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In future years, the absence of imaginative content in language teaching will be considered

to have marked a primitive stage of the discipline

(McRae, 1991)
Teaching English to second language learners has never been easy. In Malaysia, our
students learnt English in chunks and following the rote learning lane in KBSR. Literature
was reintroduced in KSSR and it hopes to engage young learners into learning English in a
fun way. The main reason for teaching literature in language classrooms is because many
second language learners felt bored or are engage in activities they consider to be unrelated to
the requirements of out-of-class communication in English (Mohammad & Saeed, 2011).
Therefore, the quote above is very much agreeable as literature offers new ways to interact
due to its multiple layers of meaning and authenticity (Clandfield, n.d). However, even with
support from experts, literature teaching faced another problem. Traditionally, literature was
taught in tiresome memorisation of word lists extracted from literary translation of the
literary texts. Teachers also taught students in the same way they were taught namely through
rhetorical, critical and stylistic analyses of literary text which did not match the
communicative needs of language learners (Mohammad & Saaed, 2011). Therefore, teachers
need to adhere to certain criteria in choosing literary texts to be used in the classroom so that
it can be fully exploited as well as bring meaning to the learners learning process.

The literary text chosen comes from the Anthology of Poems for Year 4, 5 and 6,
currently used in the KSSR curriculum for primary school. The title of the poem is Noisy
Food by Marian Swinger. The poem is about eating food that makes a lot of noises such as
munching a crunchy apple, slurping up soup, eating crackly crisps and so on. The reason for
choosing this poem is because it is interesting. Interest is an important criterion in choosing
literary text for young learners and this is simply because they are young and imaginative
(Lazar, 1993). The poem is about noisy food which apparently children like a lot. As
Malaysians also, food is an important culture for our people, so getting students to talk about
food is going to be the highlight of the students day. Besides the food, the sound referred by
the poem itself is interesting as the students probably would not have paid attention to how
they describe the sounds they make while eating something such as munching, slurping,
popping and so on. This kind of topic arouses students to involve and engage in the learning
as it is plainly interesting. Hence, interest is a criterion that must be weighed first in choosing
literary texts because it will affect the students participation and attention towards the

Secondly, the poem was selected due to how the embedded culture is familiar to the
students. With a variety of texts drawn from a diversity of cultures, cultural unfamiliarity of
the texts may be a problem for learners (Zailin, 2004). Thus, we should follow what Ali
(1994) suggested whereby through accurate selection of texts and classroom activities,
literature could be made accessible to ESL learners which allows them to view literature as an
experience that enriches their life. Furthermore, Rosenblatt (1986) brought forward that
students brings to the text their past experiences, prior knowledge, social, cultural and
psychological assumptions which may play an important role in the making of meaning of the
texts selected. The poem is about the sounds we make when we eat so it can be easily related
to the experience the students had when eating. It allows students to reflect and think about
the sound they make when they eat. Actions such as munching a crunchy apple and slurping
soup is easy to relate to, so the poem is able to elicit the students personal experience and also
their background knowledge about the food they ate. The reason why cultural familiarity is an
important criterion arises from the studies that shown improvement on comprehension when
reading culturally familiar texts in comparison to culturally unfamiliar ones (Zailin, 2004).
Moreover, Brock (1990) stated that when choosing literary texts, linguistic complexity should
be less of a concern than cultural familiarity as familiarity can overcome some of linguistic
complexity such as syntactic or vocabulary. This is true because the poem highlights
vocabularies that are associated with eating and would enrich the students knowledge on
how to describe it for example, sucking on orange or crunching up cornflakes. In short,
cultural familiarity is an important aspect to consider when selecting literary texts for use in
the language classroom.
Among a welter of criteria in choosing the right literary texts for ESL learners,
authenticity is another highly regarded criterion (Khatib, et. al., 2011). Looking through
textbook contents, it reveals that they are fictitious and made up. In other words, they are
unreal and artificial which learners would not conveniently use in the real world
communication. Berado (2006) proposes that the main reason for using authentic materials is
that learners can use real life languages in the context of the content presented. Authentic
texts are real life texts, not written for pedagogical purposes (Wallace, 1992). The poem is
authentic as it is written based on the authors experience with noisy food literally. Its content
presents the right language to describe the sound when you eat. The poem is fun and easy to
read which satisfies the criteria of an authentic text. Another point for using authentic
materials is that, ESL learners can cope with language intended for native speakers, thus

