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

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






If we consider that level is what students can actually do with the language, it will become obvious that even at the early stages students can in fact do a great deal with the language: They can identify sounds (vowels. consonants, intonation, stress, rhythm), certain words and structures. They can produce these orally; recognize them in a text and, at the very least, underline words, if they can’t actually set them down on a separate sheet of paper. In short, even the very beginners can do something with the language. The teacher then must build from that point by adding input which is neither too advanced, nor too easy. The input must be motivating enough for them to want to try to understand, first, and then try to reproduce in some way.

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. Chaucer, for example, is not merely an author who wrote a few famous tales in a strange dialect that nobody uses today. But rather he tells some very good stories which, if a teacher can get beyond the purely academic side of the great literary figure, could well be introduced to students in such a way that suits their particular age group and level. The Canterbury Tales, for example, is tremendously full of material that will motivate students. As long as the teacher knows 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 .

Without forgetting, of course, that literature must be suitable to the students’ level and age group, and that any text can be adapted to suit the needs and capabilities of students, the following is a selection of authors. genres, and periods that could be used.


-The Natural Order hypothesis

-The Affective filter hypothesis

-The input hypothesis



The aim of these texts is to help the readers to know the subject-matter or topic they deal with. However , there is always a personal component on the part of the author in his explanations

In order to reach this aim , the writer takes the following theorical principles as the basis to present the topic:

-Collection of facts and events.

-Order of the same.

-Clear linguistic uses.

The authors start with a clear presentation of the subject-matter. This subject can also be introduced in the title of the text. It is also very necessary to give arguments for and against the ideas found in the text , and it has to be the author who helps the students to make up their minds on this topic.

May finish with a short summary of the ideas explained and with conclusion in which the author expresses his own ideas.

This text tries to be as objective as possible. This objectiness is shown in the language used.


We are aware that narrative texts try to tell a story as a series of actions that may either take place in the authors mind or in real life. Therefore , the sequence or order is essential to develop these type of texts , since the attention of readers must be kept throughout the whole text.

The simplest way of presenting a narrative text is:

-Chronological development of the events.

-“Flash-Back” from the end or the middle of the story to the back. Then , the author usually turns back to the end.

-The text may be divided into episodes or chapters

-The characters are briefly described , as well as the situation and the circumstances.

-There must be a balance between the events and the ideas

-The conclusion is usually drawn at the end of the text

-The verb tense most commonly used is the simple past , although there are other tenses such as the simple present.


The aim of these texts is usually to convince the readers to accept or to reject the ideas the texts deal with.

Argumentative texts take dialectics as the basis for their development , they try to give evidence regarding the subject – matter. The argumentative process ends with a conclusion. It may show whether theses discussed are true or not.

It is extremely necessary that the paragraphs are perfectly linked since the ideas they contained are closely connected among them. The most important features of this type of texts are:

-Verbal tenses: usually the simple present tense.

-The facts are generally underlined

-Personal references are discretely used in these texts

-The thesis may be presented at the beginning of the text or at the end as a conclusion.

-Use of deductive and inductive processes

-Expression like ”I think….” Must be avoided.

-Metaphors and other literary resources.

-Trying to avoid interrogative sentences

-Keywords must be used in every paragraph


The aim of a description is to tell what a person , object or place is or has been like. The descriptions can be objective. However , they also have a subjective component on the part of the writer , who gives his opinion about the matter.

As we may easily notice , the difference between descriptive text and a narrative text is that time in descriptive text and narrative text is that time in descriptions is kept apart , while it is an essential element in a narration.

Descriptive texts usually have the following features:

-Use of adjective , which give the reader the ideas of what the author wants to communicate.

-If the description is subjective , the use of metaphors , comparisons and of other literary resources is very common.

The brief and easy analysis of the types of texts that we may deal with is a good help to make up our minds up regarding the type of text we want our students work with. However the text chosen should be analyzed in depth by the teacher before it is given to the children , subject –matter , vocabulary and authors ideas.


British Authors and Texts

Beowulf The text, in Old English. is from the 10th-cent. But it was believed written in the 6th-cent. The tale is about the life of the hero Beowulf who in his youth fights and kills Grendel, a monster and then kills the monster’s mother. Fifty years later he battles a dragon and both are killed.

