October 25, 2016
by Nora Nagy

Passionate about Pride and Prejudice

9783990454183_cvr_Pride and Prejudice.inddElizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy have become such familiar names for so many of us that we feel as if we know them and most likely our students do, too. Teaching with literature, and especially teaching with Jane Austen’s works is fun, just think of how entertaining, witty and modern her novels are. Let’s get passionate about literature and explore Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in class.

Pride and Prejudice is one of our latest additions to the Helbling Readers Blue Classics series, adapted by Elspeth Rawstron, and illustrated by Sara Menetti. The book was originally published in 1813, and it has lent itself to many adaptations, just think of the 1995 BBC TV series with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, and the 2005 film with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. The book has also inspired contemporary adaptations like Bridget Jones’s Diary films and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, an American web series presented in the form of vlogs.

We have collected some paths into the novel which you can follow in your English lesson. We would like to approach the text through projects which focus on its themes, language, characters, locations and the film adaptations.

We recommend these projects for students from the age of 13-14 until adult, with an intermediate level of English or higher.

1 Three themes for discussion

It may seem obvious to start with the title, but the words pride and prejudice demand for clarification and offer great discussion opportunities. Ask your students to think of their circle of friends or their own town (the scope of society Jane Austen focuses on in her novels). Can they remember any examples of communication when pride or prejudice ruled the discussions and the participants’ behaviour?

Thanks to computer-based corpus analysis of novels, now we know that an important key word in the novel is civility. In a study Michaela Mahlberg argues that by studying the context in which this key word occurs, we learn that in the novel civility is connected to the following definition of the concept by Sarah Emsley: ideally (civility is) the outward manifestation of real goodness, politeness based on respect, tolerance, and understanding’, whereas in practice, it ‘has a great deal to do with … maintaining social niceties even when does not feel like being polite’. (Mahlberg, 296)

Before reading the novel, think of examples of this concept of civility in your own lives. What are social niceties? Do you have to maintain them? Why is it important to manifest goodness, politeness and respect, tolerance and understanding? How can you practise these attitudes in your own life?

Further themes in the novel are love, marriage, fashion and lifestyle. If you go to the last page of the Helbling Reader adaptation of the novel, you will find discussion questions based on these themes.


Close-up on characters

As Ron Carter and John McRae phrase it in the The Routledge History of Literature in English, Jane Austen ‘applies the microscope to human character and motivation, with no great didactic, moral, or satiric purpose, but with a gentle irony and perspicacity, which make her novels unique, as representations of universal patterns of human behavior, and as documentation of an aspect of a provincial society of her time.’ (Carter and McRae, 258)

Imagine observing people around you with a microscope. What will you see? How different are we? What motivates people around you? Pride and Prejudice, just like other novels, offers heroes, villains, major and minor characters, and they are all equally important and amusing for the readers. Study this page from the Helbling Reader edition to learn more about the major characters of the novel. Then, when you are reading the story, use our Character Analyzer card from our Book Club Starter Kit.


Here are some more points to consider while you are reading the novel.

  • What motivates the character?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of his or her personality?
  • Does s/he change during the novel?
  • Why does s/he get into conflicts with other characters?
  • Collect adjectives which best describe the characters.
  • Who is the most and the least likeable character in the novel?

You can also focus on minor characters like the Bennet sisters’ father, and analyze them, then give a summary of the story from their perspective.

Looking at location

Open a map or Google Maps on your computer, and find the following places in Britain. Find and describe some photographs of the countryside around these places.

  • Hertfordshire
  • Derbyshire
  • Blenheim
  • Oxford
  • Kenilworth
  • Birmingham
  • Warwickshire


Pemberley, the home of Mr Darcy is a fictional place in the story, but it was represented in many film adaptations of the novel. First, find a description of the place in the novel. Then, go to this website and see examples of real places which can help us visualize the place.