become more familiar with many different forms, communicative functions and meanings.
Using authentic material also enables students to be motivated as they are able to relate
themselves with the content. Due to this familiarity, authentic texts which use real world
language will be able to attract students to look into it. Hence, the poem is certainly a good fit
for Year 4 students to learn about the sounds when eating.
The first activity that can be done with the students is the actual eating itself. The
teacher can bring food to the class or even assign the students to bring food to class when
exploiting the poem. This activity uses authentic materials (food) to actually expose and
activate the students knowledge and experiences when eating. The teacher can use this
activity as a set induction activity or during the presentation stage to actually demonstrate the
sound that can be heard while eating noisy food. For example, the teacher or students who
were assigned to bring apples can munch on it for the others to hear it. This activity is simple
and fun to do in the classroom while learning about this poem. This activity can also help in
the understanding of the poem for more unfamiliar words such as slurping or crackly crisps.
This activity is carried out by introducing each food item one at a time. Students who brought
the assigned food will take a bite for the others to hear. The activity is continued with other
groups to demonstrate the sound. This activity will be a platform for students to virtually
understand the poem by listening and looking at the action mentioned. As discussed before,
due to the authenticity brought upon by the poem, the teacher can explain that native speakers
refer chips as crisps. After listening to all the sounds and looking at the actions, the teacher
will continue with a guessing game where students will have to guess what the selected
student was eating just by listening to the sound produced. The teacher will cloak the selected
student with a piece of cloth enough to cover his face so that the rest of the students will not
be able to look directly what he was eating. The game is continued with all the food that was
brought on that day. This example is how the activities can enrich the students knowledge as
well as having fun while learning the poem.
The second activity that can be done with the poem is to do a reflecting activity
individually. The teacher can ask the students to think of other local foods that are noisy.
When the students came up with some examples, the teacher can ask the students to think of
ways to eat the food in a more polite way. This activity is a good way to instil moral values in
the lesson. The moral value that can be exploited using the poem is politeness. By asking
students to come up with examples of food that they know are noisy, they can relate to
themselves so that it will be a meaningful reflection. Then, they can come up with ideas to be

more polite when they eat said noisy food. This is a good way to draw vocabulary as well as
integrate critical and reflective thinking in students. This activity is in line with Phillipss
(1993) criteria in designing activities for young children using literary texts namely, the
activity has to be above to sufficiently stimulate them to achieve the goals of the activity and
to feel satisfied with their work. This activity will be appropriate for Year 4 students as it is a
meaningful for the students and it gets them to think out of the box. The accumulated
suggestions are noted in their exercise books so that they are given a chance to express in
writing about how to eat noisy food politely. This is a good practice for writing as well as
sentence building. This is how the second activity will be carried out.
Both of these activities were carried out when teaching the selected poem. The
students really liked the poem. They were very excited to bring food into the classroom
which is something they also do but it was for recess. The students were able to understand
the language content of the poem without much problem except that they were clueless about
some words such as squelches. The students had a lot of fun eating the food and trying hard
to produce the sound much like the poem such as slurping water from their water bottle,
munching apples, eating chips loudly. The poem managed to create a learning atmosphere
that was interesting and engaging. The reflecting activity gave rise to many creative ideas and
sparked awareness in them about behaving politely when eating. Thus, I am further
convinced that this poem is really suitable for my students.
The students reception towards the eating activity was very good. All the students
brought what they are assigned to which is a good indication that they are engaged in the
lesson just by interacting with the material (food). The students were rather chaotic but it was
easily controlled by focusing on a single food item at a time. This kind of controlled
exposure is good for the students so that they can focus on the poem one idea at a time. The
students were able to mimic the actions and they were able to distinguish the sounds made
from eating different food. The students were exhilarated when they are playing the guessing
game. More importantly, they were able to identify the food with the sound that was made
when eating it. This shows that the students were able to build new knowledge quickly and
by participating in this activity, they will sure remember the sound made when eating the
food they brought. This activity is a good way to get the students attention as they are all
fixed into eating. Thus, it can be concluded that bringing real materials into the classroom is
very beneficial for the teacher as well as the students. The students also were eager to give

examples of other food that was noisy such as pears, watermelons, toasts and so much more.
This leads into the second activity that was carried out in this lesson.
When the students were very enthusiastic about giving examples of other food, I told
them to lists them under the sound they make. In the munching category, they were able to
give examples such as biscuits, toasts, watermelons, pears and Mamee Monster chips, which
got everyone laughing. This is where I found out that students were able to relate their
personal experiences with the poem and the activities for the lesson. This shows that they are
culturally familiar with the theme noisy food which is good because they understand the
poem easier and are able to make meaning out of it. After they listed down some examples, I
asked them about how it feels if someone were to eat noisily beside them. They showed their
annoyed expression and then I added that everyone should eat with polite manners. The
students were brainstorming on ideas on how to eat politely which they listed in their exercise
books as well. After everyone was ready, I called out some students to present some of their
ideas to the class. Some were very creative and some were rather observant. One suggestion
that I got was to eat in small pieces, not biting off a big chunk of an apple at a time. They also
mentioned about closing their mouth while chewing which will drastically reduce the noise
when eating. Some ideas were very thoughtful and I am glad that everyone made effort into
eating with polite manners. In the end, the activity managed to instil moral values among my
At the end of the lesson, I ask some questions about what they feel about the poem.
All of them liked the poem so much that they want to do another round of tasting. They
enjoyed the poem very much. The poem was able to engage the students in an exciting
atmosphere that allows students to use various language skills such as listening and speaking
and writing. The students were also able to cultivate critical and reflective thinking while
enjoying this poem in the lesson. Integrating literature in the learning of English as a Second
Language certainly helps students to practice and use the language authentically. Therefore,
teachers should take into considerations of the criteria when selecting the literary texts as well
as the accompanying activities to support the text. It is not easy to determine what is best for
our students, but with careful and educated judgements, we can fully exploit the literary texts
to offer a meaningful language learning experience for the students. As what Baurain (2000)
quoted, knowing what your students need, lack and desire in their study of literature is a key
to success.

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