BritLit was started in 2002 by APPI and the British Council in Portugal. It was their first joint project. The original idea was simple enough: to produce teaching resources (called ‘kits’: for example, ‘Quick kits’ and ‘Meet the Author kits’) for teachers in years 10 and 11 to help them use the extensive reading options more effectively. The result has been a much bigger project than was originally envisaged: for example, the concentration on using contemporary British authors has led to some of those authors visiting the country and working with teachers and students – Benjamin Zephaniah, Levi Tafari, Melvin Burgess, Menna Elfyn, to name but a few; teachers themselves have become the main creators of the resource materials through a training programme in the UK; the demand for using ‘literature’ has extended beyond just years 10 and 11 and, by 2005, included materials for years 8 and 9 and the development of a new kind of approach by creating classroom activities for primary through storytelling.

BritLit has become one of the most exciting English language teaching projects in the world, and its on-line materials have been used by hundreds of thousands of teachers across the planet. Later BritLit has expanded to work actively with teachers in Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic. BritLit Spain and BritLit Italy joined the project in 2006.

And it all began with APPI and the British Council in Portugal.

BritLit kits:

Resource kits for Primary learners:

The four poems (Robin Hood Rap, I wanna be a star, Key, Arabian nights ) in this collection are all by Tony Mitton, and the materials are the first to be designed by BritLit for the age range 9 – 11-year-olds. Each collection includes text and audio of the poem as well as learning activities, teachers’ notes and visual support.

'Down by the Cool of the Pool” is a rhyming text written by Tony Mitton. Join Frog and his farmyard friends as they dance around the pool. Flip and flop, splish and splash, stomp and stamp! This little story has lots of noises for children to have fun with. It’s guaranteed to make them all laugh!

A look at vocabulary and language based on animals and their environments.

Resource kits for younger teens (13 – 14 years):

Louise Cooper’s stories usually have a twist in the tale, and this is no different. It starts off ordinarily enough with a king, a crying princess and a poor suitor for the princess’s hand. So, what happens to cheer the princess up? Probably not what you think…

Seen through the eyes of a young teenager, this story deals with an invention that does what it was supposed to do but with unforeseen consequences. At the end of the story we are left wondering who is really who.

Like most of Louise Cooper’s stories from ‘Short and Scary’, this very short story has a twist in the tale that should have your students talking for ages – and coming up with their own ideas.

A fantastic invention causes the narrator, a young teenager, to get into a lot of trouble at school. But why does the school’s Principal suddenly make it easy for him?

All seems to be going well on the cruise ship when suddenly there is a most unusual disruption. Louise Cooper’s very short story, previously unpublished, forms the basis of the latest kit for younger teens.

Children’s laureate Michael Rosen has a way of presenting vexing questions in verse.  In ‘Orange Juice’ the voice of a youngster is heard wondering how to get revenge on the thief who keeps stealing the orange juice left on the doorstep each morning by the milkman.

The traditional story of Little Red Riding Hood receives a curious twist in this offering by Louise Cooper.  The kit has been produced by teachers from Italy, Spain and Portugal and is suitable for a range of abilities and ages.

Resource kits for secondary level:

‘Celebr8’ is a poem about inclusion and diversity.  It is by the Liverpool based poet Levi Tafari, himself of Jamaican origin.  This short kit has been produced to support the newly launched British Council project ‘Inclusion and Diversity in Education’ (INDIE) which encourages young future leaders from a variety of backgrounds to take the initiative in promoting diversity in the own schools.

‘Ullswater’ is based on the short story by Romesh Gunesekera. It is about the relationship between two very different brothers and how various factors have caused them to grow apart. One brother describes their relationship to his nephew who wants to know more about who his father really was and why he committed suicide.

‘Lucky’ is the story of a young woman who has recently left school and is working, temporarily, in an office where she falls, she thinks, in love with her boss.

This kit was written by teachers in Hungary and uses a number of poems from Scottish writers to examine life in the Capital of Scotland.

