“I’m still going to sleep”: how to talk with children about literature, so they don’t fall asleep on the lessons

How to inspire teenagers with Shakespeare’s sonnets and learn to wonder the text, should you be afraid of difficult works, what is the problem of the final works, and why literature is always in dialogue with others? Says Yevgeniya Abelyuk, distinguished teacher of Russia, teacher of Lyceum 1525 “Vorobyovy Gory”, the Institute of education and faculty of Humanities, Higher school of Economics, author of books on the history of Russian literature.

Photo: Alexey Maslov / www.lifeisphoto.ru/magister74 (fragment)

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It is impossible to build the program, “napihaa” with new lyrics

The scope of our school curriculum in literature that does not fit into school hours, and we, the teachers always say that it is impossible to build the program, “napihaa” where all new texts. It is not rubber. Otherwise we get a reading of the works in short stories, profanity – instead of studying.

Another problem of school literary education is that of how to construct the Unified State exam. It is particularly noticeable for the teacher working with the pupils. Here we have a disaster! In recent years, children do not consider it necessary to engage in literature, if they are not going to take the exam on the literature. Problems arise with those who passes the exam – usually the subject they are interested only in the format of the exam. A very rich literature of the XX century, which is the program of 11th grade, passes by. Often it is also difficult literature, e.g., poetry, a taste for reading which the children would like to instill.

Yevgeniya Abelyuk

You need not be afraid of complexity, and primitive

Authors of school curricula and textbooks criticized the fact that students have to read is too challenging of a book. I’d be afraid of complexity, and primitive ready answers to any questions. With regard to the complexity and entertainment the student book and read for yourself, in the same complex will help him to understand the teacher. Another thing is that in our programme too much tragic literature. Of course, this is largely due to the fact that we have a dramatic story. And yet tragic too much.

I also had to play the role of a writer of textbooks. A textbook on Russian literature of the XX century, we wrote, along with Konstantin Polivanov, and just saw it as our task to make complex things simply to speak, to put questions, which may not come to our readers in mind first, but seem obvious and necessary.

For example, read the students the story of Ivan Bunin, “Light breathing” and notice that the text appears repeatedly in the way of breathing. It’s “light breathing”, which, discovering it, the heroine tells the gymnasium friend. This is the breath, which the narrator says that after the death of Oli it “scattered in the world.” But it’s a completely different character in the story “breathes” the Cabinet of the angry boss, where call Olya Meshcherskaya. It is natural to ask ourselves what is the meaning of this image. Not ask in order to give a definite answer, but in order to make a range of assumptions.

No need to hide what you don’t know some things and be surprised together with the child

I do not know of pedagogical recipes, although there are teachers who say, “be so”. But in education the situation is so unique that sometimes you have to wrestle with.

However, I have a mandatory rule is to read the text with the children and together with them, to wonder and to ask questions.

Reading, you need to understand that the text leaves a vague sense obscure, but to learn to notice these moments and return to them – hard.

When the child notices that some words he didn’t understand and asked about them – this is good, but reading requires the ability to ask other questions. Meanwhile, people usually read and do not notice that they do not understand the text remains completely “smooth”.

Productive reading is only possible if the child is sure that his teacher is looking for answers along with him and admits that some things he does not understand. Installation “let’s find the answer together” might work.

I see a lot of wonderful colleagues and I believe that teachers are undervalued by society – ‘m not even talking about salaries, but about the intelligence, erudition, creative potential. To us in graduate school – I teach at the master’s degree program for teachers of literature at the Higher school of Economics – people come from different cities to take air and continue to work in the school. And I see that they need professional communication, they are tired of the methodical scheme, and we learn together to be surprised by the text.

Better when children disagree and argue

In my opinion, the final essay in the 11th grade – is a palliative method to return the child to literature. However, now that the test is designed so that does not solve the problem, and may be complicated.

The themes that are offered, does not necessarily require child conversation about literature, and if they require, it is very terse and sketchy. And it turns out that the final essay in literature, actually is not related to the course literature and do not provoke deep reasoning.

We see thought patterns, do not know how to think for themselves. And this applies not only to literature and not only schools. And I think many of our problems are connected with it.

But children in the eyes become freer, which is good. Once to my literary Studio we have had children; I set them around the table, began the conversation – and then I noticed how they kept the shoulders. The first thing to do is to get them to believe in themselves.

I love when kids argue with me and with each other. And do they need to learn to argue: someone useful to learn to appreciate someone else’s opinion, someone to become more self-confident, firmly and thoughtfully defend their point of view.

Often said that children today have become more selfish and even cruel. In fact, any child, and one that seems aggressive, can give a subtle emotional reaction. Children more than adults, natural and kind, and really want to support it. I think our subject can do it: literature gives many reasons for the outpouring of sympathy and compassion.