Chaucer’s The Canterbury tales, in prose and verse, was written in the late 14th-cent. The story begins when twenty-nine pilgrims on their way to Canterbury agree to tell tales as they go to make the time pass by quicker. There are twenty-four tales told altogether. They include the following: “The knight’s tale,” “The miller’s tale,” “The reeve’s tale The cook’s tale,” “The man of law’s tale,” “The wife of bath’s tale,” “The friar’s Tale,” “The clerk’s tale,” “The merchant’s tale,” “The squire’s tale The Franklin’s tale,” “The physician’s tale The pardoner’s tale,” etc.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is an alliterative poem from the second half of the 14th-cent. The story begins at King Arthur’s court in Camelot during a new year’s feast. A large green man appears and dares the knights to cut his head off. Young Gawain obliges him, after accepting the challenge that he will allow his own head to be cut off on the same day the following year. The Green Knight picks up his severed head and retires. A year later, Gawain sets out to meet his fate, coming to a castle, where he is invited in as a guest. The lord of the castle comes to an agreement with him, that whatever comes to pass the young knight will report it to the lord. When the lord’s wife tries to seduce him, he resists. But the lady insists and he allows her at last to make a present to him of her garter. He does not report this to the lord of the castle who reveals his true identity: he is the Green Knight. The Green Knight honours him for his honesty and courage, and pardons Gawain the debt he has come to pay. Nevertheless, he cuts the young knight’s neck with his axe, for not telling him about his wife’s garter.

Piers Plowman, a late 14th-cent. Poem in Middle English by William Langland, tells of how the narrator fell asleep in the forest one day and of the many things that passed in his dream.

Sir Philip Sidney (1554-86) is an attractive figure: He was a romantic poet and a courageous knight who was killed in Flanders in an attack he led on a Spanish supply convoy. There are aspects of his life-if not some of his literary work-which students would find interesting.

Edmund Spenser (c. 1552-99) was author of, among other works, The Faerie Queene, which contains some interesting material about courtiers and knights, dragons and medieval castles. Spenser’s life is of some interest, especially his friendship with Sir Walter Raleigh and his encounter with the Irish people.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) has a great many plays which are of particular interest to the young. His history plays are full of intriguing stories of English kings and queens (Henry VIII, Richard III). There are parts of some of his tragedies which are particularly motivating, such as the three witches in Macbeth, or the ghost scene in Hamlet, and of course, Romeo and Juliet attracts much attention among the young. Seviral of his comedies are appealing to young students, especially A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest , both of which have a good many, scenes involving youths about the same age as the students.

Though the “metaphysical” writings of John Donne (1572-1631) are very difficult to appreciate, the life of the man can be of interest to you and students. The poet sailed with Essex to sack Cadiz in 1596 and with Raleigh to hunt the Spanish treasure ships off the Azores in 1597.

Ben Jonson (1572/3-1637) is another intriguing literary figure whose life is of particular interest to students. Coming from the lower class, he struggled to educate himself and eventually became one of the known playwrights in England. Parts of his comedies are motivating: Volpone is about a man who pretends he dying to get money from people who pretend to be honest but are in fact rogues. He wrote The Masque of Blackness for Queen Anne because she had always wanted to appear on stage as a Negress. And The Alchemist is an hilarious comedy about a servant, Face, who, with a fake alchemist, takes advantage of the absence of the owner of a house in Blackfriars in London during an epidemic. They use the house to trick roguish people out of money.

John Milton (1608-74) lived during a very crucial period in the history of Britain. He was a Puritan who sided with those who favoured the execution of King Charles I. The subject of the civil war is intriguing and full of anecdotes. Milton’s Paradise Lost, an epic poem in twelve books written in blank verse, is the story of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden. The character of Satan was unique in that the demon was presented in very humanlike, and at times sympathetic, terms. There are scenes in long the poem that are worth summarizing, such as when Satan, Beelzebub, and the legions of the rebellious angels have an assembly; or when Satan and Eve first meet.

Aphra Behn (1640?-1689) is a tremendously intriguing figure. She was a spy for King Charles II and worked under cover in Antwerp during the Dutch war. Her play The Rover is about the adventures of a band of English cavaliers in Naples and Madrid. And Oronoco, or The Royal Slave, one of the first novels ever written, is about Africans who are captured and sold into slavery in South America. The novel is full of interesting anecdotes.

Animals were used in “Books for boys and girls” and “Country rhymes for children”, published in 1686. The stories had a moral to teach. They were well known not only in Britain but also in Italy, France, and Spain. Furthermore, some of the verse from “Divine and moral songs for children” are still heard to this day: “How doth the little busy bee?”

