“In true education, anything that comes to our hand is as good as a book: the prank of a page- boy, the blunder of a servant, a bit of table talk – they are all part of the curriculum.”
Michel de Montaigne
To language teachers’ innovative minds, there can be no missed instructional toolkits in the world of printed words. To them, any written work whatever it is made for, tend to be worthy as source of knowledge when appropriately processed. An editorial, news, a newspaper column, an email, an airline ticket, a product label, a promotional product brochure, a technical product’s specifications, loglines from posters and books, and reviews of varied topics published may yield language learning. To be specific, lines from published works may have been constructed for entertainment purposes; however, there are embedded noteworthy insights of varied levels that can be extracted from them to facilitate instructions. Excerpts such as historical novel’s opening lines can add to classroom strategies for operative students’ knowledge acquisition. In connection to this concept, Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, has been opted. Here’s the originally excerpted material from the novel’s opening paragraph employed as a catalyst for English language and literature instructions.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way-”
Students’ focus reading ability portrays a dominant role in the application of this approach. Through the aid of their prior and teacher- introduced linguistic knowledge, they can explore the excerpt to discover linguistic and literary concepts more than what they anticipate. And since the introduced material for instruction is a product of literature, literary elements can be academically explored. Moreover, the learners can further perform researches eliciting comprehensions regarding its background. This simply elucidates that using extracts such as novel’s opening lines requires an analysis of appropriate materials that possess the necessary elements to advance learning. A meticulously chosen material facilitates students’ naturally interlinked process of acquiring knowledge. Reading and research usually go together. The product of interplay between the two is comprehension. When these significant lines are employed, initial ideas can be taken out of reading. These ideas back students’ further understanding and the greater the awareness they obtain, the more inquests about them surface. In the process, prior language awareness with newly teacher-introduced language are utilized adding up to the knowledge of the words that they manipulate in expressing perceptions of the contents. The extract from the novel serves as a pedagogical catalyst. To be specific, the lines offer language and literary instructions.
There can be numerous language activities under this category in which the language tasks below are included. It can be perceived that these grammar activities originating from the opening lines further serve as springboards to create other language-related activities catering to learners’ different comprehension levels. In explicating these activities, the expected or possible responses to the instructions are given to serve as patterns for further deliberations. It may be favorable to teach the concepts through “show and tell” style with the aid of models especially to non-native speakers with fewer exposures to the English language to establish systematic learning foundations. Teachers are expected to be flexible by simplifying or generating other undertakings out of these introduced tasks depending on the learning factors of their students along with their educational institution’s curriculum coverage. It is the curriculum where objectives or intended outcomes are going to be formulated. Moreover, it will also depend on how an institution’s educational management welcomes innovation from their teachers.
1. Recognizing statements by capitalization and punctuation
Frame the group of words in the excerpt as simple sentences. Observe proper punctuation and capitalization.
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom. It was the age of foolishness. It was the epoch of belief. It was the epoch of incredulity. It was the season of light. It was the season of darkness. It was the spring of hope. It was the winter of despair. We had everything before us. We had nothing before us. We were all going direct to Heaven. We were all going direct the other way.
2. Conjugation of simple tenses through sentences
In a column chart, write the statements in three simple tenses: simple past, simple present, and future (going to).
It was the best of times. It is the best of times. It is going to be the best of times.
It was the worst of times. It is the worst of times. It is going to be the worst of times.
It was the age of wisdom. It is the age of wisdom. It is going to be the age of wisdom.
It was the age of foolishness. It is the age of foolishness. It is going to be the age of foolishness.
3. Construction of continuous tenses
Write the past and present continuous tenses of the statements.
We were all going direct to heaven. We are all going direct to heaven.
We were all going direct the other way. We are all going direct the other way.
4. Transforming statement into questions.
Change the statements into questions in the simple past, present, future (going to), past and present continuous.
Was it the best of times? Is it the best of times? Is it going to be the best of times?
Was it the worst of times? Is it the worst of times? Is it going to be the worst of times?
Was it the age of wisdom? Is it the age of wisdom? Is it going to be the age of wisdom?
Were we all going direct to Heaven? Are we all going direct to heaven?
Were we all going direct the other way? Are we all going direct the other way?
5. Yes/ no short answers for simple past, present and future.
Provide yes/no short answers to the simple past, present and future (going to) questions.
Was it the best of times? Yes, it was.No, it wasn’t.
Was it the worst of times? Yes, it was. No, it wasn’t.
Was it the age of wisdom? Yes, it was. No, it wasn’t.
Is it the best of times? Yes it is. No, it isn’t.
Is it the worst of times? Yes it is. No, it isn’t.
Is it the age of wisdom? Yes it is. No, it isn’t.
Is it going to be the best of times? Yes, it is. No, it isn’t.
Is it going to be the worst of times? Yes, it is. No, it isn’t.
