as it is an important part of my New Year’s traditions. Every December 31st of the year I work in the small private theatre next to my family’s home where Dinner for One is performed. 

In the comedy sketch, Miss Sophie celebrates her 90th birthday, inviting her friends Sir Toby, Admiral von Schneider, Mr Pomeroy, and Mr Winterbottom for a special dinner. Unfortunately, Miss Sophie is the last one of their little group which leads her to ask her butler James to impersonate her friends so she can still have their annual birthday dinner. Each course is accompanied by a round of drinks for a toast, which James has to take for every missing guest after every meal. Because of this, he is intoxicated rather quickly and it becomes more and more difficult to properly serve Miss Sophie and her imaginary guests.

The sketch has several running gags such as:

  • The Tiger Rug→ James constantly trips over its head 
  • Sir Toby always has a little bit more in his glass than the others
  • Skål– James has to tap his heels every time and say Skål which is Scandinavian and translates to cheers

Dinner for One has become a tradition for many Germans on December 31. Every year, people decide to watch a black-and-white short movie of only 18 minutes which is screened with an English dialogue. Most of the German regional channels start playing the classic in the early evening hours and one can find at least one channel playing it until midnight. The TV Short holds the Guinness World Record for the most replayed TV program ever and many parodies have been published. 

However, while this is a New Year’s Eve tradition for many Germans, people on the British Isles have their traditions and customs

  • Hogmanay, Scotland
    • The Scottish 3-day festival to celebrate New Year’s Eve is one of the most important holidays. The Scots have many customs for these days, one of them being first-footing which begins when the clock strikes midnight. This refers to the first person crossing the threshold of a Scottish home who brings gifts, traditionally coal. Furthermore, the traditional song Auld Lang Syne is sung together. The title can be translated into ‘since long ago’ or ‘for old times sake’ and its lyrics tell a story of old friends sharing some drinks, reminiscing their old adventures.  
  • Calennig
    • The Welsh word means New Year’s Celebration and comes close to trick or treating on Halloween. The children go from door to door and sing songs in return for money or sweets. 
  • Mari Lwyd
    • This is also a Welsh New Year’s tradition from the folk culture of South Wales. Here, a decorated horse head can be found on a pole and locals carry it around town. It is seen as a sign of good luck and after its departure, it is said to leave good fortune to the house it approached or entered. 

Did you already know these New Year’s traditions? Have you ever practised them yourself? Will you watch Dinner for One this year?

And with Miss Sophie’s words “Same procedure as every year“, I would like to wish you a Happy New Year and to a new year full of hopes, dreams and loads of new literature.

Lisa A.

Greetings from our Dinner for One Team in the Theater an der Angel in Magdeburg. (Private Picture)


Christmas is right around the corner and to get into the right spirit I annually circle back to many Christmas-themed books, poems, movies/ series and songs before the holidays. Today, I would like to share my personal favourites with you. 

Music:

Many Christmas songs are played throughout December, among them radio classics such as Merry Christmas Everyone by Shakin’ Stevens (1984), All I Want For Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey (1994), and Last Christmas by WHAM! (1984). 

While I do enjoy these songs a lot, I tend to go back to more classical songs from my childhood in a choir with songs such as the German classics Maria Durch Ein Dornwald Ging or O Tannenbaum, du trägst ein grünes Kleid or the song O Holy Night which was based on a French poem. Two songs I always listen to on repeat are Eta Notsch Swjataja (arr. Füting, 2015) and Shchedryk.

Shchedryk might sound unfamiliar, but I am sure that everyone has at least heard of it once. The Ukrainian New Year’s song arranged by Mykola Leontovych in 1916 was originally used in a pre-Christmas spring in Ukraine when the swallows returned after the long winter. By singing these songs, people blessed each other with a good year of harvest. So why do I label it as a Christmas song? In 1922, the Ukrainian song was altered. Peter J. Wilhousky arranged a new English version that is well-known as Carol of the Bells, a popular Christmas song that attracted even more attention with its use in the movie Home Alone (Chris Columbus, 1991). Many people do not know or question the origin of the famous English version, which I believe to be a shame as the story behind the original ritual song and its lyrics are rather interesting. 

