How do low achievers learn literature?Students cannot participate in role plays/group discussion/etc.. What method can i use other than teacher's input all the time?

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am not trying to be skeptical, but I wonder why there is a judgment that certain students cannot participate in more explorative venues of literature.  I have found that role playing and using that as a "hook" could be very strong in garnering student interest in literature.  I would also argue that the so- called "low achiever" would probably not respond very positively to direct teacher input, as you indicate.  This is the Status Quo, and to a large extent, this has failed the student for so long.  I think that being able to generate insight from a personal and subjective point of view would be critical.  There has to be a way to integrate their own point of view on the literature.  I find that students love the assignment of creating a playlist of songs that would represent the literature of characters in it.  Each song has to have some type of connection to the work or the characters, such as motivation, attribute, or predicament.  I have also found that students can use web tools such as or as creative means to explore their own thoughts about the literature and their opinions on it.  Finally, I think that it is not going to help in employing terms like "poor students" and "low achievers" to help describe students who have not experienced a great deal of success in the formal education setting.  It is really important for all of us to try to reach all of our students and link what we do to their success.  Both from a pedagogical point of view and a more pragmatic (No Child Left Behind and High Stakes Standardized Testing) reality, it is essential that all children are sought after and the traditional labels of "low achievers" and "poor students" might move us away from such goals.

jon0111 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a few problems with your question. First, what do you mean by "learn literature"? Are you asking about reading in terms of decoding vocabulary or are speaking of appreciating literature as art?

I suspect that you are referring to an appreciation for literature in terms of theme, well-crafted narrative, characterization, writing style, etc. While it may seem that students who are not proficient readers cannot appreciate literature, the truth is that literature speaks to us all.

Students can express themselves in all kinds of ways once they know what you want from them. They may not understand every line in Romeo & Juliet, for instance, but teenagers can certainly tell you about real-life drama, conflicts with parents, falling in love, etc. They can convey these ideas in writing, art projects, video, photography, and music.

This response to literature, this desire to show connections, should not be limited to what you term "low achievers." If achievement is related to a response to a traditional classroom lecture then our educational system is in big trouble. Having students parrot back the teacher's ideas on a piece of literature is far less meaningful than a student who can show a creative connection to a story.

jon0111 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You might try the document sharing section here at enotes or a site like where teachers share lessons for specific titles. Why reinvent the wheel when you can take advantage of something that is working in another classroom.

I have found that some of the less motivated student actually enjoy critiquing lessons and pieces of literature--you can use this. If Phantom of the Opera is not frightening, what is? If the textbook questions are not helpful, how can we change them? If you didn't get anything out of this lesson, what would make it more interesting?

Once they start evaluating and comparing information, you can bring them back to the literature. How would the story of Phantom of the Opera be different if we made the changes you suggest? Would the author approve? Would audiences miss out on an important idea or theme?

Have students write about or discuss as much personal experience as possible--sooner or later you'll hit a theme from the literature. Once they make the connection have them go back and re-visit that part of the novel/play.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Agreeing with other colleagues here, in my experience I have never found a lower ability student unable to interact with literature. The challenges for me as a teacher are just different. I think key to teaching literature is helping students understand and relate to the issues and problems of the text. This is something I have found all students are able of doing, if I present these issues in a way that perhaps contextualises it for them. For example, in A Midsummer Night´s Dream, although some students really struggle with the Shakespearian English and blank verse, they are able to grasph the situation when we talk about parents and how much power they should have over key decisions in our life such as who we love and want to marry. That gives them a powerful grasp on the issue which gives them valuable "hooks" which help them to understand the text. So, with respect, perhaps you need to think about how you can make your texts relevant to your students.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Have students due an alphabetical summary of the literature. Simply summarize the literature using a word that begins with "a" to start the first sentence. Then use a word that begins with "b" to start the second sentence, and so on. You could let them summarize the story from the viewpoint of a particular character using a "three headed opera star." They don't really have to sing, but a group of three could start summarizing the story one word at a time. Time limits might be helpful.

mumu87 | Student

Well, first of all, thank you for the replies..

To be exact, i am having problem with a class of mine.. What i did with them is to do group work discussion, employ some student-centered stuff..

However, this class do not have the enthusiasm to discuss in groups..

I agree with @akannan that i should use songs to teach, in which i did, but i failed again to attract students' attention in this particular class to learn.. E.g. i used songs in The Phantom of The Opera show to teach the novel..

What i observed: students do not have the mood to study at all, they will do their own work/talk to their friends instead whenever i give activities using student-centered way. They waste time when a simple exercise was given to them.. they can talk very loud with their friends, but when it comes to presentation of literature in English, their voice becomes so soft that even the drop of the pin on the floor would be louder than their voice.

However, whenever, i do it teacher-centered way, i figured out that they are quiet and listen to what i am teaching.. What happen how is i am tired of all the teacher-centered stuff.. How do i teach them - using other methods? . . . .

So, @jon0111, i do hope that students can appreciate the literature like what u said "a student who can show a creative connection to a story," but what method do u use?

Thank you all for taking your time to reply to my nonetheless "unintelligent question"..