Is it going to be the age of wisdom? Yes, it is. No, it isn’t.
6. Formulation of past continuous and present continuous questions and yes/no short answers.
Write the short yes/no short answers for the past and present continuous questions.
Were we all going direct to heaven? Yes, we were. No, we weren’t.
Were we all going direct the other way? Yes, we were. No, we weren’t.
Are we all going direct to heaven? Yes, we are. No, we aren’t.
Are we all going direct the other way? Yes, we are. No, we aren’t.
7. Creating negative statements with contractions
Write the negative past and present of the given affirmative simple past statements.
“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom.”
It wasn’t the best of times.
It wasn’t the worst of times.
It wasn’t the age of wisdom.
It isn’t the best of times.
It isn’t the worst of times.
It isn’t the age of wisdom.
8. Vocabulary -related exercises
A. Determine the opposite meanings of the given words.
best -worst, wisdom- foolishness, belief – incredulity, light-darkness, winter-spring, hope-despair, had everything-had nothing, heaven- the other way.
B. identify the synonyms or similar meanings of the specified words.
finest -best, wisdom-knowledge, incredulity-doubts, foolishness- stupidity, other way-hell
C. Group the words that denote positive and negative feelings.
Positive feelings: best -wisdom- belief – light-spring – hope-had everything-heaven
Negative feelings: worst, foolishness, incredulity, darkness, winter, despair, had nothing, the other way
D. Matching synonyms
Find the words that mean time.
times, age, epoch, season, spring, winter
E. Word association through tone and meaning
Provide adjectives to the nouns based from their meanings.
best times-worst times, worthwhile wisdom, unwanted foolishness, undying belief, upsetting incredulity, adorable light, unwelcome darkness, inspiring hope, unseen despair, expected heaven
F. Substitution of words in the extract while retaining meaning
Replace the underlined words of the original excerpt with words which mean the same.
“It was the greatest of times, it was the nastiest of times, it was the age of understanding, it was the age of stupidity, it was the epoch of certainty, it was the epoch of doubt, it was the season of brightness, it was the season of gloom, it was the spring of expectation, it was the winter of misery, we had all before us, we had naught before us, we were all going direct to Paradise, we were all going direct to hell.”
G. Expansion of sentences through provisions of modifiers through adjectives
Place proper adjectives before the nouns in the paragraph that were substituted.
These adjectives should retain the ideas of the original excerpt.
“It was the greatest of optimistic times, it was the nastiest of selfish times, it was the age of united understanding, it was the age of hated stupidity, it was the epoch of celebrated certainty, it was the epoch of dividing doubt, it was the season of shared brightness, it was the season of chilling gloom, it was the spring of proliferating expectation, it was the winter of cruel misery, we had all before us, we had naught before us, we were all going direct to infinite paradise, we were all going direct to burning hell.”
H. Inventions of titles distinctive of the real title
Create possible titles of this excerpt base from its content. Your clues in constructing titles will be the antonyms of some of the major words.
Two worlds Apart, The Epoch of Love And Hatred, The World’s Two Faces, The Good And The Bad Times, Heaven And Hell, The Two Gifts, Time Can give; When Spring Disappears for Winter
I. Justification of titles
Support your given title through group of words by creating a tree diagram to show connections.
“The Two Gifts, Time Can Give,” can be supported by words such as best of times, worst of times, age of wisdom, age of foolishness, epoch of belief, epoch of incredulity, season of light, season of darkness, spring of hope, winter of despair, had everything, had nothing, all going direct to heaven, and all going direct the other way. These words further emphasize that humanity can face finest and the most awful experiences within time. Time reveals that life isn’t always a bed of roses.
J. Classifying words through general terms
Classify the words under broader terms. Add related words to the groups.
Time -epoch, season, age, spring, winter, (summer, fall, century, era)
Season- spring, winter, (summer, fall)
Descriptions- best, worst, (finest, poorest)
Thinking -wisdom, foolishness, belief, incredulity, despair, hope (awareness, responsiveness faith, failures, stupidity, silliness, absurdity, intelligence, cleverness)
Situations- had everything, had nothing, (just enough, abundance, inadequacy, scarcity, season of plenty)
Directions – to heaven, the other way, (another way, to the unknown)
Vision- light, darkness, (blackness, gloom, brightness)
9. Analysis of prepositional phrase, prepositions and object of prepositions
Classify the words according to prepositional phrases, prepositions and objects of prepositions.
Prepositional phrases: of times, of times, of wisdom, to Heaven
Prepositions: of, of, of, to
Object of Prepositions: times, times, wisdom heaven
10. Building sentences according to structure
Convert the independent sentences from the passage into compound and complex sentences.
Independent sentence: It was the best of times.
Compound sentences: It was the best of times yet it was the worst of times.
