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8th Asia TEFL International Conference. Hanoi; 6-8 August 2010. Teaching English as a Global language: Creating and Sharing the Asian Framework of Practice. Plenary Talk: Literature from the Outside In and from the Inside Out. Alan Maley. Overview. Why Literature? / What purposes?

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Plenary talk literature from the outside in and from the inside out alan maley

8th Asia TEFL International Conference.Hanoi; 6-8 August 2010.Teaching English as a Global language:Creating and Sharing the Asian Framework of Practice.

Plenary Talk: Literature

from the Outside In


from the Inside Out.

Alan Maley



  • Why Literature? / What purposes?

  • What kind of literature?

    (From the outside? From the inside?)

  • What kind of methodology?

    (From the outside in : teaching about?

    From the inside out: experiencing how?)

Why the case for literature

Why? The Case for Literature?

  • Language: rich, varied, authentic texts at many levels.

  • Personal growth: appeal to affect, relevant topics, psychological engagement = motivation.

  • Cultural relevance: awareness of difference, enhanced appreciation.

  • Non-trivial.

  • Depth of processing.

What kind of literature

What kind of Literature?

The traditional canon?

~ language archaic?

~ reflects exocentric model (outside in)

~ irrelevant content?

~ ignores local alternatives.

The new literatures in English?

~ enormous choice

~ relevant / non-trivial content

~ self-esteem

~ raise awareness of EIL

Problems with new literatures

Problems with new literatures?

  • selection / ‘suitability’

  • availability

  • accessibility / inter-comprehensibility?

  • impermanence

  • teacher/student/authority attitudes

Some examples of possible texts

Some examples of possible texts.

Modern Secrets.

Last night I dreamt in Chinese,

Eating American shredded-wheat,

I said it in English

To a friend who answered in monosyllables:

All of which I understood.

The dream shrank to its fiction.

I had understood its ends

Many years ago. The sallow child

Ate rice from its ricebowl

And hides still in the cupboard

With the china and tea-leaves.

Shirley Geok-lin Lim. (Malaysia)

Marriages are made

Marriages Are Made

My cousin Elena

is to be married.

The formalities

have been completed:

her family history examined

for TB and madness

her father declared solvent

her eyes examined for squints

her teeth for cavities

her stools for the possible

non-Brahmin worm.

Marriages are made continued

Marriages Are Made (Continued)

She’s not quite tall enough

and not quite full enough

(children will take care of that)

her complexion it was decided

would compensate, being just about

the right shade

of rightness

to do justice to Francisco X. Noronha Prabhu

good son of Mother Church.

Eunice de Souza. (India



We sit in a corner, my friends and I

In a house filled with the roaring of the

Docks and harbours of our ancestors, and the

Colours of the sun which burned their fields.

The old men talk at the tables,

Remembering old times. We know them

Not, nor the language they speak,

Yet we are relatives, only two generations apart.

We watch the television, glued to its screen,

Not knowing the meaning of the lotus seeds

We unseeingly eat.

They are just more candy to us.

When the dinner is brought on,

With special foods prepared by the elders,

We grimace at the ‘tasteless’ stuff

And think longingly of cheesy pizzas.

Festival continued

Festival (continued)

Somewhere down the street

Lion dancers twirl to heart-thumping music.

In my room we, too, dance,

But to the latest rock hits.

On my door hang spring couplets:

Quotations from Shakespeare.

Door gods adorn our entrances

Posters of Schwarzenegger and Stalone.

We watch the organised festivities

And are reminded of our culture, our roots

And we think: ‘I’m proud to be Chinese,’

In English.

Kenneth Wee (Singapore)

What kind of methodology

What kind of methodology?

  • Questions of purpose:

    ~ ELT purpose? / Literary purpose?

    ~ Literature as resource? / Literature as course?

    ~ Pragmatic purpose? / Intellectual purpose?

    ~ Analytical focus / Aesthetic focus

    (stylistics etc.) (New Criticism,

    Post-modernism etc.)

    ~ Learning how to study /studying literature

    ~ Extensive exposure/ Intensive study

    ~ For pleasure / For exams.

    (intrinsic) (extrinsic)

Literature from the outside in

Literature from the Outside In.

  • Why do we expect students to understand everything in a text?

  • Why do we need comprehension questions to prove we have understood it?

  • Why do we need to tell rather than allow discovery?

  • Why do we kill texts by solemnizing them?

Plenary talk literature from the outside in and from the inside out alan maley

Many scholars forget, it seems to me, that our enjoyment of the great works of literature depends more on the depth of our sympathy than upon our understanding. The trouble is that very few of their laborious explanations stick in the memory. … It is possible to know a flower, root and stem and all, and all the processes of growth, and yet to have no appreciation of the flower fresh bathed in heaven’s dew.

