Getting them involved in literature

    Morag Venter

    This  article is based on an article which was originally published in CRUX, October 1986, by André Lemmer. It illustrates effectively how to teach (in this case a short story) in an interactive manner – although the original was written many years before OBE claimed to be the originator of such a style.

    The following plan outlines a literature programme based on pupil’s natural sequence of response, from

    • personal engagement,
    • to perception,
    • to interpretation,
    • to evaluation.

    Let’s imagine how this would work with a short story:


    • What does the illustration/ title suggest the story is about?
    • Is there an issue (eg revenge, love, pain) raised by the title?

    If so, what do you feel about this issue?

    • Can you think of a time when this issue was a major issue in your life?


    • Plan the reading:  You could plan to read the linking narrative and assign dialogue parts to different learners.


    • Choose a place to stop reading so that the learners can predict in their workbooks what will happen next.
    • Learners could be asked to jot down the most exciting part of the story, the character they like best, the character they identify with the most, etc.  Each time they should be asked to explain why they have made that choice.
    • Ask the learners to list the key words which highlight the differences between the characters or events.
    • Get them to divide the story into sections, giving each a sub-title.  (I suspect these will generally follow the more formal categories of introduction, climax/anti-climax and conclusion.)


    It is often valuable to assign different activities for different pairs or groups to consider.  Report-back sessions then become meaningful as the rest of the class will have to decide whether or not they agree. Different group work methods can be used, if you so wish.  Some of the types of questions that can be posed:

    • What is your impression of character XXX?
    • What do you think character XXX is feeling at this point in the story?
    • What do you think of character XXX’s behaviour or attitude?
    • Retell the story from the point of view of a particular character. (The group must be able to highlight which words hint to them that this is what that character will feel.)

    WRITTEN RESPONSES   (Group or Individual)

    • Write a newspaper article based on some aspect of the story.  This could be an interview, a report or a feature article.
    • Write three or four diary entries made by a character during the course of the events in the story. (You might have to allow them to include pre-events or probable latter events.)
    • Prepare a radio/TV interview with one of the characters.
    • If there is a public event in the story, describe this from the point of view of a spectator.
    • Recreate the story as a play.  Groups could be assigned to write and then to perform these plays. (This would require you to spending time to explain about play dialogue formats, ie character names in capital letters and followed by a colon; stage instructions, etc.)
    • Write a paragraph or two explaining what will happen next!
    • South-Africanise the dialogue or setting and share these versions with the class (if the story is set outside South Africa).

    All of this is so much more interesting than setting a series of questions on each short story, and the class will probably remember the details and the impact of the story more favourably.


    Categories: Issue II