Complex sentences: It was the age of wisdom before the age of foolishness.
11. Expanding the sentences through prepositional phrases and adjectives.
Use prepositional phrases and adjectives to expand the original sentences from the extracts.
Original sentences: It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom. It was the age of foolishness.
It was the best of times in Paris.
It was the worst of times in London.
It was the age of wisdom to many writers.
It was the age of foolishness at the height of enlightenment.
It was the best of times in beautiful Paris.
It was the worst of times in chaotic London.
It was the age of admirable wisdom.
It was the age of alarming foolishness.
12. Creating a schema to represent ideas
Create a spider gram that centers on the word, times.
Students are expected to put the word, “times” at the center of the spider gram which will branch out into age, epoch, and season. Season is further divided into winter and spring.
13. Paraphrase the statements.
Reword the statements by carrying out the meanings as originally stated. Observe their tenses.
It was the age of wisdom.
It was a period when knowledge proliferated.
It was the age of foolishness.
It was a period when disturbance surfaced.
It was the epoch of belief.
It was a stage when certainties were felt
It was the epoch of incredulity.
It was a century of doubts that ruled the populace.
14. Creation of topic sentence
Create a topic sentence for the paragraph’s supporting details. Relate it to the title, A Tale of Two Cities.
The life I had had two recurring folds.
There were two places confronted by the finest and severest gifts of times.
There were two cities that faced the challenges of existence.
I knew of two places witnessed by times.
Life could be tough and smooth.
These reminded me of the past.
15. Categorizing ideas through contexts
Express your understanding of the two contrasting lines, “It was the best of times and It was the worst of times,” by placing the given situations in a group where they should belong.
the best of times
People enjoyed freedom.
Everyone understood each other.
Everyone’s right is respected.
the worst of times
There was a war taking place.
There was a protest from suffering people.
The country was in turmoil.
II. Literary writing activities
Some literary writing activities that can be performed out of the excerpt which include searching for literary elements that include literary techniques and devices found in the passage for a formalistic analysis, visualizing ideas for an essay revolving around its theme, framing a reaction paper to justify the theme of the passage, explanation of conflicts through sketch with matching captions taken from the excerpt or conflict analysis report, creating a dialogue out of the extracts, writing a mythological allusion description through the primordial patterns or archetypes from history and literature, association of the novel’s opening lines to form biographical details to produce biographical essays, transformation of the excerpted opening lines into a poem of two stanza following a prescribed rhyme scheme pattern, production of a song lyrics, narrative writing based from the novel’s historical background, conceptualization of a short script featuring some significant events during the French revolution, characterization writing, setting analysis, creation of a timeline that can be the subject of discussion in a term paper, research-related writing activities such as historical analysis, documentation of sources which lead to bibliographic entry writing, or summary writing of the whole novel where the excerpted passage originated.
These activities act as springboards for other lessons to be processed. They promote opportunities for teachers to link other related grammatical structures. The activities are hoped to serve as models to be patterned aside from using them as merely instruments to present grammar rules. Moreover, they enhance vocabulary acquisition as supported by several given exercises. The examples of activities revolve around the theme of the excerpted passage which promotes further understanding of the historical novel’s background. While learning grammar, literature is incorporated. As the interplay of language and literature takes place, reading and writing skills are applied in both pedagogical areas. Literature writing activities on the other hand were enumerated. The said activities in this aspect are for advanced level students though they can be simplified. Despite the absence of examples to elucidate on how they are to be performed, the students will be directed towards the nature of the writing activities with the reinforcements supplied by their teachers.
Teaching inputs tend to be significantly appealing in English language instructions through their structures and contents. Do the structures contain satisfactory vocabularies and grammar? Does it numerously launch a systematic elucidation of grammar levels? Does it have contents that are remarkable to other forms of knowledge acquisition aside from grammar? Does it involve the students’ macro skills enrichment? Additionally, will its features fascinate the focus of the students? Are the contents culturally acceptable among students? Are there language teaching strategies that can be lifted out of it? One fine material that can be maneuvered in English language and literature instructions is the use of historical novel’s opening lines. Historical novels’ opening lines express sturdy ideas through the powerful languages by the writers. And since these comprise the opening paragraph, evocative lines were embedded in order to rivet the attention of readers to finish the final chapter. Through the incorporation of eloquent words, the stories’ structures are prolifically embedded with motivating statements which enable the language teacher to manipulate its linguistic contents for grammatical and vocabulary studies not to mention that macro skills are always interlinked in the process. Furthermore, a historical novel’s lines can be analyzed according to the elements of literature allowing the students to study the literary rudiments alongside linguistic properties. Engagement with literature triggers language awareness through reading and writing skills. Out of these excerpt from Charles Dickens, practical language and literary activities were formulated laced with the writer’s optimism that mentors may be able to adopt in similar or varieties of ways.