Daniel Defoe(1660-1731) is best known for his novel “Robinson Crusoe” .The time in which he wrote is particularly interesting, since it coincided with the growth of the colonies in North America. The novel is based on the experiences of Alexander Selkirk on the island of Juan Fernandez. The relationship between the shipwrecked Robinson and an indigenous inhabitant of a deserted island is of particular interest.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) is especially well known for his Gulliver’s Travels, about a shipwrecked surgeon on the island of Lilliput, where the inhabitants are a mere six inches high. In the second part, the surgeon is shipwrecked on an island where the inhabitants are as tall steeples. In the third part, the surgeon finds himself on a flying island, and in the fourth part he is in a country ruled by horses with more sense (reason) than most humans.

William Congreve (1 670-1729) is of interest to young students in that he wrote his satirical plays during the Restoration period, when the monarchy was restored after twenty years of exile in France. Congreve, Etherege, Farquhar, Vanbrugh, and Wycherley wrote hilarious satires in the comedy of manners style. The fashion and the influence of the French court on English society is an interesting topic to develop; it is something which the comedy of manners style has preserved.

Perhaps less intriguing for the young than Defoe and Swift, Joseph Addison (1672-1719) and Sir Richard Steele (1672-1729) are of interest in that they wrote for newspapers and periodicals such as the Tatler, The Spectator, The Guardian. Journalism is a very important literary style today as it was in Addison and Steele’s day. Comparing !he two ages and making periodicals or newspapers in class can be quite motivating.

The writings of the poet Alexander Pope (1688-1744) typify the Neoclassical style in British literature. His poem in rhyming couplets The Rape of the Lock is interesting as a story in itself. At a card game, a young gentleman, enamoured with a young lady, brazenly cuts off a lock of her hair in front of everyone. It is not only an excellent piece for discussing the manners of that time, but also representative of the kind of encounters of a sexual nature that young people normally face.

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-97) is a tremendously appealing figure whose life was a continuous adventure. In 1792 she went to Paris to participate in the French Revolution, and there fell in love with an American writer, by whom she had a daughter who would die soon afterwards. Mary managed to escape the Reign of Terror in France. Down and out in London, she tried to take her life, but was nurtured back to health by William Godwin, a philosopher of anarchical opinions, with whom she later had a daughter, Mary, who would one day marry the poet Shelley and write the novel Frankenstein. Mary Wollstonecraft is known for her two books, A Vindication of the Rights of men and A Vindication of the Rights of Women, written two years later. She died shortly after giving birth to her daughter. There are obviously a great many aspects worthy of attention not only with regard to the author’s life, but also to the messages of her books.

Mary Wollstonecraft’s daughter, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851), eloped with the young Prey Bysshe Shelley at seventeen, and lived with the poet abroad till his premature death in 1822. She knew Byron and Keats very well, and her life is an example of the young romantic world view of the early nineteenth century. Her novel Frankenstein is still an often read classic, and many versions of it have been re-enacted.

William Blake (1757-1827) is an alluring figure and his poetry, especially Songs of innocence and of experience, and is full of material suitable for young people. And as he was also a painter and an engraver, there are prints available of much of his work. Songs of Innocence and of Experience contains some very motivating poems, such as “The Chimney Sweeper” (“When my mother died 1 was very young, / And my father sold me while yet my tongue/ could scarcely cry <<‘weep! ‘Weep, ‘weep! >>”), or “The Tiger” (“Tiger! Tiger! burning bright/ in the forests of the night”) or “The Little Black Boy” (“My mother bore me in the southern wild, / And 1 am black, but Oh! My soul is white”). And an added plus is that his poems are generally expressed in a very simple language.

Robert Burns (1759-96) was an extravagant figure who wrote poems in Scottish dialect. His life is of interest: As a young man he greatly believed in the equality of all mankind, and so he defended the cause of the French Revolution. One of his poems, “Auld Lang Syne”, though in a language which is difficult to understand, is still sung by a great many native speakers of English the world over on New Years Eve: “Should auld acquaintance be forgot,/ And never brought to min’?/ Should auld acquaintance be forgot,/ And days o’ lang syne?/ For auld lang syne, my dear, For auld lang syne,/ We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,/ For auld lang syne.”

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) wrote novels of medieval subjects which were popular in Britain and America. “Ivanhoe” is still widely, read among young people: In it, Wilfred of Ivanhoe, son of a noble Saxon, joins Richard the Lion Hearted at the Crusade in the Holy Land. John, Richard’s younger brother, tries to overthrow him in his absence. Ivanhoe helps Richard restore authority. In the novel, Robin Hood and Friar Tuck also appear. Other novels by Scott include The Monastery, The Abbot, and Tales of the Crusades.