Books, Short Stories and Poems:

My last recommendation is not considered one of the classics for Christmas. However, I thought it to be rather interesting. “Journey of the Magi is a poem by the modernist writer T.S. Eliot. It retells the story of the birth of Christ by focusing on one of the magi’s perspectives. As I just mentioned, it is important to note that its author was an influential writer of modernist literature, so typical themes such as alienation and anxiety in an ever-changing world can be found. I think this poem shows another side of Christmas stories that might not be as popular as it can sometimes be hard to understand the meaning behind the words and verses, however, I still think it would be interesting to approach this poem as a literary challenge. 

Movies/ Series:

  • The Family Stone (dir. Thomas Bezucha, 2005)
  • Love Actually (dir. Richard Curtis, 2003)
  • The Grinch (dir. Ron Howard, 2000)
  • Santa Clause (dir. John Pasquin, 1995)
  • Dash & Lily (Joe Tracz, 2020)
  • Three Wishes for Cinderella (dir. Václav Vorlíček, 1973)

Here are some Christmas traditions and activities that I have enjoyed over the years.

  • Feuerzangenbowle (dir. Helmut Weiss, 1944): Every year, a couple of days before Christmas, my whole family gets together to watch the German movie while having the actual drink. While this is an activity catering to the family’s adults, the children can enjoy their hot apple juice from authentic cups as well. Even though their drinks cannot be prepared the same way, they are always fascinated by the Feuerzangenbowle, prepared with a sugar cone on fire on top of the mug. This became a rather important tradition in my hometown as many families, neighbourhood clubs and even our university started to organize Feuerzangenbowle nights in the days before Christmas.
  • Silly Christmas Pictures: Ugly Christmas Sweaters, DIY Christmas-themed headbands, recreating Christmas movie scenes as pictures
  • Mince Pie Movie Marathons: During my time in England, I was introduced to many traditions from the UK. One that stuck with me was our Mince Pie Fridays. It is not an official tradition but a thing my family enjoyed a lot, it was a great way to introduce Christmas into a stressful week. Every Friday, after work and school, we would meet at home, prepare British Mince Pies and watch Christmas movies together. It was a great way to combine bonding time, relaxation and Christmas. 
  • Christmas Crackers: They are an English must-have for Christmas, children can enjoy the little gifts inside.

Merry Christmas!

Lisa A.


Easter Reads 2023

English · 9 April 2023

Why did the Easter egg hide? Because he was a little chicken…

Happy Easter everyone! Spring is here and so is painting eggs and bunny-themed everything! And while it is wonderful to spend quality time with your loved ones on holidays, sometimes some alone time with a good book can be just as relaxing! So why not stay in the holiday spirit with some Easter-themed reads? Here are some of my favorites:

  • Watership Down by Richard Adams: What better way to celebrate Easter than with some literature about rabbits? This anthropomorphic novel tells a tale of social unrest, community and hope, all kick-started by man-made environmental destruction. Fiver, a young rabbit with a sixth sense, is part of the Sandleford warren. He starts having disturbing visions of his home’s destruction and, along with his older brother Hazel, tries, to no avail, to convince the chief rabbit to evacuate. The siblings take off together with 9 other members, starting a journey of adventure and struggle.
  • Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne: More stories featuring rabbits (well, one rabbit)! This nostalgic coming-of-age story is about everything from friendship, abilities and weaknesses to childhood and imagination. Winnie-the-Pooh is a honey-loving teddy bear who lives in the forest. There, he experiences all kinds of adventures together with his friends: A piglet, an owl, a rabbit, a donkey, a kangaroo and a boy named Christopher Robin.
  • The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis: If you’re looking for something less “on the nose”, give this classic a try! In this fantasy novel set during 1940s wartime, four children are relocated to a large house in the English countryside. When the youngest, Lucy, is transported to Narnia through an old wardrobe, she discovers a new and captivating world. But no world is perfect, and the siblings are soon thrown into an adventure where they must save this beautiful place they have only just discovered. As for the connection to Easter, you will notice quite a bit of religious symbolism and parallels to the biblical concept of resurrection in this novel!

