We are all aware of the benefits of extensive reading, but some of us may feel unsure about how to approach longer texts in class. How should we scaffold the reading for our students and how much time should we dedicate to talking about the book in class? How will the students benefit from their reading experience? How can we link the book to our syllabus? These are just some of the questions a teacher might have to consider when thinking about teaching through literature.
In this series of posts, we would like to encourage you to take extensive reading seriously and take a novel into class. We will look at how you can prepare your students for the text and expand it beyond the frame of the story. It is important to prepare the students so they are aware of what they are doing. Some of them may feel intimidated by the idea of reading a book in English, others may not see the benefits. These fears and preconceptions can be easily addressed and thereby make the reading process much more beneficial and all-importantly FUN for the students. It is always a good idea for students to keep a WORD BOOK where they can jot down new words and expressions. We also recommend getting your students to read slightly below level (‘I’ minus 1) so they are at ease with the language and consolidating language while learning new words in context. We also encourage you to offer projects for students individually or in groups so that they can connect with the novel through many pathways. These projects place the story in a wider cultural, historical and scientific context.
Our next story is The Invisible Man, written by H. G. Wells. The book was first published in 1897, and it was Wells' second science fiction novel.
The book was adapted by Donatella Velluti and illustrated by Paolo Masiero for pre-intermediate to intermediate level learners (from pre-teen to adult) of English (CEFR A2-B1).
Our aims are to:
- raise interest in the story,
- become familiar with the reader,
- find pathways into the story through projects,
- expand the social, cultural and historical setting of the story,
- explore the scientific topics in the story,
- make personal links,
- have fun.
1 Talk about the title and read the blurb. How is it possible to become invisible? Who do you think the Invisible Man is?
"One night, during a snow storm, a mysterious stranger staggers through the doors of a pub in a small English village, wrapped up from head to foot. The people in the village have a lot of questions. Who is the stranger? What is in his suitcase? Why has he come to the village? And why won't he let anyone see his face?"
2 Look at the cover and the characters. Simply ask your students what the characters in the novel are like based on these images. Predict the setting of the story based on the clothes the characters are wearing. You can also show a picture (from the Helbling reader, a film adaptation or another illustrated book) to give some help if needed.
3 Make predictions from the illustrations.
Ask your students to browse the book and write some words/short sentences about what might be going on in the pictures. They can write them in their notebooks and then go back to their predictions as they are reading the book.
4 Before you start discussing the projects, share this Wordle image with your class.
It shows the fifty most frequently used words in the readers (the bigger the word the more it is used). What do these words tell us about the story? Get the class to ask questions and make statements based on the words.
When you have become familiar with the book, offer a series of projects for your students to explore on their own or in pairs/groups. We recommend that your students choose their topic whenever they feel best prepared to do so (before, during or after reading). Some students might not be comfortable reflecting on the story from a personal point of view and they might not have the linguistic toolkit to analyze it critically. Projects can provide friendly pathways into the stories and they can also provide the basis for cross-curricular projects.
1 Physics: Optics
There are several ways to become invisible. In this project, students describe the scientific background of visibility and the characteristics of light. After having done Exercise 1 on page 16 in the Before Reading section students can research and describe how certain things look invisible and why a mirror reflects light.
Give your students who are more interested in Physics the task of researching the refractive index of objects.
2 Science: Invisibility
A lot of things around us are invisible and still exist. Students can make a list of invisible phenomena which surround us.
3 Biology and Ethics: Human experiments
A series of experiments on the human body have been conducted in the history of civilization. Some of them were set up with good intentions, for example to find a cure for a disease. Some others were cruel experiments motivated by warfare and politics. Discuss the ethical considerations of human experiments. Can your students imagine situations in which it is acceptable to experiment on the human body?
4 Science fiction: Superpowers
Invisibility is a kind of superpower we have seen in several science fiction and fantasy films. Can your students think of examples? What other superpowers related to the human body are your students familiar with? Ask students to prepare a poster presentation of the top three or five most interesting superpowers. Get them to think of the advantages and disadvantages of having each superpower.
5 Literature: Science fiction
The Invisible Man is a science fiction story. Discuss the characteristics of the genre and explain that H. G. Wells belongs to the tradition of 19th century authors who were inspired by the scientific experiments and developments of their age. A similarly fascinating author is Mary Shelley, who combined horror elements and science fiction in her novel Frankenstein (1818). There is a dossier at the beginning of the book about Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (pages 8-9). Read these pages and then ask your students if they think that Frankenstein's Creature really is a monster. Can they think of other stories in which a 'monster' is created?
6 Technology: Robots
In the After Reading section of the book (pages 90-91), you'll find a dossier about Luddites and robots. Read the pages, then define the term 'Luddite'. Do your students know anyone who acts like a Luddite?
Robots can spark fascinating discussions. Ask your students to do some research on the development of robots. Most robots have become part of our daily routine, and some only exist in laboratories. They can present their findings and share the most modern robots available today. Can students imagine life a world most of the work is done by robots? What would that world be like?
7 Sociology: Invisibility
Before the age of the Internet and digital technology, it was much easier to live an invisible life. The dossier on pages 10 and 11 discusses the topics of surveillance, privacy and social media. This aspect of invisibility is a crucial issue today. As an awareness-raising activity which also helps students reflect on their own habits and safety, ask them to write a list of applications, surveillance and social media platforms which track their activities on a daily basis.
8 H.G. Wells, the author
The biography of H. G. Wells is a real inspiration for a lot of students. Not only did he write fascinating novels ahead of his time, he also worked hard to receive an education. A childhood accident motivated him to read a lot, and then he worked to be able to pay for his own education. He studied zoology and was also well-read in philosophy and literature. Ask students to make a timeline of his life and highlight the most motivating facts about him.
DOWNLOAD our The Invisible Man Project Planner (.pdf) to use for keeping notes and organizing your ideas.