Helen Keller.

Plenary talk literature from the outside in and from the inside out alan maley

In deciding on poems, I wasn’t put off by some of the difficulties teachers are often bothered by. Unfamiliar words and difficult syntax, for example, and allusions to unfamiliar things.

I wasn’t put off, either, by passages in a poem that I knew would remain obscure to them. To reject every poem the children would not understand in all its detail would mean eliminating too many good things.

Kenneth Koch. Rose, Where Did You Get That Red?

Plenary talk literature from the outside in and from the inside out alan maley

The usual criteria for choosing poems to teach children are mistaken, if one wants poetry to be more than a singsong of Muzak in the background of their elementary education…. These criteria are total understandability, which stunts children’s poetic education by giving them nothing to understand they have not already understood; ‘childlikeness’ of theme and treatment, which condescends to their feelings and to their intelligence; and ‘familiarity’, which obliges them to go on reading the same inappropriate poems their parents and grandparents had to read…(p xxx)What matters for the present is not that the children admire Blake and his achievement, but that each child be able to find a tiger of his own. (p li)

Introduction to poetry

Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem

and hold it up to the light

like a colour slide.

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem

and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room

and feel the walls for a light switch.

Introduction to poetry continued

Introduction to Poetry (continued)

I want them to waterski

across the surface of a poem

waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do

is tie the poem to a chair with rope

and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose

to find out what it really means.

Billy Collins.

Literature from the inside out

Literature from the Inside Out.

  • Performing

  • Making strange to make familiar.

  • Taking the place of the writer

  • Going beyond the text.

Plenary talk literature from the outside in and from the inside out alan maley

Performing:~ Teacher reading (author reading)~ Students dramatize text (mini)~ Students perform full texts (+ video)Making strange:~ Vocally~ Through textual processingTaking the writer’s place: Creating text:~ From existing texts~ Making new texts.Going beyond text.~ Project work~ Cross-curricular work.

A sample of some possible techniques

A sample of some possible techniques:

  • Just listen

  • Listen and delayed repetition (inner workbench)

  • Listen and recall. (Dictocomp)

  • Poem from prose.

  • Deconstruction.

  • Expansion / reduction.

  • Line by line unveiling.

Summer jayanta mahapatra

Summer.Jayanta Mahapatra

Not yet.

Under the mango tree

the cold ash

of a deserted fire.

Who needs the future?

A ten-year old girl

combs her mother’s hair,

where crows of rivalries

are quietly nesting.

The home will never

Be hers.

In a corner of her mind

a living green mango

drops softly to earth.

All you who sleep tonight

All You Who Sleep Tonight.

All you who sleep tonight

Far from the ones you love,

No hand to left or right,

And emptiness above –

Know that you aren’t alone.

The whole world shares your tears,

Some for two nights or one,

And some for all their years.

Vikram Seth



A parrot knifes

through the sky’s bright skin,

a sting of green.

It takes so little

to make the mind bleed

into another country,

a past that you agreed

to leave behind.

Imtiaz Dharker.

Taking the place of the writer

Taking the Place of the Writer.

Why creative writing?

  • Language development

  • Fostering ‘playfulness’

  • Self-discovery through exploration/risk

    Drawing on affect

  • Increased motivation from confidence/self-esteem

  • Creative writers = Creative readers

Rationale and objectives of the asian teacher writers group

Rationale and Objectives of the Asian Teacher-Writers’ Group

The group operates in the belief that NNS teachers are not only capable of but are also uniquely well-placed to write literary materials for use by their own and other students in the Asia region. By virtue of the fact that they share their students’ background and contexts, they have an intuitive understanding of what will be culturally and topically relevant and attractive for them. What they all too often lack is the confidence in their own ability to write interesting material. The group operates to dispel this misconception.

The following rationale underpins the activities of the group

The following rationale underpins the activities of the group:

  • A belief in the value of creative writing in English both for teachers and for students. (see below)

  • A belief in the ability of teachers in the region to produce their own English teaching materials.

  • A belief that these materials will provide useful input for promoting reading (and other activities) in English.

  • A belief in the value for professional and personal development of forming a closely-knit, Asia-wide, mutually-supportive learning community of teacher/writers.

The objectives are

The objectives are:

  • To produce poetry and stories appropriate in level and content for use by Asian students of English at secondary level.

  • To publish and promote these as widely as possible, thus creating a wider awareness of the value of CW.

  • To develop materials and activities for the teaching of creative writing.

  • To run creative writing conferences and workshops for the wider teaching community wherever possible.

  • In this way, to boost the self-esteem and confidence of teachers of English in Asia.

Thank you for your attention

Thank you for your attention.

Alan Maley

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