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(c) Alexander Sokol, Riga, 2000, contacts@thinking-approach.org

Preliminary Points
How to Choose a Text
Functions of Tasks
Types of Tasks

Texts Samples
Tasks to the Texts
Students’ Works

Students' Responses



When teachers deal with the question of choosing a text for language teaching purposes, there can be a number of criteria they may take into account. Traditionally, the most popular criterion was the presence of certain grammar structures a text was supposed to illustrate. Later on some other parts of language such as lexical and stylistic elements became important. Today we also speak of motivation a text can arouse among students. All the above may be very important factors, especially the latter one as we can hardly expect any learning activity from our students in case they have no motivation.

However, the technology I advocate here implies another approach to choosing a literary text1. The key factor is the content of the text. How interesting may it be for students and what possibilities does it give in terms of training various thinking skills? It appears that no universal answer may be given to the former question so far, no matter how pertinent it is. As to the latter one, there are three questions the teacher can ask when deciding if a given text is a suitable teaching material.

  1. Does a text consider a fact or phenomenon from different points of view or demonstrate an unusual angle in approaching facts or phenomena?
    It Kills me by J D Salinger – the narrator’s unusual (provocative?) opinion of a night club and relationships between dates;
    Meeting By Robert Heinlein – two points of view – the way the characters see each other
    We are Free…? (Part 1) by Richard Bach – Shimoda’s provocative opinion about freedom.

  2. Does a text contain problems that can be presented in terms of contradicting requirements or give a solution to such problems?

    a) Problems/solutions of characters;

    We are Free…? (Part 1) by Richard Bach – problems Shimoda encounters when he has a caller in the air;
    I Wouldn’t have the guts by J D Salinger – problems the narrator faces when somebody has swiped his gloves at Pency and his psychological problems;
    Love Story by Erich Segal – acquaintance problem of Jennie.

    b) Problems/solutions of the author;

    • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery - dedication problem.
    • Various novels by Kurt Vonnegut – instead of describing an idea in a short story it’s simply given to Kilgore Trout and there’s no need of polishing it.

  3. Do the actions and deeds of a character in the text illustrate the qualities characteristic of creative personality? (see the ninth group of skills in chapter 2)
    • We are Free…? (Parts 1&2) by Richard Bach – Shimoda as an example of creative personality;
    • Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach – Jonathan as an example of creative personality.
If the answer to at least one of these questions is yes, a text can be considered as a possible teaching material in the integrated OTSM-TRIZ English course. However, it is necessary to note that these three questions do not cover all thinking skills. Their function is rather of preliminary choice. Moreover, there are a number of other questions a teacher may want to consider at this stage.
  • Is the given text self-contained? ( i.e. is it possible for students to understand it without the knowledge of the whole book?)
  • Will my students cope with the language of the text?
  • Are the themes the text discusses interesting for my students?

Taking the importance of these factors into account, it is necessary not to overemphasize their role. The amount of interest a text arouses can hardly be predicted for all students and will vary from one cultural context to another 2. Language complexity is a very relative factor as any text can be simplified in case it is necessary. A similar situation is with completeness as certain information can easily be provided to students (see the text The Odd One).

Thus, the first conclusion we have to make is the following:

Traditional criteria employed for choosing texts for the English language classroom are no longer valid as key factors determining our choice.


1 One of the key features of The Text Technology as the net syllabus methodology is the emphasis on teaching those things students find problematic at a given moment. Thus, a teacher is not involved into pre-planning a particular language phenomenon for a lesson. They are rather demanded to be ready to teach virtually any language point at any lesson. Moreover, nearly any literary text potentially illustrates an almost infinite number of language points a teacher may want to teach at a lesson. Thus, it will not be reasonable to choose a text basing on the language it contains. A teacher will have an opportunity to focus on language they need later on when students are working on the text.

2 In fact only a large experience of using a text with various groups of students may prove to the fact that it is interesting for them.




(ń) 1997-2000 OTSM-TRIZ Technologies Center


21 Nov 2000