How To Teach Literature Skills To Students (With Tips)

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 30 September 2022

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English professors and teachers help their students build crucial literature skills that can be essential for learning effectively. Professors and trainers with little or no experience can find it overwhelming to cover such a wide variety of skills in their classes. Learning how to teach literary skills can help you conduct classes and engage students more effectively. In this article, we define literature skills, discuss how to teach literature skills to students and share some tips on how to do it effectively.

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What Are Literature Skills?

Literature skills are a combination of technical and soft skills that help people understand and write literary text. From a learning perspective, it is essential for students to master literary skills to interpret works of classic literature stories and novels and learn how to write effectively. Here are some types of essential literary skills:

  • Inference and reading comprehension: Learning how to make inferences from a piece of text by understanding its historical, social and political context can help improve reading comprehension. This can be a crucial skill for literature students when they study the works that authors wrote in the past.

  • Literary devices: Understanding the definition, purpose and usage of common literary devices and being able to identify them is an essential literary skill. Common devices include metaphors, personification, irony, symbolism, simile, images, juxtaposition, allegory, puns and hyperbole.

  • Writing skills: Besides learning how to read and interpret text, knowing how to incorporate literary devices in writing can be a vital literature skill. Knowing how to write in different formats, such as poems, prose, essays, plays, short stories and speeches, is also essential.

  • Critical thinking: Interpreting and creating literary texts effectively involves critical thinking and analysis. It can be vital for students and learners of this discipline to be able to critique, evaluate and scrutinise ideas.

  • Communication skills: Besides knowing how to read and write effectively, it can be essential for literature students to be adept at communicating their ideas verbally and in other creative ways. This also includes learning about non-verbal communication cues and their significance.

  • Creativity: Creativity helps literature students to use literary devices smartly and create compelling narratives that engage readers. Having the creative skills to present words in an impressive manner can be crucial for literature authors and poets.

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How To Teach Literature Skills To Students

Follow these steps to find out how to teach literature skills to students:

1. Create your core teaching philosophy and values

Before creating lessons, identify your core teaching philosophy that clarifies your values and goals. To create this philosophy, think about the different ways in which you want to teach, what you want your students to accomplish and what ideas or skills you want them to develop. It can be a good idea to write this philosophy so that you can refer to it whenever you are feeling overwhelmed or struggling to create engaging lessons.

2. Develop engaging lesson plans

Depending on the syllabus set by the department and the institute, develop a learning structure that allows you to cover different themes, authors and reading material. Consult senior members of the department and other colleagues to discuss how you can create compelling lesson plans for your students. Make sure you are familiar with the texts you intend to teach and design different lessons, assignments and projects that can help your students understand the text better.

3. Encourage students to ask questions and challenge ideas

When you start conducting classes, make sure you enable students to ask questions, discuss different perspectives and challenge pre-existing notions. Make your classes participative so that students respond to questions and propose new ideas. Refrain from creating a unidirectional flow of information or communication channel, as that can result in lower engagement and participation from learners.

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4. Help students increase their self-awareness

To help students develop their literary skills effectively, you can help them attain better self-awareness and identify their biases. You can do this by creating a reading schedule with your students to help ensure that they read the required text and understand it thoroughly. Further, while reading the text with them, encourage them to think about the "why" and the "how" behind what the author or poet is trying to say. This can help them connect the story or poem they are reading to their own lives and help improve their self-awareness.

5. Use different learning formats

Use different forms of creative art and communication, such as images, movies, music, documentaries, news reports and magazines, while teaching students. Visual aid and material can help some students retain information for a longer duration more effectively. For more complex ideas and passages, create engaging presentations with multi-media elements.

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6. Spend adequate time on complex passages

When discussing complex text and passages, spend additional time and effort to ensure that all students understand it. Prepare for such classes in advance to help ensure that you spend adequate time. Read through such passages slowly, initiate discussions and let students understand their significance at their own pace.

7. Conduct different forms of assessments

Instead of giving only text-based assignments and projects, you can try different assessment formats, such as conducting quizzes and asking students to prepare book summaries, covers or posters. You can also ask students to prepare skits based on books or reimagine the ending. If possible, incorporate the performance of students in the final grade.

8. Grade assignments and offer feedback regularly

When you ask students to work on assignments and projects, make sure you evaluate them and offer feedback. Appreciate projects that are impressive and offer helpful improvement suggestions to others. Encourage students to learn from their mistakes and improve their performance continually. Be thorough in your evaluation so that students feel their effort is getting noticed.

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9. Create an approachable personality

Be approachable and allow students to discuss passages, assignments and other topics after the class. If some students want to take additional classes and you can accommodate them in your schedule, give them the extra time and attention. If possible, organise off-campus visits to museums and galleries.

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Tips To Teach Literature Skills To Students

Here are some tips you can follow while teaching literary skills to your students:

  • Balance theory classes with discussions and projects. Maintain a balance between classes that focus on theory, monologues, multi-media aid, discussions and assignments. Ideally, you can combine these formats in most classes to keep your students engaged.

  • Let students work on impromptu assignments. When holding discussions during classes, you may find that some texts require more thought and effort for students to understand them. In such situations, give all students 10 to 15 minutes and ask them to write about the passage by helping them identify unique perspectives and generate new ideas.

  • Create a positive learning environment. Use different teaching approaches and formats to create a positive and encouraging learning environment that enables students to exchange ideas and perspectives. By asking the right questions, allowing students to explore new ideas and encouraging them to participate, you can create an engaging and inclusive learning environment.

  • Set the right example. Your students are likely to follow your example when formulating ideas and challenging notions. Conduct yourself professionally and ethically at all times and demonstrate model skills and strategies to inspire students.

  • Keep improving your knowledge. It can be essential for literature professors and teachers to work on their skills and knowledge to improve them continually. Develop a habit of reading new authors regularly, attending conferences, reviewing academic papers, contributing to literary magazines and journals and engaging with your peers to develop your knowledge.

  • Ask colleagues for feedback. Find a mentor and ask them to assess your pedagogy so that you can identify your strengths and weaknesses. You can also ask your colleagues and students for suggestions on how to improve your lessons to make them more engaging and insightful for learners.

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