Mother Tongue Programme: Teaching Literature in a real-world context
Because literature is a reflection of humanity, one of the questions teachers always ask themselves is, what lifelong learning do we want students to gain from the study of one text?
As part of studying the work Kitchen by Japanese writer Banana Yoshimoto, the first year School-Supported Self-Taught students at Chatsworth International School interviewed three Japanese women from different generations to gather a better understanding of social and cultural contexts in Japan during the 1980s and 1990s. Then students wrote a news article in their mother tongue language to discuss the prompt Perspectives on global issues in Japan during the 1990s through Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen. The global issues present in Yoshimoto’s work and discussed in class are the generational gap between traditional and modern Japan, gender conventions and the unconventional family in Japan.
Students feel that interviewing Japanese women who were a teenager, a young woman and a mother during the early 1990s enabled them to “better relate to the main character while gaining knowledge of the social context in a way that is motivating” (Ryan), “gain a more personal insight on the realities of the lifestyles and social norms in the late 20th century Japan” (Lilo), “to better understand perspectives on political, cultural and social contexts in the early 90s in Japan (Justin), and to “understand the value of literature in capturing and conveying past events and the human experience of them” (Bruno).
Through this task, students explored the triadic reciprocality presented in Kitchen, the ways in which we both are influenced by and influence our environments. They developed their critical thinking skills in their mother tongue language and enhanced their metacognitive skills and experience. Such tasks increase students' motivation because they feel they own their learning, they feel they are in control of their knowledge and of the process of acquiring knowledge.
When we consider that learning is also interpreting and understanding the realities of our world through different ways and perspectives, studying literature is then exploring the uniqueness of human beings and paradoxically understanding and appreciating the diversities of humanity.
1Diploma Programme students studying literature in their mother tongue languages. The IB Diploma requires that students in the School-Supported Self-Taught course study three works in translation; books are studied in their mother tongue but written in a different language. In the Self-Taught course, students mostly work independently, they receive support on a weekly basis from a DP Literature teacher and from a Mother Tongue tutor.
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