About a novelist
Submitted by admin on 25 March, 2008 - 03:34
Theme: The author Nick Hornby and tastes in books and films.
Lexical area: Adjectives to describe books or films, types of story and the language to describe future ambitions.
Cross curricular links: Literature.
Instructions for language assistants in italics
This lesson consists of a text about the novelist Nick Hornby and a very brief description of his main works. The first 3 tasks prepare the students for the text. Task 5 prepares the language needed for task 6 which is based on describing their favourite books or films. Task 8 is only suitable for higher levels.The main focus of the lesson should be on the students' own tastes and the literature or film from their culture. You will see early on if they read much or if they would be happier discussing film plots. Take your lead from them. It is useful to consider that you may be working in a culture with a more oral tradition in the Education system. Some schools do not encourage the volume of reading that is expected in the British education system. Avoid being judgemental of this.
For lower levels you can support this lesson with visuals, it will work better. Book jackets can be found on all the Hornby sites and film stills are also available. Bring in a couple of the books you are reading to describe when introducing task 1, 2 and tasks 5 and 6. Task 7 will need extra preparation and guidance to get a controlled response.
For higher levels you can use the visual stimulus of real books of your own and book jackets from Hornby sites. You may wish to expand the descriptions of Hornby's books to make task 4 more challenging for high levels. You could also use clips from a Hornby film or an extract from his work. You can find a ready made lesson based on 'Fever pitch' on our teaching English site. Use this Essential UK lesson as an introductory lesson to your film or book extract.
1. Your tastes in books or films
Use a couple of your own books as props to introduce this theme or list 3 of the films you have seen recently on the board. Talk very briefly about each book or film and make sure you say the type of things you like most, using some of the vocabulary listed in the task.
Run through the types of book with lower levels to make sure they understand all the vocabulary.
Ask students to work in pairs with the list and to ask each other what types of film they like best.
Get a couple of examples around the class before they start.
The second question can be discussed in more depth with higher levels.
Task 1 Your tastes in books or films
Tick the type of book or film that you enjoy most.
Historical period dramas
Who do you think has had most influence on your taste?
2. All in a title
Put students in pairs to speculate about these books, but use the first title and speculate with the whole class.
Ask them if they know what a pitch is and if the book might be about sport .You will later reveal that it is not just a book about football. It is also an autobiography.
Get suggestions around the class when they have finished. Don't let this activity last long as it just provides a brief introduction to the text.
Ask if they think Hornby writes crime or adventure novels. If they have seen a film they may have preconceived ideas about his type of work.
Task 2 All in a title
Here are the titles of books and films by a mystery British writer.
About a boy
How to be good
Who is he?
What might these stories be about?
What type of books do you think they are?
3. Find out about Nick Hornby
This reading task can be done in pairs or by students working alone.
Briefly focus on the idea of passions or obsessive interests when they answer question 2. Ask them what the difference is between a passion and an interest.
Tell them that Nick wrote 'fever Pitch' as a diary based on match reports and his whole life is remembered through the reports. Ask if they think Hornby is obsessive.
Task 3 Find out about Nick Hornby
Read the text and answer these questions.
What was Nick's job before he became famous? (An English language teacher)
How did he use his passions in his job? (He wrote books about them and used football and music in his lessons when he was a teacher)
What did he write about in his first book? (His love of football and his team Arsenal)
What is the main subject of his latest work? (His favourite songs)
About a novelist
This is the story of an English teacher teaching foreign students in a language school in London. A teacher by day, but by night and at the weekends a passionate football fan and music lover. He even made lessons for his students using his favourite songs and his football results. He was a good teacher, a very good teacher. The students loved his lessons, his enthusiasms and his sense of humour, but he had one burning ambition. To become a writer. He wrote plays sent them to the BBC, he talked incessantly about music and football. If he wrote as well as he talked then he would one day get published. And he did. He became a writer, a very British writer.
Not just any writer. Nick turned his love of Arsenal Football into a diary of a fan and called the book 'Fever Pitch'. The book made him a household name and was made in to a film. Most importantly, his writing represents a generation of young British people. He continues to use his passions and personal life to make funny, sad and very readable books. His latest novel is really a group of essays. What about? Well, songs, of course.
If you love music it can be the soundtrack to your life. There are songs which stand out in time as favourites for many reasons. You might work or play with music in the background. You grew up with music or you associate music with a specific year in your life. Nick writes about that and much, much more in his latest book ' 31 songs'.
Nick's Books and films
Fever Pitch - The autobiographical account of his love of football was turned into a film starring Colin Firth
High Fidelity - Nick writes about a man who lives his life for music and dreams in lists: his top 5 worst break ups with girlfriends, his top 5 best singles of all time, his top 5 best films. This book became a film starring John Cusack.
About a boy - The tale of a single man who lives on inherited money. He meets a young boy and his mother who change his life. The story looks at the relationship between the boy and the man. This is now a film starring Hugh Grant.
How to be Good - A look at an ordinary marriage and parents through the eyes of a woman whose husband decides to be a 'good person'.
31 Songs - A description of 31 songs and why they are important to the author's life.
4. Writers and their themes
This task can be done in two parts. The first questions are based on Nick Hornby but the last three questions can be prepared in pairs or groups referring to their own culture.