George Gordon Byron (1788-1824) belonged to the generation of English Romantic poets that followed Wordsworth and Coleridge. He gave up a seat in the House of Lords to live in exile. His poem “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” made him famous in 1812. The poem describes the poet’s travels, among other places, through Portugal and Spain. Byron’s personal life was the talk of Europe at the time, for he was rich and handsome and notorious for his escapades of pleasure and “sinful” behaviour. He is said to have swum the Hellespont with a friend for the fun of it. His “Don Juan” contains parts which young Spaniards may find interesting, especially the part that describes Juan as a youngster in Seville and, when he gets older, his mother, “Donna” Inez, sends him away to Cadiz and then abroad. He was also an idealist who armed a body of troops with his own money in order to help the Greeks in their filht against the Turks. He died of fever, though, before the “Byron Brigade” saw real action.

The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1922) was a friend of Byron. As a student at Oxford, he was notorious for his unconventional dress and his eccentricity. He was a rebel, denouncing royalty, and a vegetarian. He eloped with Mary Godwin Wollstonecraft when she was seventeen, and he lived abroad for the remainder of his life. “Prometheus Unbound” is perhaps the most promising of his poems for the EFL teacher. Prometheus is said to have disobeyed Zeus by teaching mankind how to use fire. Shelley has him chained to a rock as punishment for disobeying the supreme god. But Prometheus does not repent his act, and in the end, Prometheus triumphs over tyranny. Shelley was drowned when, returning from visiting Byron, his boat capsized near Livorno.

Charles Dickens (1812-70) is by far one of the most useful authors for EFL teachers. Especially popular are his novels David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, and Great Expectations, and his A Christmas Carol is still reading for the youth.

The Brontë sisters, Charlotte (1816-55), Emily (1818-48) and Anne (1820-49), are interesting figures. Their father was an Irishman who was curate of Haworth, Yorkshire. Their mother died in 1825, leaving them to be cared for by their aunt. They were sent to a Clergy Daughters’ School which, it is believed, proved to be such a harsh place that it impaired their health and may have hastened the deaths of two elder sisters. The girls grew up reading and admiring such authors as Byron and Walter Scott, and such exotic tales as The Arabian Nights. The harshness of schools and schoolmasters at that time is a subject of interest for young students, as is the story of three girls who eventually became famous authors. Anne’s Agnes Grey was originally published under the pseudonym Acton Bell. Charlotte’s Jane Eyre is especially well known because of the Orson Wells film that was made of it. And Emily’s Wuthering Heights was also made into a film in 1994.

Lewis Carroll, whose real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, (1832-1898) is famous for two books which he wrote especially for children: Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Of the two, perhaps the EFL teacher will find the former more useful: Certainly many of the scenes, such as the rabbit rushing down the hole after consulting his watch, are quite well known. The story of how Carrol had made up

the tale to entertain the two daughters –one of whose names was Alice- of a friend on a boat trip offers possibilities of captivating the attention of the students as well. He apparently later created the second tale specially for Alice.

Roald Dahl (1926-1991) wrote some of the most popular novels for children in recent years: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Witches, Gremlins, and a many others. As a boy he was educated in English boarding schools, and many of his novels reflect the many unpleasant experiences he had there.

Authors and texts from the United States

Though it did have a few high spots in the early years of the Republic, The United States had no flourishing literature of its own until the middle of the 19th-cent. It is a good idea for EFL teachers who are non-native speakers to familiarize themselves with American authors and their works in order to better understand the culture and the language that Americans use. Though students can hardly be expected to read these authors themselves, the teacher can help them to appreciate the literature, in the hope that at some time in the future they will read the texts on their own. Certainly just talking about any one of the following authors and the time and place they lived would provide ample motivating material for EFL class activities.

Washington Irving (1783-1859), a New Yorker, published his well known tale “Rip Van Winkle” in 1820. Th6 still often told story is about a man who falls asleep on a mountain and wakes up many years later to find that the colonies have become a republic. The tale offers many possibilities of comparing life in the U.S. before and after the Declaration of Independence.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) was a from New England Puritan stock. His stories and novels depict some of the harshest realities of Puritanism and its effect on people. Aside from his well known novels The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables, he also wrote some works for children, such as A Wonder Book and Tangle wood Tales. His short story “Young Goodman Brown” is an intriguing tale of how a man meets a demon in the forest who invites him to a party.

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) was from Boston, Massachusetts, but he spent five years in a primary school in England. His Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque includes one of his most famous stories, “The Fall of the House of Usher,” a Gothic tale in which the narrator visits a childhood friend in his decayed old mansion. Additionally, his poem “The Raven” is still popular.

