Instead of teaching reading through traditional, bottom-up approaches using basal readers, students are given the opportunity to explore reading through the use of authentic texts. There are various methods within the parameters of this approach, including literature-based discussion groups outlined here.
Strategy of Literature Based Approach
English Skill Level: Advanced Beginning to Advanced
Grade Level: Elementary to Adult
- Students use authentic literature to explore various genres including realistic fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, biography, and so on.
- Students work in cooperative groups for shared reading and are expected to complete various tasks individually, such as notating unfamiliar vocabulary, making predictions, participating in group discussions, and so on.
- Students within the group are assigned various tasks or roles, such as discussion leader, group recorder (audio and written), word wizard, geography locator, and research specialist.
- Students work together to determine various literary elements in the story—characters, plot, setting, and so on.
- The teacher checks the accuracy of students’ interpretations through group or individual dialogue.
- Students are encouraged to make meaning by discussing various issues in the text with relevance to their lives.
- A multitude of breakout activities can be incorporated after reading the text.
- Assessment can be authentic or traditional.
Applications and Examples of Literature Based Approach
- Students divide into groups. After the teacher presents booktalks for several books, students select the one they want to read. Students can use the “five-finger” strategy to determine whether a book is the appropriate reading level. Also, when initially starting literature groups, it is helpful to start with one book for the entire class to work through the process together. (Number the Stars by Lois Lowry is one example.)
- Within the group, various roles are assigned.
- Students can choose to read the book aloud or silently, meeting after reading a specified portion. The teacher can assign this, or with more autonomous groups, the students can set the pace.
- The teacher wanders from group to group, listening to discussions, providing input as needed, and perhaps inquiring to ensure accuracy in comprehension.
- After reading the book, students select from a multitude of activities to extend the text. Students can choose to work individually, in pairs, in a group, or on multiple projects, if time allows. The teacher initially provides help, but students can make suggestions of their own.
- When students complete their projects, they share them with the class and perhaps the rest of the school community.
Strengths of Literature Based Approach
- English language learners encounter authentic literary texts. This means that students read books and stories written as literature rather than specially written stories designed with controlled vocabulary to develop particular reading skills.
- Students may develop a love of reading. They feel a sense of empowerment and become voracious readers.
- Books are read in English.
Weaknesses of Literature Based Approach
- Effective only with intermediate and advanced students.
- Vocabulary can be potentially overwhelming if English language learners do not have appropriate strategies to use. Texts include words used in new ways, used colloquially, used with specific cultural referents, or used metaphorically. Teachers need to teach strategies such as inferencing to help learners.
- Literature reflects cultural values, shared knowledge, and discourse organization, which may be different from that of students’ native cultures.
- “Speed readers” finish the books ahead of the rest. Others may be slower readers.