Creativity and collaboration: Introducing the Literature in Language Teaching SIG

Simon Bibby & Tara McIlroy


Amongst the growing variety in the garden of JALT Special Interest Groups is the Literature in Language Teaching (LiLT) SIG. A newly sprung collection of teachers and researchers is joining together for the first time to promote literature in the language classroom in Japan.  This introduction to the SIG invites JALT members to join us during this time of growth. Here we’ll also explain a bit about our motives and goals for the SIG.

Why: creating the LiLT SIG

Literature is widely used in language classrooms in Japan. However, for some of us already involved in teaching literature or those with a literature background, it seemed unusual that no literature SIG was created in JALT before now. Indeed, in 2010, when we looked around for a place to discuss literature with other JALT members we found that literature was distinctly conspicuous by its absence from the SIG scene.  In contrast, the UK’s IATEFL Literature, Media Studies and Culture SIG is both well established and highly active, with a yahoo group boasting 600 members. Rather than try to tack on our current interests to another SIG less focused on literature, the LiLT SIG was created. This now means that for the first time in Japan, JALT members can find a place dedicated to active discussion about literature in EFL.

Here’s what LiLT is all about, from our website mission statement:

Literature in Language Teaching (LiLT) SIG formed in 2011 to encourage and promote the use of literature in the language classroom. Appropriately chosen literature provides real content, to engage and motivate our language students. The literature itself provides ready-made context for learning that is so often lacking in our EFL situation. <>

What: current goals & future directions

As a JALT SIG, our collaboration with other branches of the JALT tree is vital to our growth. We plan to develop these links and focus on three key areas:

  • Conference support: In 2012 our key aim was to support a variety of literature-themed events around Japan. We plan to continue this commitment in 2013. We’ll be at PanSIG in May; attending for the first time. Anyone interested in submitting a proposal linked with literature is encouraged to make contact with the SIG. Collaborative projects are particularly welcomed.
  • Forums and promotion: To share ideas about research and teaching the SIG has established an online forum for members, which also serves as a place where ideas can be developed. All SIG members are invited to join this group.
  • Publication: the SIG has created a peer-reviewed publication, the Journal of Literature in Language Teaching which will be a biannual journal from 2013. Information about submissions is available on our SIG website < >. This will be freely available in keeping with the trend towards open-source peer-reviewed work.

Who: warmly welcoming a range of interests

This SIG is for those already teaching literature in Japan as well as anyone interested in using literature to teach culture, media, film, and the humanities. The LiLT SIG brings together people who want to bring literature into focus in ELT in Japan. At the JALT National Conference this year, new SIG members expressed both relief and happiness that finally a group with their interests in mind had finally been created. Current members hold a range of positions in universities and schools across Japan.

From little acorns, the SIG has been growing steadily, and soon expects to make the significant move upward from ‘forming’ to ‘affiliate’ status in the JALT garden. This also means we are growing in number while growing in diversity. We’d like to create a model for understanding literature’s impact and its role and impact in language teaching in Japan. Our members are very much welcomed to join the SIG executive team to volunteer time, skills, and ideas to the SIG’s development. Speak to one of the current chairs to find out more about volunteering with the SIG. Reach us through our website < >. Send us an email <> to make contact. To join the SIG, please tick the Literature in Language Teaching SIG box when you are renewing your JALT membership. 

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