Teaching Novels

I am teaching at one of those fancy ESL schools that help students pass the TOEFL so they can study at a college in the United States. I am teaching a Masters class where my students are reading To Kill a Mockingbird. The goal of the class is to have them read the novel, learn new vocabulary, and write a paper based on the novel.

I love reading and thought this would be a great class to teach. While it is fun, it is also the hardest class that I have taught. The vocabulary is tough and the students have no desire to read the novel.

I’m a realist and love challenges. I know the students will not read the complete novel. However, I welcome the challenge to learn ways to teach literature to ESL students.

I begin each class asking the students to tell me the meaning of what they read. I then give them a synopsis of the chapter, explain vocabulary, idioms, and when necessary, the way of life at the time this story takes place.

Next, I try to relate the contents of that chapter to their lives in their countries. For example, the first chapter introduces Bo Radley, the town’s outcast. I ask the class to tell me about outcasts from their towns or about people who the community thought was strange or different. I believe if the students see relationships from the novel to their lives, To Kill a Mockingbird will have more relevance.

One of my students is a musician so I ask him what type of music would he compose if he were writing a soundtrack for that chapter. Another student is interested in marketing, so I ask her how she would create a marketing campaign for the book.

I’ll use pictures from the movie that are available on the Internet and will play the movie in class.

Please share your ideas with me. How do you teach literature in class?


About acohen843

I am a writer and ESL teacher who enjoys the challenge of starting businesses. Currently, I am a JuicePlus distributor (www.acohentakesjuiceplus.com) who is using this business opportunity as the foundation of a social entrepreneurship project.
This entry was posted in education, English, English as a Second Language, ESL, fiction, teaching, To Kill a Mockingbird, writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Teaching Novels

  1. Pingback: Teaching Novels

  2. cholulo1 says:

    I started teaching this back yesterday for an intersession class and since I had not read the book in over 10 years I convinced myself that it was an interesting book. Boy was I wrong! I don’t know if it was just a long Wednesday afternoon but I was fighting back sleepy tears as we neared the end of chapter 1. I am going to try and do a writing exercise about outcasts but when I asked the class about outcasts in their community, it seemed that todays culture has deemed everything middle of the road. are there truly any outcasts left today? I don’t know. Hopefully, I can get a response from the students this afternoon. Thanks for the posting.

  3. acohen843 says:


    I appreciate your comments. I ended up having the class discuss racism. It went well.

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