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Using Literature in the TEFL Classroom

The incorporation of literature into the Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) curriculum offers a myriad of benefits for students, ranging from exposure to authentic language use to the development of critical thinking skills. Despite its challenges, the strategic use of literature can significantly enhance students’ vocabulary, reading comprehension, and overall language proficiency. This article explores the advantages of integrating literature into the EFL classroom, addresses potential obstacles, and provides actionable strategies for teachers. Additionally, we include a lesson plan designed to engage students in literature-based learning and invite educators to explore our professional development opportunities in TEFL.

Benefits of Literature in the TEFL Classroom

  • Authentic Texts: Literature introduces students to the richness of the English language as it is used in real-life contexts, exposing them to diverse vocabulary and complex sentence structures.
  • Creative and Cultural Texts: Through various literary genres, students encounter imaginative storytelling and cultural insights, fostering a deeper understanding of the English-speaking world and its nuances.
  • Engagement and Motivation: The intrinsic enjoyment found in stories, poems, and plays can significantly increase students’ motivation to learn and improve their language skills.

Challenges and Solutions

Accessing and comprehending literature can be daunting for EFL learners due to linguistic and cultural barriers. However, these challenges can be mitigated through the use of graded readers, short stories, and adapted texts that match students’ proficiency levels, thereby making literature more accessible and enjoyable.

Practical Strategies for Incorporating Literature

  1. Graded Readers: Start with simplified versions of classic and contemporary works to build confidence and gradually increase complexity as students’ skills improve.
  2. Short Stories: Leverage the concise and focused nature of short stories to teach narrative structure, character development, and thematic exploration.
  3. Poems: Use poetry to enhance linguistic sensitivity, including rhythm, rhyme, and figurative language, encouraging students to experiment with creative expression.
  4. Novels and Plays: Longer texts offer opportunities for in-depth analysis, extended vocabulary acquisition, and the exploration of complex social and cultural themes.
  5. Song Lyrics: Incorporate music to make learning more engaging and to improve listening comprehension and pronunciation skills.

Lesson Plan: Exploring Character Development in Short Stories

Objective: To enhance students’ vocabulary and understanding of character development in English literature.

Materials: Selected short story (e.g., “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry), vocabulary list, character trait chart.

Duration: 60 minutes

  1. Warm-Up (10 minutes): Begin with a discussion on the importance of characters in storytelling. Ask students to share their favorite book or movie characters and why they find them memorable.
  2. Reading Activity (15 minutes): Have students read the selected short story, either silently or as a group. Encourage note-taking, especially on unfamiliar words and key character traits.
  3. Vocabulary Exercise (10 minutes): Review the vocabulary list derived from the story. Use examples and ask students to create sentences with new words.
  4. Character Analysis (15 minutes): Divide students into small groups and assign each a character from the story. Using the character trait chart, groups will discuss and note down the development of their assigned character throughout the story.
  5. Group Presentation (10 minutes): Each group presents their character analysis, highlighting key moments of development and the impact on the story’s outcome.

Engage with Professional Development

Before concluding, we encourage you to explore our enriching workshops led by TEFL professionals at GTEFL. These workshops cover meaningful aspects of teaching English as a Foreign or Second Language, offering valuable insights and strategies to enhance your teaching practice.


Literature is a versatile and impactful tool in the EFL classroom, capable of significantly enhancing students’ language skills while providing a rich, cultural experience. By carefully selecting texts and employing creative teaching strategies, educators can overcome the challenges of using literature and unlock its full potential as a teaching resource.


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