TAVI, TALO and TASP through the prism of Virginia Woolf
Oct 29, 2010 Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) 4984 Views
In this paper I intend to present the way three texts written by Virginia Woolf can be used in a reading skill centered classroom. The paper will argue for the need of using authentic material in EFL lessons and will target three fundamental ways of applying any reading text. A further goal of the paper is to present different ideas as to how to make reading skill centered classes more fun and entertaining. As Collie and Slater
(1991) have asserted ‘literature is authentic material…Recent course materials have quite rightly incorporated many authentic samples of language – for example, travel timetables, city plans, forms, pamphlets, cartoons, adverts, newspaper or magazine articles. Learners are thus exposed to language that is as genuine and undistorted as can be managed in the classroom context. Literature is a valuable complement to such materials, especially once the initial survival level has been passed.” In this article, I will show that the survival level can be passed by looking at authentic material through the prism of Virginia Woolf’s works.
What is TAVI, TALO and TASP?
As John and Davies (1983) have phrased it, there are three ways to handle a text in the modern EFL classroom: use it as TAVI, TALO or TASP. These acronyms stand for the following concepts and imply the below-listed purposes as Clandfield (2010) has elaborated on them:
TALO: Text as a linguistic object
A TALO text is used for language work, specifically grammar or vocabulary. They are written especially with a pedagogical purpose in mind; they could be authentic texts the teacher has chosen because they contain lots of examples of a particular feature of language and they could be authentic texts "adapted" to contain or highlight certain features of language.
TAVI: Text as a vehicle for information
A TAVI text has a different focus. Information within the text is seen as more important than the language. Students should understand the overall meaning of a text instead of (or at least before) the finer points of detail.
TASP: Text as a springboard for production or Text as a Stimulus for Production. This means using a text as a springboard for another task - usually a reading or writing task. TASP approaches also fit well with the communicative approach.
I would still like to rely on Clandfield’s (ibid.) clarification on different methodologies applied in receptive skill centered classrooms. She states that a hundred years ago a teacher would use a text for translation with the students with the aim of explaining the differences between L 1 and L2. Fifty years ago, a text was used to highlight a specific language point; thus grammar was still divorced from context. Fifteen years ago a text was used much more interestingly than earlier as the focus had shifted on the general meaning of a text.
We firmly believe that a reading skill centered lesson has to be planned based on one of these three possible EFL applications of a text and we also find it important that two sub-skills – scanning and skimming – need to be mastered since people scan and skim through texts most of the time. However, there has been one particular voice, that of Thornbury (2008), that has expressed some skepticism towards the need for teaching sub-skills. In order to support my view, I am citing Bress (2010) who has said that “reading can play an extremely important role in people’s life. Those students who are skilled at reading in English stand to gain a lot from this skill; those that don’t are missing out on a huge universe of ideas.”
For our students not to miss out on the acquisition of reading skill in L2 and its sub-skills, it is necessary to bring in authentic reading material for the lesson. Focus will now be laid on how these three texts written by Virginia Woolf, one of the greatest literary figures of the 20th century English prose, can be used to maximize their benefit. Several types of activities will be presented that can potentially be done with these quotations. The activities are only lesson stages and are not meant to fill up the whole class time. The texts are realively short and are intended for student at an intermediate level of English. The reason for using the English writer’s books for the ESL classes is twofold: a lot of linguistic information can be got from them and they are wonderfully entertaining. Virginia Woolf’s texts are well suited for the learners to acquire new adjectives and to see the beauty of the texture of English words.
V. Woolf for TALO
Quote taken from ‘To the lighthouse’
“He read one of them every six months, he said. And why should that make Charles Tansley angry? He rushed in…and denounced the Waverely novels when he knew nothing about it, nothing about it whatsoever, Mrs. Ramsay thought, observing him rather than listening to what he said. She could see how it was from his manner – he wanted to assert himself, and so it would always be with him till he got his Professorship or married his wife, and so need not be always saying, ’I-I-I.’ For that was what his criticism of poor Walter , or perhaps it was Jane Austen, amounted to. He was thinking of himself and the impression he was making, as she could tell by the sound of his voice, and his emphasis and his uneasiness (Woolf, 1969).”
We can see that this text contains a lot of verbs in past simple. Therefore, it can easily be used as the object for reinforcing the teaching of the simple past tense. The teacher can prepare for the lesson by making it a gap-fill text by taking out the past tense verbs: ’thought’, ‘rushed’, ‘married’, etc. and by finding a picture illustrating these verbs. The pictures need to be handed around the classroom and as students read out the text loudly, they have to pay attention to the gaps and show the picture the signification of which fits into that particular gap. Doing this activity, the learners simultaneously master the skill of scanning and skimming as they need to keep paying attention to which words have been used and which ones are to be still placed into the gaps.
A detached house for verb families
During the second reading of the text in pairs, students now see the whole body without gap. The pairs have to write the infinitive form of the verbs and their corresponding past simple forms on slips of paper. A picture of the cross-section of a two-storey house is given to each pair. After writing the words on the slips of papers, they have to put the first form on the first floor of the house and the second, i.e.: past simple forms on the second floor.
V. Woolf for TAVI
Quote taken from ‘Flush’
“In Wimpole Street Miss Barrett could not eat her dinner. Was her dog, Flush dead, or was Flush alive? She did not know. At eight o’clock there was a rap on the door; it was the usual letter from Mrs Browning. But as the door opened to admit the letter, something rushed in also;- Flush. He made straight for his purple jar. It was filled three times over; and still he drank. Miss Barrett watched the dazed, bewildered dirty dog, drinking. ‘He was not so enthusiastic about seeing me as I expected,’ she remarked. No, there was only one thing in the world he wanted-clean water.