This short story examines life as seen from the point of view of a young coma victim. Like all of Melvin’s stories, this one is direct and uncompromising.

A view of his home city and life in Liverpool by one of its poets.

This short story is based on a real-life event, when the father of a murder victim planned to kill his son’s murderer while visiting him in prison.

The celebrated writer of many science fiction books, including ‘2001 – A Space Odyssey’, wrote this very short story to capture an imagined moment in post-nuclear war Britain – at Shakespeare’s birthplace, no less.

Romesh’s short story examines the conflict caused by a young woman whose other has announced the arrival of a stranger that she wants her daughter to marry. Will the boyfriend help to give the answer she wants?

The film of ‘Bend it Like Beckham’ deals with the problem of young Indian girl living in West London who is a talented football player – without the knowledge of her disapproving, conservative parents. While referring to the film, the activities in this kit relate especially to the pivotal Chapter 7 of the ensuing book.

In war torn Colombo , Sri Lanka , this story tells how a young returnee from London is brought into a personal conflict of loyalty when he tries to help his employee.

Malpass’s delightful and eccentric tale concerns the accidental landing of a spacecraft in technology-hater Grandfather Griffith’s farm in Wales . The story is akin to a moralistic folk tale with a modern setting, and the kit deals with, amongst other things, alternative technology and Welsh culture.

This creepy, classic tale tells the story of a young man who finds himself lodging at a strange house in the City of Bath , where two of its earlier inhabitants seem to have mysteriously disappeared. Will he suffer the same fate? The kit deals with mystery, poisoning and embalming, amongst other delights.

This little tale is set just before Christmas in Liverpool, and details the fortunes of a barely functional family visiting a pantomime, Peter Pan, where the father needs more than the handclaps of fairies to help him live through the evening.

A ‘normal’ family goes away for the weekend to their country house. Routine is destroying them, but only the wife/mother/homemaker is aware of the fractures in the family. This story and the accompanying kit deals with family relationships as well as male/female roles and looks hard at family life.

This project is something out of the ordinary for BritLit as it supports a major piece of performance poetry. The materials here have been designed to support a series of workshops and performances of ‘Chinese Whispers’ by Francesca Beard, one of the UK’s leading performance poets.

‘Billy Elliot’ is the story of a boy from a coal mining family who decides to be a ballet dancer. His decision causes, perhaps predictably, a great deal of family controversy. The novel by Melvin Burgess is based on the film of the same name. This is BritLit’s first foray into the world of full-length novels.

‘The Hand that Feeds Me’ is a story by the American born writer Michael Z. Lewin, who lives in Bath in England. The narrator has a different view of the city from most people. This kit was written by a group of teachers from Italy, Spain and Portugal who attended the NILE (Norwich Institute for Language Education) course in Norwich in August 2008.

The story ‘Moses’s Little Brother’ was written by Ron Butlin, who is from Scotland. The activities that go with it are suitable for secondary age students. The story can be seen as both a political statement and a demonstration of the argument between faith and rational thought.

These three short kits were the result of a collaborative event in Segovia, Spain, between the organisers of the Hay Festival Segovia 2008 and the British Council, Spain. Teachers and teacher trainers from the Comunidades de Castilla León and Madrid were invited for a one-day event which melded specialist BritLit workshops and events with public events featuring authors.
The three kits are:
‘Cold Knap Lake’ – a poem by Gillian Clarke
‘Not Yet My Mother’ – a poem by Owen Sheers
‘Gone to Sea’ – a short story by Michael Morpurgo

The kit is based on the short story of the same name by author Andrea Levy. It concerns a woman, the narrator, seeking change for a ten-pound note in the National Portrait Gallery in London who strikes up a reluctant conversation with a young woman whose plight gradually becomes revealed. The narrator is plunged into a moral conflict, and the reader is drawn into the hard realities of the life of refugees and how they are treated.


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