November 26th: Black Friday

November 26th: Black Friday

English · 26 November 2021

Every year, I notice how many newsletters I’m subscribed to when Black Friday promotion codes start rolling into my inbox. Companies promote their “once in a lifetime deals” that seem to happen, well… definitely more than once. Black Friday marks the start of the Christmas shopping season and is used by many to get a head start on gift shopping, while also saving some money. And although it’s wonderful to get a great deal on an item you were going to buy anyway, it’s incredibly easy to get lost in a shopping frenzy. So, if you want to read up on consumerism and its effect on us and our environment, take a look at these titles!

Black Friday by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah: This collection of twelve dystopian short stories exposes institutionalised racism, social injustice and the devastating effects of consumerism on contemporary and near-future society. And ironically, it’s named after the very day known for promoting excessive consumerist behavior.

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk: This novel is both a psychological thriller and an essential critique of contemporary capitalist society on consumerism, perfection, masculinity and rebellion. Fight Club’s narrator lives a regular life, working for an insurance company and collecting Ikea furniture in his free time. When one day his apartment mysteriously blows up, he moves in with a man named Tyler Durden, a charismatic stranger he just recently met. Together they start an underground bare-knuckle fighting club which quickly develops into an anti-capitalist terrorist organisation that attacks the global financial system. The book has since been adapted into a wildly successful film that is definitely worth a watch.

The True Cost by Andrew Morgan: This documentary explores the world of fast fashion, consumerism and the many questions it raises. How much do clothing pieces actually cost to make and what is behind that number? What is the psychology behind overconsumption along with the ethical and environmental implications that follow?

On this note, happy (and hopefully stress-free) shopping! Have you discovered any thought-provoking texts or films recently? We’d love for you to share them with us!

Sarah


Not enough appreciated and celebrated in my opinion, at least in Germany, is this special day. Here, unfortunately, you’re already bludgeoned with Christmas stuff in September, but there’s little room for Halloween or simply autumn decorations. But, even though we might not be the most halloweeny nation, we still want to suggest some texts and movies for a long eerie autumn night. Some may be useful in the English classroom, some are just for fun.

  • Edgar Allan Poe: To be honest, I’m not sure which of the 32 short stories to choose, they are all perfect for this time of the year. Apart from The Masque of the Red Death which I’m certain, many of you know, I find The Black Cat and Berenice to be absolutely horrifying and disturbing, just the right amount of horror and terror. And the length of the stories is an absolute bonus feature as they make for a great scary Halloween reading session with flashlight in the dark and everything. Poe’s stories are in the public domain and you may find them here for example: poestories.com
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne: Just like good old Edgar, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote many short stories, however, much less gruesome than his fellow dark Romanticism writer. Howthorne’s stories live more from mysticism and a certain intangibility. Rappaccini’s Daughter is one of my favourites because it shows that the monsters are not always the bad guys. The Wedding-Knell is also a delightfully bizarre story that combines marriage and death. These stories are also in the public domain, e.g.: americanliterature.com
  • Romantic Halloween/Autumn Novel: Not a big fan of all the Halloween hype and scary stories? Maybe you’d rather enjoy snuggling up with a steaming cup of pumpkin spiced latte and some cheesy romantic novel. The Cottage on Pumpkin and Vine is about the annual Halloween party in a cosy little B&B and filled with romance paired with halloween traditions. It’s simply an uplifting belletristic story.
  • Rocky Horror Picture Show: Certainly doesn’t meet everyone’s taste but this hilarious cult film simply cannot be missing from the Halloween list. This quirky Frankenstein parody with its world-famous vocal interludes combined comedy, tragedy and transsexuality as far back as 1973. The film was released in 1975, something to keep in mind while watching.
  • Movies for children: We certainly don’t want to traumatise the younger audience but still get across a little spookiness. There are, of course, the lovely stop motion Tim Burton movies like Frankenweenie and Nightmare before Christmas which treat children carefully including the right amount of scariness and cuteness and thus introducing the genre quite gently. Hotel Transylvania is another, albeit definitely more amusing, Halloween children’s film. It is definitely suitable for an easy introduction to the scary film genre and even comes with a light moral lesson. And of course last but not least, Boo to You Too! Winnie the Pooh tells the story of Pooh’s Halloween and how Piglet overcame his fear.

I’m sure our little list includes something for everyone. If you feel otherwise feel free to suggest your Halloween favourites!

Trick or Treat!

Sarah-Sophia


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


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