Bring the World to Your Classroom by Teaching Literature
By Chris Clyde Green, Teacher International School of Geneva
The environments that teachers and learners encounter are becoming increasingly multi-faceted, multi-cultural, and multi-layered. Technological advancements have brought about a rapid increase in economic globalization and the consumption of cultures that may not reflect our own. The benefits of the Internet and technological advancements in the 21st century have been huge, and students can gain massively from the using the Internet as a tool for learning.
Arguably, it has also changed how we read the world around us and we have become savvier when reading images but has our reading also become more superficial? Often we find ourselves on the same websites with the same news and the same images. Even if we try to escape the cultural blinkers imposed upon us, online algorithms will subtly take us back to them. This leads us to the question: has technological advancement limited our appreciation of the written word and can it threaten our originality and thus our creativity?
If we follow this line of argument it seems that traditional print literature can sometimes help increase our cultural awareness more than the sprawling world-wide-web. Sometimes the acute is better than the obtuse. It seems we have forgotten that we can bring the world to our classroom through literature and literature alone. How do we, as teachers and learners, turn all of the data at our fingertips into purposeful knowledge to promote internationalism and mindfulness?
Teaching Literature for Lifelong, 21st Century Skills
Culture and Graphic Novels
There are many definitions of what culture means. It can be viewed as a collective’s customs, philosophies, and artistic expressions. How well do we know the cultures that our students interact with at home and beyond? Cultural differences have the potential to enhance and bring more creative learning options to the classroom.
One text type that can reveal how the mélange of cultures can be beneficial to our teaching is the graphic novel. Graphic novels can allow us to read at our own pace and enjoyment, which helps create stories that are truly digested and appreciated. The dual-storytelling through the words and images helps students to read again.
Arrival by Shaun Tan is a graphic novel that reveals an appreciation of multiculturalism via stunning illustration and storytelling without words that can transport learners to other worlds and democratize the classroom.
Empathy, Mindfulness, and Literature
Mindfulness ensures that we have awareness of who we are and calmness in response to the environments we encounter. A core element to mindfulness is acceptance, acceptance of difference from every intersectional perspective that our culture(s) try to place us in. Reading literature beyond us, culturally and politically. sparks debate in class and beyond. It hones critical thinking, heightens our social skills, and encourages empathy.
Research shows that reading literature, which features multicultural groups is a powerful strategy to reduce stigmatization and “out-group, in-group” mentalities.
For instance, the graphic novel “Persepolis” can help students identify with people who might seem very different from them. Essentially students can learn the skill of empathy by reading via traditional literature greater than through digital means. In a world that is becoming increasingly digitized, increasingly calculated and efficient empathy is something future generations might be in desperate need of.
Creativity and Storytelling
Creativity should be at the centre of all that we do inside and outside of the classroom. The Internet and more-traditional forms of literature are only truly effective if they are used as tools to enhance creativity. We need to train our students to be storytellers and not merely consumers.
Therefore, once we spark interest of our learners, as educators we need to put that new knowledge into practice. We need to get our students creating, through modeling creative writing or creating a collaborative project.
It is argued that there are only 11 story structures in the world, so why do we keep reading?
Clearly it is about how and why a story is written or told and not what is being told. This powerful skill of storytelling is not just applicable for campfires or high-school classrooms but for the world of business too.
As Dr David Acker stated, even though people may not be interested in your brand they will be interested in your stories. Stories are “more impactful than facts. They get attention. They get remembered. They change perceptions.” Bringing the world to your classroom by teaching literature can place your students in an enviable position for whatever lies ahead in their lives.
Christopher Clyde Green currently teaches IB Language A: Literature, Language and Literature, as well as TOK at Ecolé International de Genève (International School of Geneva) & Institut Le Rosey. Being an advocate for the International Baccalaureate he has been a IB examiner and reader for the past five years. A citizen of both Britain and Jamaica, he has previously taught at Oporto British School in Portugal and Mill Hill School in the United Kingdom. He is an alumnus of the University of London (Royal Holloway) and Cambridge University (Homerton College).
Besides teaching, he has written professionally for various media outlets on music, education and culture and previously worked professionally in the entertainment industry as a writer and an actor.
Website: Chris Clyde Green | Twitter @ccgreen