Other imaginary places

Longbourn, the residence of the Bennet family and Netherfield, the residence of the Bignleys are also imaginary places in Derbyshire. Rosings is the residence of Lady Catherine is supposedly in Kent. These homes are designed in different architectural styles, representing different lifestyles of different social classes. Find examples of these places in film adaptations and compare them.

Language then and now

The language is Jane Austen is witty and humorous, and although she writes in modern English, but we can spot differences in her English and present-day English (Carter and McRae, 259).

Look at various examples from the adapted edition of the novel, and you will find interesting examples of language usage even in the graded language of the adaptation.

In Chapter 1, Mr and Mrs Bennet talk about the new neighbour. Act out the scene and then work in pairs to rewrite it so that it sounds more like a conversation today.



In Chapter 2, Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy talk during a dance. Act out these scene, then repeat it in a way you would have this conversation today in a club.


Two opening scenes

The opening scenes of the 1995 BBC TV series and the 2005 film adaptation of the novel set very different atmospheres for the stories. While you are watching the first few minutes of the film, pay attention to the following points. Create a chart and answer the following questions about the two opening scenes.

  • Which characters appear?
  • Where are they?
  • What is the weather like?
  • What sounds can you hear?
  • What colours dominate the scene?
  • How do the characters feel?
  • What is the mood of the scene?
  • How are the characters dressed?

Would you like some more projects? Go to our project-based lesson to travel back to the early 1800s with Jane Austen’s Emma.


Carter, Ron and John McRae (1997) The Routledge History of Literature in English: Britain and Ireland. London: Routledge, 1997.

Michaela Mahlberg (2010) Corpus Linguistics and the Study of Nineteenth-Century Fiction, Journal of Victorian Culture, 15:2, 292-298, DOI: 10.1080/13555502.2010.491667


October 18, 2016
by Nora Nagy

Meet our favourite classic ghosts

Illustration from the Helbling Reader adaptation of The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde. Illustrated by Gianluca Garofalo e Matteo Vattani. © Helbling Languages

Illustration from the Helbling Reader adaptation of The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde. Illustrated by Gianluca Garofalo e Matteo Vattani. © Helbling Languages

Ghosts might be scary, but we all enjoy reading tales of the supernatural and are captured by the thrills and mystery of good ghost stories. To many readers, good ghost stories are sophisticated and entertaining, and while some of them leave us doubting and analysing what exactly happened in them, others often reveal a logical explanation behind the mystery.

Ghosts and spirits are present in all cultural traditions, folklore and literature. They gain different significance in different eras from ancient times through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance right up to the present day.

As Halloween approaches we take a look at the supernatural from a multicultural perspective.

We recommend the following discussion questions and titles for teens at an intermediate (or higher) level. 


  1. What do ghosts represent in different cultures?
  2. Are they present in your folklore?
  3. Do you know any famous ghost stories?
  4. Have you seen any films about ghosts?
  5. How are ghosts depicted in paintings and films?
  6. Have you read or heard about any friendly ghosts? What do they represent?
  7. What is the scientific verdict on ghosts?
  8. What do ghosts symbolise?


Today we will look at five gripping classic ghost stories which will undoubtedly get your students hooked on reading. Each one depicts a different aspect of ghost phenomenology so they can also serve as an excellent cultural and literary overview of the genre in American and British literature.

When we talk about ghost stories in modern literature, we need to mention The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole (1764), which is the first classic Gothic story, the predecessor of all ghost stories. Many of the ghost stories which followed rely on this novel for atmosphere, plot and setting.

Let’s meet our favourite ghosts now.

Sleepy Hollow COVERTHE LEGENDARY GHOST: The Headless Horseman

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

This is the story of Ichabod Crane, a superstitious schoolmaster who arrives in Sleepy Hollow. Ichabod falls in love with Katrina van Tassel, a wealthy farmer’s daughter, but he must compete with the strong, handsome Brom Bones for her hand. When Ichabod is invited to a party at Katrina’s house, will he able to convince the young girl to marry him? And how does the terrifying ‘Headless Horseman’ change his life forever?

