Applied Literacy in Second Language Education: (Re)Framing Discourse in Literature-Based Classrooms

By Mantero, Miguel | Foreign Language Annals, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview

Applied Literacy in Second Language Education: (Re)Framing Discourse in Literature-Based Classrooms


Mantero, Miguel, Foreign Language Annals


Abstract:

The present investigation explores and presents a theoretical model of instruction-applied literacy in second language education (ALL2E)-and suggests a contemporary view of the roles of grammar and formal evaluation within literature-based second language (L2) classrooms. Essentially, this article addresses the question "How can instruction and discourse in this setting be framed in order to provide opportunities for language learning and cognitive development for its participants?" Research in the area of literature-based L2 classrooms is reviewed before explaining and clarifying the elements involved during traditional text-based talk. ALL2E is clearly defined and differentiated from current approaches within literature-based L2 classrooms.

Key words: assessment, discourse, literacy, literature, pedagogy

Language: English

Introduction

An emerging area of inquiry in second language (L2) education is the role of literature in university-level classrooms as it relates to providing opportunities to improve language proficiency. Broadly speaking, researchers in the field of language education have examined the impact and use of literature in L2 classrooms in the following areas: Strategies and methods for teaching literature (Adair-Hauck & Donato, 2002; Dcmhardi, 1995; Chamot, 1994; Kaufman, 1996), reading and communicative competence (Hall, 1999; Nunan, 1987), literature and reader response (Elliot. 1990), and the cultural value of using literature in L2 classrooms (Rarnes. 2000; Kempf, 1995). However, educators could benefit from investigations that explore the theoretical purposes of literaiure-hascd L2 classrooms and the dynamics of discourse in classes known as bridge courses. These are literature-based courses whose focus is to improve language proficiency while introducing students to various styles and genres of authentic readings. These courses are the last ones students take before they enroll in more advanced 1.2 courses such as 18th Century Spanish Literature or Contemporary Spanish-American Poetry.

Arguably, authentic texts are introduced in language courses so that students and teachers may talk about them. However, the discussions that ensue may not always be what we expect (linguistically and cognitively) in higher level courses, according to Mantero (2002) and Donato and Brooks (2004).

In his study of literature-based L2 classrooms, Mantero (2002) found that

1. Students did not initiate dialogue when talking about the texts. This hesitancy, in turn, led to limited student-teacher interactions and few opportunities for students to further develop their L2 proficiency via classroom discourse.

2. The study of literature in these classes involved limited classroom talk. One of the instructor's objectives was for her interpretation of the text to serve as the students' understanding of the reading.

3. The students in the course were rarely engaged in meaningful L2 practice, and therefore classroom talk revolved around knowledge of specific facts about 60% of the time. This type of classroom talk usually followed the initiation-response-evaluation format.

However, Donato and Brooks (2004) concluded that discussions that take place in literature courses have the potential to incorporate advanced proficiency goals. If literature classes include a variety of interaction patterns, then they can provide opportunities for elaborated responses, which are characteristic of advanced speakers. To achieve that goal, Donato and Brooks noted, the potential of literary discussions to move students into advanced speaking tasks needs to be raised in the minds of instructors and students. They concluded that "learning language and literature study are mutually constituting and supporting experiences" (p. 2).

Traditionally, L2 classrooms have relied on the concept of communicative competence to frame their activities, lessons, and general curricula (Byrnes & Kord, 2002). …

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