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Teaching English Literature to Teenagers

When teaching English Literature to teenagers, a common practice in schools from the time when I was at school myself (and probably for many years before that) is to ‘do’ a novel by having the students in the class take turns to read sections aloud to the whole class. As a teacher, I never found this workable. In fact, quite the opposite: it is usually quite destructive to what you are trying to accomplish.

But the fact that it is so commonly done throws up the question of what exactly are we trying to accomplish when teaching English Literature to teenagers? If the aim is simply to ‘get through the text’ so that the rest of the scheme of work can be similarly ‘done’ in a particular time period, then hand out the texts and have the students read away - you are going to get just that: a body of work will be ‘done’. Will students understand what they are doing? Not particularly. Will they be engaged with the subject? Unlikely. Will they be enthused about literature and want to go out and read more from a particular author in their own time? Almost certainly not. But your teacher’s box will have been ticked and you can put the rest down to the quality of the raw material sat in front of you and make early retirement plans as you sink further and further d