When you get to the question of a writer's qualities ask pairs to think of an answer that includes two main qualities. Start them off with an example: Writers often work alone, in isolation so they need to be able to work alone and enjoy their own company.
Other possible suggestions you might get from the class: They have to believe in their ideas, be creative with a good imagination, be able to take criticism, be good observers and be patient or determined to get published. It is worth noting that Nick wrote for years before he became famous and some of his early work was rejected.
Task 4 Writers and their themes
Look at the films and book summaries.
Which book would you prefer to read?
Which film sounds good?
Have you ever read a Nick Hornby book?
Have you ever seen one of his films?
What qualities do you think Nick needed to become a famous writer?
Are there any writers in your country writing about similar themes to Nick?
Who are the most popular writers working in your country today?
What type of themes do they write about?
5. Describing stories
This task will help students find words to describe their favourite films or books.
Do the first question with the whole class and check all the vocabulary is clear.
The second question can be done in pairs or groups. They might categorise words in different ways but this just helps them to think about their meaning. Someone might group all the compound adjectives together, someone might group by association: gory, scary,spine-chilling.
A higher level group might enjoy looking at descriptions of real books so if you can bring some to class or get some book jacket descriptions from Amazon then make this in to a group work task. Each group member should select a book that might appeal to them. You can do this same exercise using descriptions of films in English and they choose a film which appeals.
Task 5 Describing stories
Look at these descriptions of stories.
Which appeal to you most?
Do you like romantic stories?
Can you put the adjectives into groups?
What type of adjectives can be used to describe Hornby's books?
6. Favourite books or films
Students should now be well prepared for the task of describing their own favourite books or films. A lower level group might need an example on the board of how to organise their description.
Build a couple of examples from the students before they work alone. When they have prepared the first 3 questions ask them questions about their choices and encourage other students to think of questions. Do this briefly and then put them in small groups to discuss their choices of film or book.
Task 6 Favourite books or films
Pick your favourite books or films. Make a top 3 list
Think of ways to describe the book or film in one or two sentences.
Choose adjectives to say what you think of the book or film.
Interview your partner about their choices. Ask them as many questions as you can about their book.
7. Your passions
Use quotes from the text to introduce this task. Nick's music was the 'soundtrack to his life' and the football was also something that dominated his life.
Ask students if they have an interest which shapes their life. Nick also had a 'burning ambition'. Ask about their ambitions. Take care to put language models on the board to help lower levels express themselves as they may mix up gerunds and infinitives.
One of my greatest passions in life is swimming / playing chess / studying the planets / cooking etc.
My three main interests are swimming / playing chess / cooking etc.
My greatest ambition is to swim in the Olympics / to become a sports writer / to swim across the Channel etc.
In the future I would like to use my knowledge of chess in my work / to use my knowledge of cookery in my job / to work with other people who like music etc.
Students can read out their efforts or display them around the room and they can all walk around and read their peers' efforts.
Another idea is to take them in as a composition and then read them aloud. Do not say who wrote them and ask if they can guess who is being described. This works well in a class who know each other quite well.
Higher levels could prepare a mini presentation on a hobby or person who interests them for the next lesson. They can then give their presentations to the whole class or work in groups of 3-4 students.
Task 7 Your passions
Nick Hornby has the pleasant job of making his interests into books that millions can enjoy. We all have passions and dreams that can be used to shape our future. Complete these sentences about yourself and think about how you could use your interests in your studies or your working life.
One of my greatest passions in life is ...
My three main interests are ...
My greatest ambition is to ...
In the future I would like to ...
8. Films of books
Introduce this task with the title of a film you have recently seen based on a well known book. 'Lord of the Rings' would be a good example. Some fans might be disappointed when they see the films of the books.
Ask why they might not like the film version.
Put students in groups to do this debating task. Manual link: see p53-54 for hints on managing discussions in class.
Task 8 Films of books
Which of these sentences do you agree with?
Films made from well known books are always a little disappointing.
If a film is good I usually want to read the book.
It is better to read a book before you see the film so you can imagine it for yourself.
A book is far richer than a film and better for your brain.
Young people in my country do not read enough.
People do not have time to read so watching a film of a book is an easier option.
Think of 3 ways to encourage more young people to read and to make reading fun
This site has a lesson plan with an extract from the book and some activities and tasks.www.teachingenglish.org.uk/download/britlit/feverpitch/feverpitch.shtml
This British Council site has background to Nick Hornby and his work.www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/?p=auth51&state=
This site has an excellent Guardian profile and interview.http://books.guardian.co.uk/authors/author/0,5917,-88,00.html
This site has a BBC profile and interviews with Nick Hornby.www.bbc.co.uk/arts/books/author/hornby/index.shtml
Essential UK links
Swap a Book day follows up the theme of reading habits in the UK and students own attitudes towards reading.
Football culture looks at the lives of football fans and attitudes towards football in the UK.
Show racism the red card looks at how there is racism in football crowds and how football can be used to combat racism. Hornby writes about the behaviour of the crowd in 'Fever Pitch'. This could be exploited with higher levels.