Making Lit Lit: Forging Connections Between Student Experiences and Literature (Panel)


Pedagogy & Professional

Chris Jacobs (Temple University)

Literature—a cultural product that presents students with models of meaningful, contextualized language use—is a centerpiece of many language curricula. Moreover, research has shown that interactions with materials, like literature, that are made for target-language communities rather than language learners can boost motivation and learning (Gilmore, 2011; Jacobs, 2017, 2019). However, this is likely to be the case only when learners can both relate to the works and see how the accompanying tasks will help them to achieve their personal goals for language learning (Dörnyei, 2009; Hertel & Dings, 2017; Norton & Toohey, 2011; Simonsen, 2019).

This panel, rooted in the theory that learning is “emotionally gated” (Douglas Fir Group, 2016), seeks to provide literature teachers of all languages with concrete suggestions of how they can improve learning outcomes in literature classes by connecting literature more closely to student goals and experiences. This panel will consider how to choose works that speak to student experiences (Norton & Toohey, 2011), how to create meaningful and adaptable tasks (Jacobs, 2019, 2020; Zuniga & Rueb, 2018), and how to use literature as a vehicle for learning target-language structures in context (Bloemert et al., 2017; Jacobs, 2020).

The goal of this panel is to stimulate a practically- and pedagogically-focused conversation on how teachers can develop literature classes to best meet students’ unique needs. Individual presentations may cover topics related to making literature relevant, including (but not limited to): needs analysis in literature classes; connecting literature to student experiences; task-based teaching (TBLT) and project-based learning through literature; and contextualized, form-focused instruction through literature. The hope is that, after attending this panel, attendees will walk away with concrete ideas of how to best tailor literature classes to student needs in order to maximize learning outcomes.

Literature provides both examples of meaningful language use and opportunities to learn target-language structures in context. However, learning is only likely to occur when students can see a strong connection between their literature classes and their personal goals for language learning and use. This session will explore how literature teachers of all languages can maximize learning success by analyzing student needs and designing literature classes accordingly. It will consider how to choose relatable works, how to create interesting and adaptable tasks based on these works, and how to use literature as a vehicle to learn target-language structures in context.