Using literature in ESL and the principles of Communicative Language Teaching
Among the reasons Van (2009) believes studying literature in the ESL classroom is advantageous (providing meaningful contexts, a profound range of vocabulary, enhancing creativity and developing cultural awareness and critical thinking), he mentions the fact that it is in line with CLT (Communicative Language Teaching) principles.
It is worth to elaborate this last point by specifying the ways in which literary exploration in the language classroom can go hand in hand with the main tenets of CLT.
Communicative language teaching (CLT) is considered an approach to language which is based on the theory that the main function of language use is communication. It has as a primary goal that learners develop communicative competence or ability. In other words, its aim is to make use of real-life situations where communication is involved.
Bradl (2008) defines communicative competence as “the ability to interpret and enact appropriate social behaviours, and it requires the active involvement of the learner in the production of the target language”. He also states that “such a notion encompasses a wide range of abilities: the knowledge of grammar and vocabulary (linguistic competence); the ability to say the appropriate thing in a certain social situation (sociolinguistic competence); the ability to start, enter, contribute to, and end a conversation, and the ability to do this in a consistent and coherent manner (discourse competence); the ability to communicate effectively and repair problems caused by communication breakdowns (strategic competence)”.
The kind of activities teachers may use in communicative language teaching are the ones that require frequent interaction between learners in order to exchange information and solve problems or the use of authentic (non-pedagogic) texts and communication activities taken from real-world contexts, often emphasizing links across written and spoken language.
One of the principles of CLT is that the input needs to be rich. Growing up speaking in our native languages means that we are exposed to huge amounts of language patterns, in numerous contexts and situations over a long period of time. Being so much exposed to language ultimately allows us to store chunks and phrases of language in our brains that we can retrieve and access as such. There is no way we can replicate this rich input in the classroom alone but the input provided in the classroom context needs to be as rich as possible as a study of a variety of texts could provide a short-cut to the extensive experience of linguistic items in context that native speakers acquire by direct exposure.
It is clear that one of the most obvious necessities in teaching a foreign language in this context is that the student get to hear the language, whether from the teacher, from multimedia resources such as video and audio tapes, radio, online, from other students, and...