Renowned writers help teachers impart literature

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Friday, June 10, 2011

WHEN done discussing a story, Katrina Montillano-Pitogo said she let her students dramatize it.

The 28-year-old Filipino teacher believes that by doing such activity, her students can get the story’s “essence.”

“Ako nang buhaton aron makatabang ko nga di mamatay ang Philippine literature (That’s what I do to keep Philippine literature alive),” she said.


Pitogo was one of the teachers who attended the lectures of multi-awarded writers Dr. Marjorie Evasco and Dr. Anthony Tan in the third edition of PEN-Sida Teaching Literature Workshop held at the University of Cebu-Banilad yesterday.

Evasco, a literature professor of De La Salle University in Manila, discussed how to teach poetry.

She was followed by Tan, who teaches literature at the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology. Tan shared his method in imparting a story.

Evasco, in her lecture, took up the poem “Letter to Pedro, US Citizen, also called Pete” written by Cebuano poet Rene Estella Amper.

In dissecting Amper’s poem, she used a mnemonic device coined by former education secretary Isagani Cruz. It is called “Free,” which stands for “Feed the text, Read the text, Enrich or Enliven the text, Enjoy the text.”

Evasco said “feeding the text” means teachers should “conduct background research on the contexts of the poet and the culture of origin from where the poem was produced.”

“Reading the text,” according to Evasco, “refers to the stage where the teachers do their own strong close-reading of the poem.”

“Enriching the text,” refers to the “next stage of preparation where teachers design different activities and exercises that students can do to learn the poem better.”

“Enjoying the text” refers to how teachers “facilitate the process of the students’ second or third reading of the text,” Evasco said.

“(It is) how they would now enjoy the poem and articulate for themselves the joy of their own discoveries of the poem’s meaningfulness,” she said.

Evasco further said she designed several writing activities to help enrich the students’ understanding of the poem, and enable them to bring their sense of the poem’s meaning into their own lives.

“If we can teach our students well how to squeeze the juices out of their imagination with the sweetness and light of every poem, they’ll soon know that in the final analysis, it is their own imagination they are drinking and enjoying,” she said.

“If you cannot teach a poem well, the whole semester is gone,” she added.

Evasco said teachers should “continue to work hard and happily each day towards transforming young minds to be brave and confident in the power of their imagination.

For his part, Tan said there are many ways of teaching a short story. He said he discovered that one of the easiest ways of doing it is to approach the short story as an art form and to discuss it according to its formal elements, which are the plot, character, point of view, tone and atmosphere, language and style, symbolism, and theme.

To succeed in teaching a short story, Tan said teachers should be “passionate.”

“How can we communicate our love for words if we ourselves are not enthusiastic about what words tell us?” he said.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 10, 2011.

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