Literature-Based Learning and Instruction: The Basics

The concept of using literature in education is perhaps one of the oldest pedagogical frameworks, but the resurgence of literature-based instruction in the classroom, especially in the language classroom, has brought new life to the age-old approach. Literature-based instruction in the language classroom focuses more on the communicative needs of language learners and moves away from the more “literary” aspects of literature study such as critical lenses and stylistic analysis. Let’s look at the who, what, why, and how of integrating this “new” form of literature-based learning into the language classroom.

Who is LBL for?

            Because of the necessity for discussion and a deeper understanding of the text, literature-based learning works best in secondary classrooms.  Learners with lower proficiency may also find the activities related to literature-based learning frustrating as they may not have the vocabulary or grammatical knowledge to accurately express their opinion and personal connections to the material in L2.

What is LBL?

Literature-based learning, in essence, is when an educator uses literature as the basis for instruction. The core content for the entirety of the curriculum comes from the reading material, however additional texts may be used to complement the literature.

The types of activities used in literature-based instruction are what is natural do to after reading. After reading, one often discusses the plot or shares their personal connection or opinions to the themes represented in the material. However, a 10 question comprehension quiz is not an activity naturally done after reading, outside of the classroom.

In Literature-based instruction, learners choose their own high-interest piece for extensive reading. There should be a variety of options for students to choose from in varying reading levels. Many educators choose to incorporate themes into their LBL curriculum, thus offering book choices to students that all fall under that central theme (Khatib & Nourzadeh, 2011).

Students are given the opportunity to then discuss the reading with peers and complete tasks related to the reading material (Sidhu, Chan, and Kaur, 2010).

Why use LBL?

Using LBI promotes learner’s….

  • Vocabulary Knowledge (Frantzen, 2002)
  • Grammatical Knowledge (Tayebipour, 2009)
  • Knowledge of L2 lexical phrases and fixed expressions (MacKenzie, 1999)
  • Language Awareness (Chan, 1999)
  • Sociolinguistic and pragmatic competences (McKay, 2001)

Using authentic literature texts (unaltered and unabridged) provides opportunities for learners to interact with original expressions and natural vocabulary (Puspitasari, 2016).

Literature also helps learners to develop affective skills (Violetta-Irene, 2015), and cultural knowledge.

Studies have proven that learners tend to enjoy learning through literature-based instruction, especially when given a choice of reading material (Piscayanti, 2010; Darmawati et al., 2020). Learners have also been proven to achieve better language acquisition results when learning through literature-based instruction (Piscayanti, 2010).

How to implement LBL?

As stated, learners should be given a choice of literature text at an appropriate reading level and (if applicable) within the central theme of the unit.

The teacher can then engage with the students in several ways including pre-reading activities, during reading literature circles and discussion groups, and after-reading deliverables such as cooperative tasks and projects.

The central focus should be on language acquisition and personifying the general themes present in the literature. Students should be given ample opportunities to share their opinions and engage with the text in creative ways.

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