Literature Done in English

2015-12-13

The following is a information about Literature Done in English, a short textbook Adam Pearson and I wrote for a two-month segment of my tenth grade Applied English course.

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Table of Contents


Copyright

The files here are all connected with the ESL textbook, Literature Done in English, written by Douglas Perkins and Adam Pearson. The textbook and associated files that we've produced are all under the license as noted below. In a few cases, snippets of externally-copyrighted work are included. These are labeled as such. This information is brief, limited in scope, non-commercial, and included for nonprofit educational purposes. As such, its inclusion is fair use.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Chapter 1: Poetry

At some point in this unit, students can be asked to recite some poetry — either their own or someone else's, as you see fit. Poetry is meant to be spoken and heard, so whenever you have extra time, ask students to read some poetry from the textbook aloud. Vary the setup, so that sometimes students are in pairs with one speaker and one listener, and sometimes they're in larger groups with more people listening. This helps students smoothly adjust to speaking in front of large audiences. In the U.S. there's a poetry contest called Poetry Out Loud, and videos from it can be found on YouTube. Though not freely licensed, watching one or two of these prior to an in-class poetry recitation is a nice way to show how American high school students perform.

There is a great deal of overlap between poetry and music, and in particular hip-hop, because much of it is lyric-centered. It can be neat to show rappers performing without music, because they are in fact reciting poetry. Tupac Shakur is well-known for his poetry, and this clip by Grandmaster Caz is also rather neat.

In a warm-up speaking activity, students recite the poem The Ad-dressing of Cats from T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1939). The slides switch automatically, and students have to speak quickly or they will fall behind. After trying the speaking activity, watch the music video from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats, composed and first performed in 1981.

Syllables

The English language uses syllables, but Japanese is divided into mora, and this difference can make life slightly challenging for Japanese ESL students. Some words are much shorter in English than they are in Japanese; for example, max, orange, and different. One cool thing about studying syllables is that learning happens rapidly. Just one or two classes touching on the topic makes a noticeable difference in students' ability to learn proper pronunciation in the future.

Haiku

Some poetry snobs are quick to point out that haiku don't have to have the 5-7-5 syllable count. They might be correct — after all, haiku is what haiku authors write — but for the purposes of this class, we try to use the 5-7-5 pattern. This gives students the opportunity to focus on syllables themselves.

Rhyme

We say that two words rhyme if they have final syllables that sound the same. Actually, the notion of rhyming is not always so strict. With song lyrics, people tend to be accepting of similar-but-not-identical sounds. Students may not realize that most English-language pop music is filled with rhymes, so it could be instructive to watch a music video or listen to a tune that's popular now and pick out some of the rhyming words and lines.

Rhythm

Limericks are an excuse to focus on rhythm. The general structure of a limerick is two long lines, followed by two short lines, followed by a long line. The first, second, and fifth line should rhyme, and so should the third and fourth. Traditionally, limericks are comedic, and therefore difficult to write, so let's not ask our students to do so. Reading and speaking are suitable goals.

A section of the poem Jennyanydots from Cats is included here. Watch the YouTube video if you have time. It's interesting to see how poems from the 1930s led to a musical in the 1980s. If the teacher has time and interest in showing historical connections, many poems in this textbook are reused in part or whole in contemporary books, movies, and songs.

Assonance and Consonance

Two ideas that have fancy-sounding names but are simple to learn are assonance and consonance. Assonance is the repetition of a vowel sound; for example, the long e sound in sleep and breathing. Consonance is the repetition of a consonant sound; for example, the c sound in cuckoo clock. Note that the sound is important — spelling is not the focus here. You can find assonance and consonance a lot in old poetry. It's also present in assorted modern rap music — for example, Eric B and Rakim's Follow the Leader.

Repetition

Repetition is used in all kinds of poetry. Indeed, you can find it in both old Japanese haiku and original nineteenth century limericks. If we group music together with poetry, then song refrains are ubiquitous examples of repetition.

The textbook contains a passage from The Lord of the Ring, which has been recorded by J.R.R. Tolkien himself; the audio is on YouTube (not freely licensed).


Chapter 2: Shakespeare

In this chapter we cover the famous "All the world's a stage" monologue from As You Like It. There's a great Youtube video of a professional theater presentation that's worth using (though sadly it's not freely licensed). The vocabulary in Shakespeare, and especially in this passage, is difficult. Though counterintuitive, students might do better than you expect — not because they can understand the passage easily or much at all, but rather because they're used to running into English that far exceeds their knowledge.

The skill of dealing with language where a lot of the vocabulary is new to you is an important one. After the passage from Shakespeare, students do an activity where they cross out words they don't know and draw pictures in place of them. This is one way of dealing with unknown words, and it is surprising how close people can get to the actual meaning even when they don't know the key vocabulary.

Although not in the textbook, if you have time you might show part or all of Romeo and Juliet. Because the English is highly difficult, though, associated homework and in-class activities necessitate careful consideration.


Chapter 3: Prose

Adjectives and Adverbs

To develop expressiveness, students are asked to identify adjectives and adverbs, and then to use them to make sentences longer.

Comparisons

Two commonly-used comparisons are metaphor and simile. Given the definitions, students can quickly distinguish the two. High school students are of sufficient level to produce their own similes and metaphors, and it's a good way to practice English.

For an introduction to metaphors, consider the poem The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes. It was written in 1906, and over the past century several singers have composed songs using the lyrics — for example, Phil Ochs in 1967 and Loreena McKennitt in 1997. Those can be contrasted with a purely poetic reading. This example, like Romeo & Juliet and Cats, illustrates the connection between historical works and contemporary remakes and variants.


Software

Many of the activities in the textbook benefit greatly from the teacher bringing a computer to class. That lets us show videos, listen to listening tracks, and use websites. For playing video and audio, your computer's default media player is fine. VLC is a good choice, too.

Most materials here were produced in LibreOffice. It's an office suite that's better than Microsoft Office. For editing SVG files, we use Inkscape. For editing photos and other pictures, we use the GIMP. These programs are free and open source.


Contact

For general information on the textbook, see the author's website or contact the author on twitter.


Graphics

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I make my SVG graphs using Matplotlib. If you're interested in modifying them, take a look at the source and go for it.