Long vs. Short Literature: What’s Best for Teaching Language Arts?
posted by: Melissa | June 08, 2017, 06:42 PM   

There’s an interesting debate going on in the education community right now. Increasingly, reading and English teachers are disagreeing over whether they should focus on short-form literature like short stories, one-act plays, etc., or whether they should focus on teaching through long-form literature like novels.


History

In colonial America, the issue was nonexistent. Reading instruction consisted of teaching the alphabet along with decoding skills. There was no attempt to include literature at all. This changed with Noah Webster’s primer published in 1802, the last section of which included the first reader. The idea behind the reader was to include short pieces of literature or selections from longer pieces of literature that were to be used in the classroom. Readers continued to be the preferred method of teaching literature throughout the 1800s. In the 20th century and with the move towards whole language, novels began to be used in teaching literature, first in secondary classrooms and then increasingly moving into elementary classrooms. With the introduction of No Child Left Behind in 2001, schools began to rethink this strategy and some moved back to readers that focused on short-form literature, leaving us currently in a time of debate and transition.


Case for Long-Form Literature

Long-form literature often takes the form of whole-class or small-group novels, and sometimes includes plays. Proponents argue that reading a long piece of literature together as a class with its slower-paced revelations and discovery can provide a powerful community-building experience. They also argue that there are themes that just can’t be fully explored in shorter works. Likewise, you need longer forms of literature to fully develop higher-level thinking skills. Reading novels also provides students with greater opportunity for choice. Novels don’t have to be read by the whole class, it’s possible to allow students to choose novels that they would prefer to read and explore them in small groups, while a focus on short stories would make allowing that choice cumbersome. Finally, the core of most established canons consist of novels. It’s impossible to teach students the literature they’re expected to know without reading novels.


Case for Short-Form Literature

Proponents of short-form literature are often skeptical of novels as being the ultimate expression of literature. They point to the power of short stories and essays in transporting readers and introducing new ideas. They also argue that a focus on novels neglects instruction on most forms of literature including speeches, essays, poetry, and short stories. They also argue that because short-form fiction is short, it’s easier to teach reading skills using them. Short-form literature also allows teachers to focus in on a single writing technique or reading skill that is illustrated particularly well in a particular piece of literature.


There are clear cases to be made for a focus on long-form literature and short-form, making it a topic that will likely continue to be a focus of debate and research in years to come.


What do you think is the best way to teach literature?

Share below!


Comments (1)Add Comment
English
written by alex jackson, June 14, 2017

I would suggest going for a case for long-form literature. Not only is this thing proved from a various
essay on English, it is a proved mechanism on the field as well. I have been using this strategy for a couple of years now as it is a powerful community building exercise as well.

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