Topic 15A – Times, authors and genres suitable for application in teaching English class. Types of texts.

Topic 15A – Times, authors and genres suitable for application in teaching English class. Types of texts.

Periods, authors and most suitable literary genres to be used in the English class. Types of texts.

0. Introduction.

Even at the early stages students can in fact do a great deal with the language: identifying sounds; produce them orally; recognize then in a text. In short, even the very beginners can do something with the language. We must build from that point by adding input which is neither too advanced, nor too easy.

Cinema, music and literature are rich and motivating materials. If we manage to know how to select and to present content in such a way that it will both challenge and motivate them.

Our curriculum establishes two general aims which are related this topic. They read as follows:

Objectives Assessment criteria

1. To understand easy written and oral texts… 7. To read with the help of the teacher…

4. To read short and easy texts…

According to this it is clear that we can and, it is possible, we should use literature in our classroom. The general aim of our approach to the teaching of literature is to let our pupils derive the benefits of communicative activities for language improvement within the context of suitable works of literature.

We also have the following specific aims:

– Maintain our pupils’ interest and involvement by using a wide range of pupil centred activities.

– Try and bring to life the printed page, exploiting as fully as possible the interest that well-chosen literature has for our pupils.

– We must help our pupils value their own responses to the printed page.

We may find three types of justification for using literary texts. Each one deals with a different type of content:

· Concepts: literary texts offer genuine samples of a wide range of styles, register and text-types, they provide a rich context in which individual lexical or syntactical items are made more memorable.

· Skills or procedures: the opinion gap between one pupil’s interpretation and another’s can be bridged by genuine interaction.

· Attitudes: the genuine feeling of literary texts is a powerful motivator.

1. Periods, authors and most suitable literary genres to be used in the English class.

1.1. The literary genres and figures in EFL.

The English language is certainly rich in literary figures and genres; and the literary ages are full of intriguing aspects that students can find extremely motivating. As long as we know how to select and to present the content (keeping in mind Krashen’s model of “input + 1) – input just a little above the students’ level – a great many literary figures can be successfully used in TEFL.

1.2. Well-know tales and rhymes.

The following is a selection of authors, genres and periods that could be used in TEFL.

Well-known tales.

Well-know rhymes.

“The elves and the shoemaker”; “The tree little pigs” “The little red hen”; “The princess and the pea”; “Chicken Licken”; “The ugly duckling”; “The emperor’s new clothes”; “Sleeping beauty”; “Puss in boots”; “Little red riding hood”; “Hansel and Gretel”; “Cinderella”; Beauty and the beast”; “Snow white and the seven dwarfs”; “The wizard of Oz”; “Ladybird”; “Rumpelstiltskin”; “Goldylocks and the three bears”.

“One, two, put on your shoe”; “Rain, rain go away”; “This is the way”; “Old Macdonald had a farm”; “Hickory, Dickory, Dock”; “Baa, baa, black sheep”;

“Three blind mice”; “Insey Winsey spider”; “Pussy cut, pussy cat”; “Humpty Dumpty”; “Jack and Jill”; “Eany, Meeny, Miny, Mo”; “There is a hole in my bucket”; “The house that Jack built”; “She sells seashells”; “Thirty days September”; “There was an Old Woman who swallowed a fly”

When selecting a work of literature we must bear in mind that we want our pupils engage interactively with the text, with classmates, and with us, the teachers. To reach this we must follow these guidelines:

a) The text itself, and not information about it, is of central importance.

b) Our pupils must genuinely interact with the text, their classmates and the teacher and not be mere recipients.

c) Our activities must be designed so as to enable our pupils to share their personal experiences, perceptions and opinions.

d) Our activities must be varied and interesting.

e) The selection must be based on their potential interest for our pupils and not in the literary qualities of the works.

1.2. Storybooks.

1. Criteria for selecting storybooks.

We can find many simplified storybooks which have been graded with children learning English in mind. Most authors, however, consider that the use of authentic materials can be more fruitful (real language and motivation). We can also find authentic books with high-quality illustrations which will play an important role in aiding comprehension.

a) Our pupils’ needs and abilities.

The chosen texts should always be appropriate to the age, interests and goals of our pupils. In order to understand literary texts our pupils need to be able to read at a reasonable speed for an extended period without fatigue. This speed should, for extensive reading, be at a rate of at least 200 words per minute.

