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Heritage Literature as a Teaching Tool

Course Content: Literature

Heritage literary passages are versatile tools for language study. They illustrate HL in use (a
wide range of styles, genres, registers, and varieties); they provide meaningful and memorable
contexts for vocabulary expansion and grammar practice; they can serve as the basis for
listening, reading, speaking, and writing activities; and they develop students' ability to think
critically by inferring meaning, making interpretations, and expressing their own ideas and
emotions (Lazar 1993: 19).

 Vocabulary comprehension and expansion. Heritage learners can expand their

vocabulary by reading a variety of literary selections. In each text, the instructor will
highlight the lexical items related to the chapter's topic or theme. He/She may also point
out idiomatic expressions (to foster understanding of cultural commonalities and
differences), literary words, regionalisms, cultural connotations, words/phrases coined by
the author and adopted by the language, etc. Students will then be able to analyze the key
structural features of the language of the selection.
 Grammar identification and practice. Heritage literary texts can illustrate grammatical
structures taught in class. Students identify the target structures in the passage and then
practice them as they appear in that context or give examples related to their own lives
(personalization). A wide range of grammatical structures, sentence types, and cohesive
devices, especially those characteristic of the written language, can be taught or
 Spelling. Depending on the HL, "troublesome" words can be targeted in literary texts to
help learners improve their orthography or eliminate the interference of English spelling.
 Reading comprehension. Students can answer questions based on content. They can fill
in missing words, find synonyms for key words, paraphrase sentences, summarize
paragraphs or the text as a whole. Literary characters can be matched to actions or facts
related to them. Student drawings or collages based on the text will help students
visualize and remember the characters in the story.
 Oral and written literary assignments. A multitude of literary tasks empower students
to think and act critically and develop an appreciation of literature while developing
language proficiency (McKay 2001: 321-326). Such tasks include: describing the features
of a literary genre and identifying them in the reading; analyzing the characters' and/or
the author's point(s) of view; relating the text to the work it has been excerpted from, and
the work to the personal/historical circumstances in which it was written; analyzing the
literary techniques/ language/style used by the author; placing the text/author within the
heritage literary tradition; writing a literary analysis of the piece; describing the relevance
of the selection for contemporary readers in general and for heritage learners in
particular; and writing an argumentative essay about the literary passage.
 Cultural understanding and appreciation. Heritage literature helps students understand
themselves, their families, and their communities better as members of a particular
culture. By reading folk tales and legends, for example, they learn about "the origin of
traditional cultural values and beliefs" (Diamond & Moore 1995: 221).
 The understanding and appreciation of culture that results from the study of literature
helps students develop a positive self-image and attitude toward their heritage language
and culture.
 If heritage literary works are compared to writings from the dominant culture or other,
heritage or non-heritage, cultures, students gain a deeper understanding, acceptance, and
respect for other systems of traditions, beliefs, values, and behaviors.
The Rice Myth
Sappia the goddess

A long time ago, a faming gripped Bohol. The people begged Sappia, the goddess of
mercy, to give them food. Sappia took pity on them and came down to earth.

All the land was bronw and dried up. A long drought left the land parched. Only the
hardiest weeds survived the long, rainless months, and already, people were dying for

Her heart swelling with pity. Sappia bared her bosom and squeezed a drop of milk into
each barred ear of weeds. She emptied one breast, and then the other, but alas! There were a
few more weeds with empty ears. She implored heaven to give more milk, but when she
pressed her breast again, blood and not milk dropped into the remaining fruitless ears.
Having given all her blood, she bent low and whipered, “Oh, plants, bear thou in abundance,
and feed my hungry people.”

Therefore,saying, Sappia vanished from Earth. She returned to heaven where every day
she watched the useless weeds grow heavy with grain. She watched as hungry people
gathered the ripened stalks.

When people pound the harvest, most of the grains were milky whire. These came from
the ears, which Sappia filled with her milk. Some grains were red, andthese came from those,
which filled with her blood. However, red or white, people cooked the grains, found them
good to eat, and best of all, these nourished them back to strength. They saved some of the
seeds, which they planted when the rains came soon after. The seed gave a boundtiful
harvest. From her heavenly home,Sappia rejoiced eht the people. This life-giving rain, which
was her gift to the famine-stricken people of Bohol, is what we know as rice.