Literature activities for a digital generation

Literature activities for a digital generation

Thought that literature is a relic of the past? Too early to hold a memorial service! Literature strikes back with the aid of technology.

The following 4 activities are based on the 2013 IATEFL Learning Technology SIG scholarship winning presentation with Chryssanthe Sotiriou. The 5th activity requires no technology at all but it is fun and young learners love it.

I think I can read your mind and see two huge "Why?"  on your faces....

Why literature???
Because it
Stimulates imagination
Helps readers enrich their vocabulary
Helps extensive reading
Exposes learners to genres the social media are unlikely to employ

Why teach literature with the aid of technology???
Younger generations feel more comfortable with technology rather than books
It is easier to introduce it with technology because it is a familiar medium.
technology can help the teacher apply some impressive techniques
It can stimulate learners' creativity even for those who lack artistic skills

How I approached it...
If your school has a library, give young learners a guided tour at the beginning of the year, explain how a library works and where they can find books for their level. At my school, we use graded readers for extensive reading and students are shown where they can find literature for their level in English.

Linoit is an electronic notice board that allows access to students from any device. Create a linoit canvas (it is a free web 2.0 tool) and invite your students to get into the shoes of the heroes of the book they've read and share their thoughts. My students (primary school 5th graders)  had already read the first 3 chapters of the Cantervile ghost (abridged version) when I asked them to work in groups. Each group was assigned one character e.g. Mr  Otis, the ghost, Mrs Otis, and we're asked to share their feelings and views after the first encounter the ghost had with the new owners. Below, you can see a screenshot of the pin board:

Anticipated difficulties
It may take some time for students to grasp how it works but once they do, they love it. One student thought that behind anonymity, she could post inappropriate comments but that was a very good stimulus for discussion about posting and digital footprints.

Word clouds
Students often come across new vocabulary when reading literature and word clouds can be a motivating and artistic way to recycle it. Wordless and tugxedo are two of the most popular one. They are free web 2.0 tools and very user friendly. I asked my students to form a cloud with the words that impressed them  most or reflected the spirit of  the story while reading the book. They used Tugxedo that allows them to choose the shape of the cloud. Here is what they came up with:


My impression

They loved it and it inspired students who are not so artistic to try it. At the end of the day, they all felt proud of their clouds.

Sounds weird
The following activity was designed to stimulate a student's interest in reading a set book forexams and is based on using free downloadable sounds from the Internet. I used the following extracts from the first chapter of the book "The Day of the Triffids" and used the sounds for words found in the text. The sounds apparently activated the learners' schemata and stimulated their interest and imagination. I read the introduction (see slides below) eliciting the "sounds"  of certain days, then did the vocabulary exercise and students identified the sounds I had downloaded from the internet. Finally, we read together the extracts below and students anticipated what had happened. The answer, of course, is in the next chapters of the book...

The plot lends itself to using sounds and the activity can act as a strong impetus for students to read the story because it stimulates their imagination and curiosity.

Split viewing/ listening
Many masterpieces have been filmed and watching part of the film can simulate your student's interest to read the book. An older technique (split viewing/listening) can facilitate skills development (listening, speaking, writing) and can fit perfectly into a flipped classroom environment. I chose a video extract from  Hitshcock's "Rebecca"but most films based on books can be used to stimulate the readers' curiosity. You can read  a detailed description of the activity on the following link: 
Information gap activities: Vicky Loras' blog

A tech  free activity?
If your learners are too young to use technology, try the good old pen and paper technology. From the beginning of the year, I give my 3rd graders (8-9 year old pupils) a guided tour at the school library and regularly invite them to talk about the book they have read, in class ( graded readers). Towards the end of the year, I invite them to create their own book. First, they write a draft. Then, we edit it together and finally, they illustrate it using their color markers and pencils. You will be pleasantly surprised by the creativity and hard work of your students!

My conclusion
Literature and technology need not be foes. On the contrary, they can be powerful allies in your effort to facilitate learning and exposure to language!
Dimitris Primalis


  1. What a wonderful set of activities!!! I have tried the one with the word clouds in the past and it was a big hit! And I have to admit that the Day of the Triffids is one of my favourite books and I loved the whole concept of the activity!

    1. Thank you! I am glad your students loved the word clouds. I think that once learners realize that reading books can be creative, they love reading!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Keeping the literature flame going is vital and devising paths which the students of this time and age will more readily follow helps in this direction. Personally I have gained form this post and need to encourage it. More and more Literature is now available in audio visual forms, admittedly in a somewhat free context, but this is definitely to the benefit of education and language teaching. These activities take advantage of new realities and contribute to keeping the literature flame aflame.

    1. Thank you! Literature has a lot to offer in ELT and revisiting it from a different point of view can stimulate our learners' interest. Technology can serve successfully pedagogy and learning as long as there are clear learning aims.

  4. Excellent work, Dimitris, thanks!!