Our youngest pupils, those in the second cycle, will not be able to read at this speed in English so we must use short, simple texts with illustrations. We can also use reading techniques to improve our pupils’ reading speed. These are normally divided into technical or practice methods.

· Technical methods: use a device of some kind to cover up the written words as our pupils read, forcing them to speed up their reading. These methods may be more useful for the Spanish language classroom.

· Practice methods are more suitable for the English class our oldest pupils, as the texts they are able to cope with begin to increase in size, e.g. texts followed by certain tasks, decrease the time allowed for reading.


Needs and abilities.

1. Content/subject matter.

a) Relevant; b) Interesting; c) Amusing; d) Memorable.

2. Visuals.

a) Use of illustrations; b) Attractive/colourful; c) Size; d) Target culture.

3. Encourage participation.

a) Repetition; b) Prediction; c) Develop memory; d) Build confidence.

4. Motivating.

a) Relate to their experiences and characteristics.

5. Arouse curiosity.

a) Interest in getting to know more about English language and culture.

6. Create positive attitudes.

a) Target language, b) Target culture; c) Language learning.

We can see how these first criteria of suitability depend on each particular group of pupils, their needs and interests.

b) Language difficulty: linguistic and stylistic level.

· Linguistic level:

If we want our pupils to enjoy reading a text we should bear in mind the following points:

– the vocabulary and syntax of the text should be within our pupils’ grasp

– idiomatic language should be kept at a minimum

It would be absurd to use the masterpieces of children’s literature in our classes. Unknown words should not occur more frequently than one or two every hundred. We must also bear in mind complex structure. This may also hinder comprehension as they will not see how one part of the text relates to another.

Therefore, if both sentence structure and vocabulary must be at a level they can understand, we will not be able to use classic children storybooks masterpieces. In fact the only type of classic children’s literature we can use will be rhymes and songs. We must use modern storybooks with simple, short texts and meaningful illustrations.

Given the problems that lexical and structural difficulty pose, we may need to assess linguistic difficulty in a systematic way. From the point of view of EFL it would be better, as Hill suggests to use a cloze test:


– We prepare a reasonably typical extract from the book and delete words from the passage on a regular basis (every sixth or seventh word).

– We instruct our pupils to supply the missing vocabulary, so we will need 15 deletions to have validity. Obviously we assume we cannot really use it with our youngest pupils.

– Average class results are:

a) More than 57 per cent correct: our pupils can read the text on their own.

b) Between 44 – 57 per cent: our pupils can read it with us or with the dictionary help.

c) Below 44 per cent: they cannot read the text.

· Stylistic level.

The use of unusual word order, divergent vocabulary, and son will produce instances of foreground that cannot be appreciated if we do not have a solid knowledge of what constitutes the linguistic norm.

It is useless therefore to choose texts of great stylistic complexity for the early stages of language learning. Style analysis should be based on the linguistic features with which our pupils are already familiar.

As a summary, based on Ellis and Brewster, we have:


Linguistic and stylistic level

1. Linguistic level.

a) Vocabulary; b) Structures; c) Functions.

2. Stylistic level.

a) Foregrounding of vocabulary and structure.

c) Amount of background information required.

Our pupils’ understanding of a text can also be hindered by their lack of background knowledge of English speaking countries culture. We must therefore bear in mind the amount of time we will have to explain background knowledge when choosing the texts.

It is clear that our pupils’ limited knowledge of the world will not allow us to expand on most of these topics. Once and again we can obviously see that the linguistic, stylistic and background knowledge which is required for a fully understanding of most classic children’s literature works is far beyond our pupils’ ken. Modern storybooks are also more suitable from needed background knowledge point of view.

d) Educational and follow-up potential.

Once we have analyzed the previous aspects, we can finally ask ourselves about the educational potential of the story in terms of: learning English language and culture; learning about other subjects; learning about the world; learning how to learn and also about the follow-up potential.

e) Conclusions.

The study of the previous sections enables us to come to the following conclusions about the most suitable periods, literary genres and authors.


1. Period.

Mostly nowadays works but we can also use traditional tales with an everlasting appeal such as “Little Red Riding Hood”.

2. Authors.

Traditional storytellers such as Perrault and authors on the Puffin or Early Bird series such as Jack Kent, Raymond Briggs, John Burningham or Roald Dahl.