If the teacher hears from a student: “I’m not interested”, to react rapidly not worth it

Teenagers are the classics really does not matter, if not to say bad. In any case, before we are beginning to read it, even in my Humanities class, I hear: “I’m not interested”.

Recently, with the eighth graders we talked about “Romeo and Juliet”, and one very nice, thoughtful girl said, “On this subject written so much… I wonder that about things I write today, not what Shakespeare wrote in the sixteenth century”. I’m on things like trying not to react definitely better similar statement to turn the problem all together above it to think. And for this purpose carefully read the Shakespeare’s tragedy.

And if it turns out that this girl seemed important to present yourself in the world of Romeo and Juliet that are important, at least to some extent, to feel what they feel, she’ll understand why people, generation after generation, turning to this tragedy. But gradually she will come to understand that, thanks to the “Romeo and Juliet” she and contemporary art began to perceive otherwise, and that the artists talk to each other through the centuries.

Another example of Shakespeare. In the lesson we were supposed to read the sonnets. And suddenly I see a boy, clearly bright and intelligent, but bored – all he was trying to portray this boredom: hands put on the Desk, head in his hands. When I approached him, he said, “I’m still going to sleep.” And then I did such a thing.

This year we have hanging in the classroom interactive whiteboard with which you can get online. And I opened the page of the sonnets of Henry Sapgir – from the collection of “Sonnets on shirts” – and began to show the children a sonnet for the sonnet – does not like Shakespeare, experimental, often parodic, for example, “sonnet-article” in which the author parodies the front page of the Soviet newspaper. But and philosophical, like “broken sonnet”. And my “sleeper” immediately “woke up” – a song Sapgir him stunned. By the end of class we read Shakespeare’s sonnets in different translations, and the interest of the guys was extraordinary. There are situations where you have to navigate the place.

I often ask children: “You interested now?”

I started not from school, but from the Studio of the literary art taught in the circles of literary criticism. And always had a task, leisurely read with children work, to understand, to try to understand and have fun. But, first, to engage in dialogue with the text, wonder. I think this is almost the main task of the teacher of literature.

And in order to understand the whole, you first need to understand the particulars. Even if it is a little poem of a few lines.

For example, in the 130th sonnet of Shakespeare it was important to me that the children noticed that the focus of the sonnet is beautiful in its imperfection. Although while reading it might seem that we are talking about the perfect object of love. But in fact, Shakespeare contrasts his beloved heroines of the other sonnets. And I had to notice it and wonder: why, indeed?

I think we only think that the school can educate the children, presenting them some truths.

And that’s just the “dialogue” that you are mentally with others when I want to understand it, brings up more than anything else. You become attentive to the word, to intonation, to another person. The more internally raises a great dialogue with others, with the author.

When I teach a lesson, I’m always afraid that children are uninteresting, but if a literature class is boring, he may turn away from reading, because I often ask children: “You become interesting when we talked about the particulars or are you bored?” And usually I hear: “Become more interesting”.

Of course, literature is a difficult subject on which to teach a person a lot – and to catch his idea for “tail”, and for her to find the right words to accurately Express, and to engage in dialogue with others, to be able to argue, not to be afraid of white sheets and believe that, too, can write – task a lot, but it all starts with reading.

A deeper perception of the literature

Opportunities to study literature after high school, even for people not in the Humanities, are now very much. Digital technologies are changing our thinking, we even literature get another. Milorad Pavic was able to write his “dictionary of the Khazars” only after the advent of the Internet.

I’m very fond of e-books, interactive comments help me better perceive the text. Is now and e-books, which, like paper, you can turn pages and hear the rustle of paper. Due to this possibility in electronic format, you can play the most rare editions! It is a valuable.

Yevgeniya Abelyuk

So the students developed as people, all interested in

Students I have, of course, already a lot. Many of them are linguists.- would call at least some of whose names are quite well known: Alexei Gippius, Irina Lewontin, Elena Levkievskaya, Aleksandra Arkhipova, Marina Gister. And teachers among my students are many, there is even a “teacher of the year” – Tatyana Fedorova. Here we are talking about digital projects, Creator of one of them, “Lived” (this is an electronic archive of the manuscripts), Mikhail Melnichenko, I taught. Philip Dzyadko, who studied in Humanities classes of the Lyceum, which I have done a lot – the author of the famous cultural project “Arzamas”. I was very lucky, because they raised me and I learned from them.

You always want to students evolved as people, all interested in. The desire to ask questions just may help a person live a full, and determine the range of his communication, and work that will give pleasure not only material goods, but other things, including dedication. Literature, among other things, requires a big emotional commitment, the same understanding.

Recorded Nadezhda Prokhorova

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