THE COMICAL GHOST: The Canterville Ghost

The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde

When an American family buy an old English mansion, they also inherit its terrible ghost. The ghost sets about frightening the new owners, but the Americans don’t frighten easily and the ghost gets more than he had bargained for.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, adapted by Elspeth Rawstron, illustrated by Valentina Mai.

THE CHRISTMAS GHOSTS: Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Ebenezer Scrooge is a mean and lonely old man. But one Christmas Eve three ghosts come to visit him and scare him into changing his ways. Scrooge discovers that there is more to life than work and money and that kindness has its own rewards.


The Masque of Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe

The story is set in an unnamed time and place. A terrible disease, the Red Death, is spreading rapidly throughout the land, killing everyone it meets. Prince Prospero, along with one thousand noble friends, escapes to an isolated abbey where he is sure they will be happy and safe. After several months he organises a fancy dress ball in a set of rooms that have been decorated in different colours. The last room is decorated in black and has a black clock that rings every hour. However on the stroke of midnight an uninvited guest arrives, dressed as the Red Death. 

9783990454169_cvr_The Turn of the Screw.inddTHE CREEPIEST GHOSTS: Miss Jessel and Peter Quint in The Turn of the Screw

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

When a young girl accepts a position as governess to look after Flora and Miles little does she know that her job will be so difficult. Both children seem perfect and charming but after a few weeks at the grand house of Bly two strange figures appear. Are these figures real people or ghosts? And what influence do they have on the children? Can the governess protect Flora and Miles?


After reading some or all of these ghost stories, discuss the following questions to direct your students’ attention to the functional and cultural role of the ghosts in the individual texts.

  • What do the ghosts in each story represent?
  • How do you feel about the ghosts?
  • How superstitious are the people who keep the legend of these ghosts alive? Why do they do so?
  • Do any of the stories leave their readers in doubt?
  • Where are the stories set?
  • What is the relationship between the ghosts and the other characters in the stories?
  • What historical events happened at the time of the stories?


In this article about ghosts and Victorian literature, you can read about a socio-economical explanation of the popularity of ghosts in the era. Read this article (or ask your higher-level students to read it) and tell your class about the findings. Remember to discuss the following points:

  • servants in cities: ‘Never seen, always heard’,
  • invisible staircases,
  • invention of photography.


  • William Shakespeare: Hamlet
  • M. R. James: ‘Lost Hearts’
  • James Joyce: ‘The Dead’
  • Edith Wharton: Bewitched
  • Daphne du Maurier: Rebecca
  • Toni Morrison: Beloved
  • Stephen King: The Shining


How do you recognise a good ghost story? It’s about the setting, the characters, the plot, and of course the language. We have collected the most typical words which are related to ghost stories, and then we look at some expressions with ghosts.

5.1 Use the word collection to write your own or talk about your favourite ghosts stories. 

NOUNS: spirit, dead/undead, spectre, presence, shadow, spook

ADJECTIVES: ghostly, spooky, creepy

VERBS: haunt, creak, shrill, flicker, appear, fleet

5.2 Read our selection of expressions with ghosts. Do you know any of them? What do they mean?

  1. You look like you have seen a ghost.
  2. You haven’t got a ghost of a chance.
  3. My car has given up the ghost.
  4. His book was written by a ghostwriter.
  5. He’s ghosting  me.

October 13, 2016
by Nora Nagy

Halloween-inspired writing lessons      


The Headless Horseman in the Helbling reader adaptation of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. Illustration by Giuseppe Palumbo. © Helbling Languages

There’s no denying it, Halloween has a special atmosphere, whether or not it is part of your cultural heritage. What’s more it has its place in the English class and our students love the idea of Halloween parties and scary stories.

Use this opportunity to have some fun writing lessons built around spooky readers. We have two different activities you can start with. The activities are aimed at B1 level students, adjust  according to the language level and interests of your students. Continue Reading →

October 11, 2016
by Nora Nagy

Language and CLIL Projects for World Food Day

‘Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too.’