After all, Miss Barrett had but glanced at the faces of those men and she remembered them all her life. Flush had been at their mercy in their midst for five whole days. Now as she lay on cushions once more, cold water was the only thing that seemed to have any substance, any reality. He drank continually. The old gods of the bedroom – the bookcase, the wardrobe, thus busts – seemed to have lost their substance. This room was no longer the whole world; it was only a shelter (Woolf 1978).”
Prior to reading, as the topic of the lesson, a discussion can be elicited about students’ opinions on keeping domestic animals. They can also get involved in a discussion focusing on their personal experiences with animals. After the discussion, one group of the class has to scan through the first paragraph, the other one has to scan through the second paragraph. Each group has to predict what beginning or end is implied in the text. Once they get back into forming the whole class again, they discuss among one another what the beginning and the end is. Thus, pyramid reading is done.
For the second reading of the text, the class is divided into groups and they have to work together on drawing pictures related to the text: picture of a dog, of cushions, purple jar, bookcase, etc. The winning group has the most images drawn. Once the whole class joins together, they have to select the best picture by voting. After doing this, they have to reorder the images in the chronological order as the words follow one another in the text.
Point of order (Collie; Slater, 1991)
Following the first two activities, students get one sentence each from the text. They have to stick the sentences on their chest and sit down on a chair. After the teacher has explained that their task is to unscramble the text, students stand up, check each other’s sentences and in the form of cooperative group work they sit down in an order that corresponds to the text.
V. Woolf for TASP
Quote taken from ‘Why?’
“What could be easier than to write articles and to buy Persian cats with the profits? But wait a moment. Articles have to be about something. Mine, I seem to remember, was about a novel by a famous man. And while I was writing this review, I discovered that if I were going to review books I should need to do battle with a certain phantom. And the phantom was a woman, and when I came to know her better I called her after the heroine of a famous poem, The Angel in the House. It was she who used to come between me and my paper when I was writing reviews. It was she who bothered me and wasted my time and so tormented me that at last I killed her. You who come of a younger and happier generation may not have heard of her – you may not know what I mean by the Angel in the House. I will describe her as shortly as I can. She was intensely sympathetic. She was immensely charming. She was utterly unselfish. She excelled in the difficult arts of family life. She sacrificed herself daily. If there was chicken, she took the leg; if there was a draught she sat in it – in short she was so constituted that she never had a mind or a wish of her own, but preferred to sympathize always with the minds and wishes of others. Above all- I need not say it – she was pure… Thus, whenever I felt the shadow of her wing or the radiance of her halo upon my page, I took up the inkpot and flung it at her. She died hard. Her fictitious nature was of great assistance to her. It was harder to kill a phantom than a reality (Woolf, 1961)”
Character in search of an author
Based on this text, the teacher can jump start a very engaging and productive task. Firstly, the class has to agree on a title of this excerpt. Secondly, after reading the text, students are put into groups or pairs. The partners working in the same group or pair have to find a fictitious character. They have to write an article about him or her in a fictitious newspaper. They are required to use a lot of adjectives as Virginia Woolf does in this excerpt. The teams have to produce this imagined piece of writing for an imagined newspaper. They also have to verbally express their feeling towards their own created ‘hero’.
Visual text associations
For the second round of reading the text, the material is cut up into pieces of three sentences. Each group gets a card with only three sentences on it. They have to draw a picture which they think best associates with the given paragraph. They then have to place the pictures on the board with bluetack. Once it is done, the paragraphs are collected and given out so each group will get a different paragraph this time. They have to match the parts of the text with the picture drawn by some other group. Following that, teacher elicits a discussion on why they have chosen to draw that particular image associated with the paragraphs and what the rest of the class thinks of that choice.
Sealing the times capsule (Collie; Slater, 1991)
The groups have to read the text again and have to work out a possible ending of the text. They need to write it down and once they are done with that, the teacher opens up a box, a time capsule, which the students have to put their written endings into. They seal the capsule for up until the next session when the teacher brings in the whole original text and has the class see which group has had the closest guess as to the ending.
The paper’s aim has been twofold. Firstly, it has been necessary to elaborate on the meanings of the concept of using text as TAVI, TALO or TASP. Secondly, it has been asserted that literature can definitely be used for its maximum purpose in the EFL classroom. It has also been argued for that the using of authentic material can be executed in an entertaining way; thus making the lessons more lively and dynamic. Special highlight has been thrown on the development of reading material in the classes taking a retrospective look at how teachers applied them a hundred, fifty and fifteen years ago.
Bress, Paul. 2010. ‘Reading skills? What are they and how do we teach them?’ In Modern English Teacher Vol 17 No 3.
Clandfield, Lindsey. 2010. Text in language classrooms: TALO, TAVI and TASP downloaded from
Collie, Joanne; Slater, Stephen. 1991. Literature in the language classroom. Camridge, Cambridge University Press
John T., Davies F. Text as a vehicle for information: the classroom use of written texts in teaching reading in a foreign language, Reading in a Foreign Language, 1 (1), pp. 1-19. (1983)
Thornbury, Scott. 2008. The end of reading? downloaded from http://www.onestopenglish.com/section.asp?catid=59754&docid=144668
Woolf, Virginia. 1978. Flush. New York, Penguin Books
Woolf, Virginia. 1969. To the Lighthouse. New York, Penguin Books
Woolf, Virginia. 1961. ‘Why?’ In Woolf, Virginia. The Death of the Moth and Other Essays. New York, Penguin Books