I have been fond of the use of literature since I began teaching foreign languages. Not only is literature a nation on its own, but also a universe of voices that allows students to live the target language by experiencing it through the senses evoked in a story. Literature is also a country whose geography students can travel without borders.
Most interestingly, I have always appreciated the opportunities literature gives teachers to explore students’ originality of thought and skills to interpret and transform what they read. I especially like moments when, thanks to literature, students become more original than they already are without noticing it.
At present we are reading the Spanish translation for “The Education of Little Tree”, a story that narrates upbringing of a Cherokee boy who is raised by his grandparents and learns about the Cherokee ways and laws. In the book, one can find a series of lessons about the education of life, value systems and the way people operate in their daily interactions with nature. Evidently, there is plenty of scope to allow students to “study those lessons” and translate their meaning into meaningful lessons that can demonstrate how they envision education in their realities.
Thus, students chose their favorite lesson and scripted a comparison with their value system and understanding of education for life (beyond the classroom walls); then they looked for pictures that could represent their ideas, and finally recorded a lesson in which they shared a “piece of their mind”.
Despite their biological age, my grade 10 students are able to speak about the world around them by writing what they mean with a sense of audience and a clear conviction in the foreign language they are learning, a foreign language they use as if it was their mother tongue.
One of the final products can be viewed in this lesson.