World Food Day, an event promoted by the United Nations’ World Agricultural Organisation is held on October 16th. This year’s theme revolves around climate change and agriculture. How can we approach this theme in class? And why is it so important that we do?

We need to eat to survive, and as a consequence, food, diets and eating habits are part of every English course book, and are recurring themes not only in everyday conversations but in exams as well, either in reading or writing tasks. Learning the vocabulary of food, food preparation and a healthy diet is an essential step in our learning, but looking at the question of food from different perspectives creates a deeper and wider context for the theme. We have collected some activities and projects to help you bring this theme into your classrooms, both with young learners, teens and young adults. Continue Reading →

October 6, 2016
by Nora Nagy

Five new classic readers

We are excited to announce the publication of five new classic titles in our Helbling Readers Fiction series for teen and young adult language learners. These new books feature a series of popular stories from a wide range of eras and styles, and readers of diverse interests will find something to enjoy. Do encourage higher-level readers to read books below their language level, too. Not only does this allow your students to ‘rest’ their active learning skills and get into the story and read for pleasure, but it also consolidates the language they know and builds their confidence. We all enjoy reading the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, the adventures of Robinson Crusoe and the lessons of mischievous yet kindhearted Katy. Pre-intermediate and intermediate level readers can enjoy the spooky and unforgettable story of the Turn of the Screw, and the evergreen Pride and Prejudice with the one of the most popular couples in literary history, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy.

Please do come back in November as we will be offering lesson plans and projects for the stories and their major themes, authors and film adaptations.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

King Arthur

by Howard Pyle, adapted by Scott Lauder and Walter McGregor, illustrated by Roberto Tomei

Britain is a sad and dangerous place. The kingdom needs a true and good king. One day Arthur comes to the cathedral and pulls the sword from the stone. Only the true King of England can do this. From that day Arthur becomes King Arthur. Follow the adventures of King Arthur, Merlin, the Knights of the Round Table, Lady Guinevere and Sir Lancelot and decide for yourselves if you think the legend is real or not.

Robinson Crusoe 

by Daniel Defoe, adapted by Jennifer Gascoigne, illustrated by Arianna Vairo

Robinson Crusoe looked for adventure from an early age. He preferred life at sea and travelling to new places to an easy life at home. Then on one journey he was shipwrecked and forced to make his home on a desert island, alone. Robinson has a choice. He can give up all hope or fight to survive. What will Robinson decide and will he ever be able to escape from the island and return home to England?

What Katy Did 

by Susan Coolidge, adapted by Geraldine Sweeney, illustrated by Francesca Galmozzi

Katy Carr likes running around. She wants to set a good example to her five brothers and sisters but she is always untidy and forgetful. She also dreams of being grown up and famous. Then, one terrible day all her dreams seem to come to an end. Katy feels very sorry for herself until Cousin Helen comes to stay and she teaches Katy an invaluable lesson. Will Katy be able to learn from her situation and become the Katy everyone knows and loves again?

The Turn of the Screw

by Henry James, adapted by Jennifer Gascoigne, illustrated by Francesca Protopapa

When a young girl accepts a position as governess to look after Flora and Miles little does she know that her job will be so difficult. Both children seem perfect and charming but after a few weeks at the grand house of Bly two strange figures appear. Are these figures real people or ghosts? And what influence do they have on the children? Can Miss Jessel protect Flora and Miles?

Pride and Prejudice 

by Jane Austen, adapted by Elspeth Rawstron, illustrated by Sara Menetti

Mrs Bennet’s main purpose in life is to see her five daughters married. She is very happy when
a handsome rich gentleman, Mr Bingley, arrives in the neighbourhood, and falls in love with her eldest daughter Jane. However, when her sister, the clever and witty Elizabeth, meets his handsome and wealthier friend, Mr Darcy, she hates him. Little do Elizabeth and Mr Darcy both know that this is to be the beginning of a wonderful love story. Will the couple be able to overcome his pride and her prejudice and fall in love?