Thursday, 13 April 2017

Short extracts: great resources

Extracts from books, especially modern novels and stories can provide teachers with a wealth of material for using in class in many imaginative ways. I have illustrated this in one of my previous posts by offering an example of how one could exploit Chapter 56 of the famous novel The Life of Pi .

This time I will use an extract from Penelope Lively’s Going Back.

And that night I dream of lions. They have escaped from their cage and they are coming for me, rushing down on me. … And there is no escape, they will have me. But somehow they do not. They pass me and beyond me there is this woman and they will have her instead. I see, but she is not afraid of them. She stands still and they stop and she is stroking them. They are not lions any more: they have got smaller. I wake up crying.

The language in the above is quite simple – suitable for intermediate students. One may start by asking whether the students can describe any of their recurring dreams/nightmares. It is one way of introducing the theme and normally it triggers a lot of discussion.

The extract lends itself to introducing narrative in the present and constitutes a good model for tense use, which the teacher can point out to their students and ask them to write a short text of their own using the extract as an organizing frame.

Sometimes when the students are required to create something, it is advisable for the teacher to do the same so that there is an exchange of ideas in all directions. The creative process should feel like a collective effort rather than dictated by the teacher to the students especially when it is free writing rather than an exam task.

In compliance with this principle I wrote the following to share with my students:

And that night I dream of soft toys. There are hundreds of them lying all over the room: on the bed, on the floor, on the chairs. I am surrounded by them and I feel on top of the world. But just as I am about to cry with joy, they come to life and they begin to smother me. I lie squashed in a corner of the room when suddenly the door is flung open and it is my father …

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