I hope you have a wonderful time celebrating Easter or simply enjoying some much-needed relaxation! Let us know if you have any specific Easter book recommendations we should take a look at!

Sarah


In honor of Native American Heritage Month, numerous American institutions use this time of year to shine a light on the rich ancestry and traditions of Native Americans. Literature and media too can raise awareness for the unique challenges that Native Americans have historically faced and are to this day still experiencing. If you haven’t yet, take a look at the following suggestions!

  • Fry Bread: This story about the staple food of many Native American families can be enjoyed by all ages! ‘Fry Bread’ isn’t just food, it combines Native American culture and history. Additional information about Native American culture and historical context is provided on the last pages as well as a recipe for ‘Fry Bread’.
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian: A humourous coming-of-age graphic novel about love, friendship, teenage troubles, and intercultural contact. Junior is a 14-year-old Native-American teenager who grows up in the Spokane Indian Reservation in the State of Washington. Being bullied because of his special needs, he decides to visit an all-white public high school off the reservation, where he first struggles, but finally makes new friends and even gains popularity among other students.
  • The First Illegal Immigrants: The cartoon “The First Illegal Immigrants” by Andy Singer, published in 2013, critically investigates the occupation of America, the forced displacement of native Americans, and the exaggerated border controls of the US homeland security. It can serve as a starting point for a classroom discussion or a project week on Native American cultures, US border politics, and migration.
  • Smoke Signals: Based on a short story, this award-winning comedy tells the story of an unusual friendship. This film allows insight into life on reservations and the unique challenges Native American teenagers face.

Do you have further literature or film suggestions that have helped you learn about and appreciate Native American culture? Let us know!

Sarah


First introduced in 1971, Women’s Equality Day commemorates the adoption of the nineteenth amendment in 1920. This change in the US Constitution granted women the right to vote, marking an important stride in the movement towards gender equality. To this day, equality and women’s rights remain incredibly relevant and important themes that need to be discussed with students. These pieces of literature can help spark the discourse around gender equality and discrimination in the EFL classroom:

  • Top Girls by Caryl Churchill: This empowering play about power, masculinity and femininity explores roles and opportunities for women in modern society. Set in London during the early 1980s, the play follows Marlene, an ambitious, career-driven businesswoman who made irreversible sacrifices for her success. The drama raises the question: Must one ‘pass as a man’ to be successful as a woman?
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: A dystopian novel on gender, sex, fertility, rebellion, and love. In the near future, most women have become infertile and the USA have transformed into a theocracy where women are either the wives of party officials, in charge of the household, or have to take part in a bizarre ritual. Offred is one of them, a “handmaid”, a woman whose sole purpose is to bear children for the elites in the post-apocalyptic, theocratic society of Gilead. Soon she finds out the true hypocrisy of the religious leaders who control her life.

Do you have a favorite book or film that made you reflect on gender roles and equality? We would love to hear your suggestions!

Happy Women’s Equality Day, and take care!

Sarah


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


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


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


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


Read anything. Read the things they say are good for you, and the things they claim are junk. You’ll find what you need to find.” – Neil Gaiman 

As Neil Gaiman points out in the introductory quote: literature is an exciting adventure to embark on, a journey, which will take us to the most unusual places, which makes us connect to different ways of living and offers paradigm shifts for younger and older readers. The World Book Day or International Day of the Book was founded on April 23rd 1995 by the UNESCO to encourage young people to discover literature or as its founder, Baroness Gail Rebuck, outlines: “We wanted to do something to reposition reading and our message is the same today as it was then – that reading is fun, relevant, accessible, exciting, and has the power to transform lives.” Today, on March 4th 2021, we celebrate (re-)discovering literature, reading for pleasure and book enthusiasm all around the globe for the 24th time.

On this occasion, we would like to announce our EFL Special: “Literature in the Classroom”, which will explore different genres and works – from all-time-favourites to more current and topical examples of literature featured on Lit4School. Our EFL Special will provide you with a shortcut of didactic hints, methods and resources you can use when teaching literature in the EFL classroom.

Stay tuned and safe!

Simon