Learning the value of literature

MANY students and parents question the benefit of studying literary texts in the English language class, failing to see the relevance of literature in their own lives. The 15th Melta Conference, with the theme Reading and Writing: Preparing ESL Learners for the Real World, addresses this lack of understanding about the value of literature through a number of sessions. 

Melta President Assoc Prof Dr Malachi Edwin, in his paper Reading Texts, Reading the World, will speak about the importance of taking students beyond the level of reading for the sole purpose of passing examinations.  

Effective teaching of literary texts which goes beyond the literal level will not only help students to improve their reading skills, but also help students understand themselves and the world around them.  

His paper advocates an approach to teaching literature which focuses on learners, their world and their concerns.  

The role of Young Adult Literature (YAL) in enhancing adolescents’ understanding of identity, sense of self, as well as social and cultural obligations will be highlighted in a presentation by Subarna Sivapalan and Hairuzila Idrus from Universiti Teknologi Petronas.  

Too Wei Keong from Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman will demonstrate how he used a Malaysian film Sepet to help students “read” films critically and also carry out other reading and writing activities.  

In another presentation, Rajandaran Perumal from MMU will discuss students' response to reading the novel and viewing the movie Billy Eliot.  

Other presentations include a paper by Mardziah Hayati Abdullah from Universiti Putra Malaysia and Josephine Leela Damodaram from SMK Dato’ Shamsudin Nain, Rantau, Negri Sembilan, who will look at how metaphors, usually limited to literature lessons, are in fact regularly and unconsciously used to explain ideas in everyday discourse.  

Shahizah Ismail Hamdan from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia will discuss the genre of science fiction, which borrows much from real-life technology, as a valuable resource in promoting literacy skills in the ESL classroom.  

Collin Jerome and Connie Chin Swee Lan from Unimas will examine how students relate poetry to the real world.  

Practical ideas for the classroom will also be offered through workshops and demonstrations. Gavin Cowley from CfBT Education Services in Brunei, for instance, will conduct a workshop on Using Drama as a Bridge between the Classroom and the Real World, in which participants will consider how to set up different levels of activity using stimuli from beyond the classroom for developing reading and writing skills.  

Puteri Rohani Megat Abdul Rahim from Universiti Teknologi Mara and Norlida Ahmad from University Sains Malaysia will demonstrate how to immerse students in real-world issues by using literature.  

Similarly, Leela James Dass will share ideas on Using Literature to teach writing about Real World.  

The conference will be held at three venues: Awana Kijal Resort in Kemanan, Terengganu on May 31 and June 1; the Sheraton Hotel and Towers in Subang Jaya, on June 5 and 6; and Merdeka Palace Hotel in Kuching on June 9 and 10. The main sponsor for the conference is Penerbit Fajar Bakti/University Press Oxford is the main sponsor and The Star is the media sponsor. Registration forms may be downloaded at http://www.melta.org.my or obtained from the Melta office.  

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