The concept of the text-as-world, and Text World Theory more broadly, are both increasingly gaining currency as approaches to teaching English Literature and English Language in UK classrooms at Key Stages 2 and 3.
Research on Text World Theory in the Classroom
Extensive research has recently been undertaken investigating how the text-world framework might provide a helpful pedagogical tool for use in the English classroom. The key academics working in this area are:
- Ian Cushing at University College London and Aston University
- Dr Marcello Giovanelli at Aston University
- Dr Jessica Mason at Sheffield Hallam University
Their work on text-worlds has looked at, among other things, the potential of Text World Theory as a concept-driven approach to the teaching of grammar and text analysis; text-worlds as a means of considering the context of a literary text and its impact on students’ understanding of literature; and Text World Theory as a productive approach to the creative and interactive teaching of English.
Workshops for Teachers at the University of Sheffield
Over the last few years, Ian Cushing, Marcello Giovanelli, and Jessica Mason have teamed up with Professor Joanna Gavins, the world’s leading researcher on text-worlds, to deliver a series of workshops at the University of Sheffield for teachers interested in exploring the text-world approach to pedagogy. Details of previous workshops are available here.
If you are an English teacher interested in attending a text-worlds workshops in the future, please complete this enquiry form and someone from the team will get back to you as soon as possible.
English teachers interested in finding out more about text-worlds and the use of Text World Theory in the English classroom may also find the following introductory and open-access resources helpful:
- Joanna Gavins’ 2007 book, Text World Theory: An Introduction, which is available to preview here.
- Ian Cushing’s article, ‘‘Suddenly I am part of the poem’: texts as worlds, reader-response and grammar in teaching poetry’, which is to appear in English in Education and is available free here.
- Marcello Giovanelli and Jessica Mason’s article, ‘‘Well I don’t feel that’: schemas, worlds, and authentic reading in the classroom’, which is available free here.
- Joanna Gavins and Ernestine Lahey’s 2016 book, World Building: Discourse in the Mind, which collects together a range of the most recent research on text-worlds, which is available to preview here.
Marcello Giovanelli and Jessica Mason also run the Studying Fiction blog, which applies insights from cognitive linguistics to education contexts. Their blog post on ‘Transactions and worlds: reading, interpretation and meaning’ is particularly recommended as an introduction to Text World Theory in the English classroom.
Ian Cushing has developed two lesson plans which use a text-world approach to the teaching of English and these are available to download as PowerPoint files below. Both plans were originally designed for Key Stage 3 classrooms, but could be used for Key Stage 4 also.
Text-Worlds and War Poetry
This lesson is focused on analysing Sassoon’s ‘The Rear-Guard’ poem and is designed to cover two lessons. It covers how readers can construct text-worlds for places they have never been, and things they have never experienced first hand. Next, students are asked to explore how the grammar of the text invites the reader to ‘enter’ into trench warfare, thinking about how this can be mapped into a diagram. There is then some work on how definiteness can create a sense of conceptual proximity and claustrophobia in trench warfare. Finally, there is some work on textual attractors, and then some work on the significance of Sassoon’s verb choices. The lesson ends by providing some contextual information about Sassoon.
Building Worlds from Words
This lesson explores how text-worlds can be used as a creative writing tool. Students are asked to discuss some of the challenges that a writer faces when thinking of the reading process, and the way that text-worlds are likely to be constructed in their readers’ minds. It does this through looking at the extent to which we ‘gap-fill’ when reading. Students are shown a short poem, which is used as a springboard for a creative writing task. Finally, they are asked to provide an analysis of their own writing, where they reflect on their own linguistic choices.