3. Genres.

We can use small poems but mostly storybooks.

We will now study how to use these storybooks in our classroom.

2. Using story books in the classroom.

Understanding a story in English is hard work for our pupils, so the first thing we have to pay attention to is how to help our pupils understand the story.


1. We must provide a context for the story and introduce the main characters.

2. Provide visual support: drawings on the blackboard, cut-out figures, flash cards,…

3. Explain the context, keywords and ideas in the mother tongue, if necessary.

4. Identify your linguistic objectives.

5. Relate the story or associated activities to work in other subject areas if possible.

6. Decide how long you will spend on the story.

7. Decide in which order to introduce or revise the language necessary for understanding the story.

8. Decide when and how you will read the story.

9. If necessary, modify the story to make it more accessible to your pupils.

10. Find out if there are any rhymes or songs to reinforce the language introduce.

11. Decide follow-up activities to provide opportunities for pupils to use the language in different contexts.

Once we have decided on the previous questions we can begin to plan a story-based lesson:

· Planning story-based lessons.

There are many ways to plan a lesson. However, a predominantly oral lesson normally follows quite a fixed plan with small variations. We may have for example:

Warm-up and review: informal chat to maintain rapport with our pupils. We remind our pupils of what we did during the last lesson.

Presentation: both of the aims of the lessons and subsequently of the new language.

Practice: controlled stage.

Production: communicative stage.

Final rounding-up.

2. Types of storybooks.

There is a wide range of texts that we could use for the teaching of English. However, we consider storybooks as one of the most useful for that purpose, hence, we will mainly focus on this type.

Ellis and Brewster have classified storybooks under three headings:

Narrative features



– Rhyming words

– Repeating words

– Cumulative content and language

– Interactive

– Humorous

– Everyday life

– Animal stories

– Traditional/folk/fairy tales

– Fantasy

– Flap

– Cut-away pages

– Minimal text

– No text

– Speech bubbles

We have also made distinctions based on the level of difficulty but it is even more important to distinguish between authentic and graded or adapted texts. We prefer to use authentic texts if this is not possible, at least we should use real-simulated texts giving suggestions to adapt too difficult texts.

2.1. Authentic vs graded texts.

The main aim of all our teaching is to enable our pupils to reach communicative competence. As the focus will be on assisting our pupils to do in class what they will need to do outside, the materials to be used will reflect the world outside.

Nunan describes authenticity as follows “authentic materials are usually defined as those which have been produced for purposes other than to teach language (video clips, recordings of authentic interactions, extracts for TV…).

Authentic materials are easily justified on the grounds that specially scripted texts are artificial. Manipulating these texts does not mean that our pupils will comprehend and manipulate language in real communicative situations.

However, especially with our pupils, who are beginners, it may be necessary to edit authentic materials in a way. Edited materials can be classified into simulated authentic and artificial.

A non-authentic text, in language teaching terms, is “one that has been designed especially for learners” (Harmer). We can make a distinction here, however, between texts which have been made to illustrate particular language points for presentation (artificial) and those which appear to be authentic.

Manipulating and comprehending simulated authentic texts will help our pupils to acquire the necessary skills they will need when they come to handle authentic material. So we can conclude saying that the material designed to foster the acquisition of communicative competence must at least be simulated authentic.

We will finally see how we can adapt authentic texts which are slightly above our pupils’ level.

2.2. Adapting stories.

When adapting a story we face a dilemma: if we simplify too much our pupils will lose the flavour of real stories, so, what we can do is to try and adapt stories without losing much of the original magic following Ellis and Brewster guidelines.


Vocabulary and general meaning.

1. Check unfamiliar content or words.

2. Check idioms.

3. Check clarity


1. Check tenses.

2. Check use of structures.

3. Check word order.

Organization of ideas.

1. Check sentence length and complexity.

2. Check time references.

3. Check the way ideas are linked.

4. Check the way ideas are explained.

Story length.

1. Check the number of ideas in the story.

By following the previous criteria of selection and use of storybooks we will intend to make the most of literature in the classroom.

3. Bibliography.

Children’s literature:

· The Cambridge Guide to English literature. CUP. Cambridge, 1990.


· ELLIS, G. and BREWSTER, J.: The storytelling Handbook for Primary Teachers. Penguin. London, 1991.

· WELL-LOVED TALES SERIES: Loughborough: Ladybird Books, 1974.