Herman Melville (1819-1891) was friends with Nathaniel Hawthorne. As a boy, Melville sailed to Liverpool, found work on a whaler bound for the South Seas, jumped ship and joined the US Navy, serving for three years. From his experience on the high seas he wrote his famous novel Moby-Dick, about an obsessed captain in relentless pursuit of a great white whale. Billy Budd, Foretop man is about a sailor who is abused by an officer whom he strikes dead in a fit of anger and is hanged for it. A well known short story is “Bartleby the Scrivener”, about a law-copyist who decides to move into the office where he works in the Wall Street district of Manhattan, and his boss’s repeated and unsuccessful efforts to get him to leave. It is a good story for discussing how scriveners used to copy everything by hand, and what Wall Street was like then and what it is like now.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) was Samuel Langhome Clemens’ pseudonym. His years growing up on the banks of the Mississippi river and later as a pilot on the river were recreated in his two most famous novels Tom Sawyer-about the antics of Tom in a small town- and Huckleberry Finn-about the orphan Huck and his excursion down the Mississippi with an escaped slave. The Prince and Pauper narrates how a prince changes places with a beggar. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur Court is perhaps one of his most imaginative works, telling of how a Yankee businessman is clubbed over the head by his factory workers and comes to in during King Arthur’s legendary reign in early medieval England. The novel can introduce a comparison of medieval life to what life was like in the late 19th-cent. and to modern life. Mark Twain also wrote some entertaining stories, such as “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” and “Baker’s Blue jay Yarn”.

Henry James (1843-1916) came from a rich family and was therefore able to travel a great deal and to study in London, Paris, and Geneva. As a young man he felt more at

home among the European upper class society and thus settled in Europe in 1875. His writings are a blending of American and European world views: His novel Daisy Miller is a marvellous example of the impact of American verve on European staidness. Daisy is an energetic and free spirited young American whom the narrator, an American who has spent most of his life living on the Continent and, as such, is more European than American, becomes attracted to. But because he is inhibited by manners and convention, he cannot get close to her. Daisy scandalizes the members of “respectable society” with her uninhibited language and behaviour. Other well-known novels of his include Washington Square, The Bostonians, and Portrait of lady.

Edith Wharton (1862-1937) was a close friend of Henry James. And like him, she wrote about. Americans in Europe. “Roman Fever” tells of two elderly American ladies in Rome recalling an incident that happened to them in, that very city when they were young.

Stephen Crane (1871-1900) became famous at the age of twenty-four with his novel The Red Badge of Courage about a young soldier in battle during the American Civil War. He was a journalist and he wrote about the Spanish-American War of 1899. He had tremendously promising career ahead of him when, on visit to Germany, he died of tuberculosis.

Sherwood Anderson (1876-1941) was famous for Winesburg , Ohio, a collection of short stories about life in a small town. Tar: A Midwest Childhood is semi-autobiographical.

James Thurber (1894-1961) his humorous short stories, written for the magazine The New Yorker of life in “middle” America were very popular. His short story “The Secret Life of Walter Misty” is still customary reading.

William Faulkner (1897-1962), though a difficult novelist for many, wrote a great deal from the perspective of a boy: The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, and “Was” in Go Down Moses. A southerner from the state of Mississippi, he served with the Canadian Air Force in the First World War because he was not accepted in the US Air Force. His books narrate life in the “deep” south. He won the Noble Prize in 1950. J. Blotter’s biography of him, as recently translated and published in Spain. A reading of his childhood would give the teacher a great deal of information about what growing up in the South was like. Go Down Moses tells of a boy’s friendship with an Indian and his hunting a bear for the first time. And “Was” narrates in humorous terms an incident that occurred when a slave runs off to visit his girlfriend on a nearby plantation. One of the main characters in As I Lay Dying narrates how his dead mother is transported in a wagon to a family burial ground in another county.

E. Hemingway (1 899-1961) is particularly useful to the EFL teacher for his close connection with Spain in the 1930s. The Sun Also Rises, Fiesta, and For Whom the Bell Tolls are directly about Spain. The Old Man and the Sea is about a Cuban fisherman who catches an enormous fish he’ll never manage to bring to port, and nobody believes him. He won toe Nobel Prize in 1954.

J. D. Salinger (1919-) is still popular among young readers for his novel The Catcher in the rye (1951) about an adolescent who runs from a boarding school in a small town to New York City. And Franny and Zooey (1961) , who is also about two adolescents, a brother and a sister, members of an eccentric family.

Two Afro-American writers in particular offer material that can be of interest. Alice Walker’s novel The Colour Purple was made into a film. It is an excellent story about the life of an Afro-American woman in the South. It is specially useful for the many parts it has that involve children. And Toni Morrison, who just recently won the Novel Prize of Literature, writes excellent stories about Afro-Americans. Her novel Beloved, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988, has some good scenes involving adolescent girls.