Engaging English Learners Through Literature, Fairy Tales, and Drama

Alison Larkin Koushki


Use of literature in the English language classroom deepens student engagement, and fairy tales add magic to the mix. This article details the benefits of engaging English learners in literature and fairy tales, and explores how drama can be enlisted to further mine their riches. An educator’s case studies of language teaching through literature and drama projects are described, and the research question driving them highlighted: What is the impact of dramatizing literature on students’ engagement in novels and second language acquisition? Research on the effects of literature, drama, and the fairy tale genre on second language education is reviewed. Reading and acting out literature and fairy tales hones all four language skills while also enhancing the Seven Cs life skills: communication, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, commitment, compromise, and confidence. Adding the frame of project-based learning to the instructional strengths of literature and drama forms a strong pedagogical triangle for second language learning. Fairy tales are easily enacted. English educators and learners can download free fairy tale scripts and spice them with creative twists of their own creation or adapted from film and cartoon versions. Providing maximum student engagement, tales can be portrayed with minimum preparation. Using a few simple props and a short script, English learners can dramatize The Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, or Snow White in class with little practice. Engagement increases when teams act out tales on stage for an audience of family, friends, classmates, and educators. In fairy tale enactment projects, whether in class or on stage, students apply their multiple intelligences when choosing team roles: script-writing, acting, backstage, costumes, make-up, sound and lights, reporter, advertising, usher, writer’s corner, or stage managing. The article concludes with a list of engaging language activities for use with fairy tales, and a summary of the benefits of fairy tale enactments for English learners.


English literature, drama, fairy tales

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