LEISURE LEARNING IN LORDSTOWN Coffeehouse ambiance perks up British lit class

Students say the decor provides a more relaxed classroom atmosphere.
LORDSTOWN -- Rather than sitting at rows of desks under the glare of fluorescent lights, students in Bonnie Auletta's class gather on couches and round tables for their English lessons.
Auletta decorated the room with lamps and dangling white lights and drawings and posters of British writers to create the atmosphere of a British coffeehouse. The students can even drink coffee during class.
"I did some research, and during the 17th and 18th centuries, there were 500 to 750 coffeehouses in Britain," Auletta said.
The coffeehouses were a fashionable gathering place and work space for early British writers, she said.
"I wanted to do something to help the kids get into the subject," she said.
Piquing interest: Seniors study a unit on British literature, and because many young people find stories such as "Beowulf" and the "Canterbury Tales" a bit dull, Auletta decorated her classroom to pique students' interest in the time period and its writers.
"It's more relaxed," said student Tim Vestal, who looks forward to the class. "You can sit where you want and talk to discuss what we're learning."
"It helps us to learn about the writers and the time," said Craig Reho.
Assignments: Each student must research a British or Scottish writer and research the historical context, along with a sampling of the writer's work, for a presentation analyzing the writer's work in the context of social, political, religious and economic factors.
James Senne chose poet Robert Burns for his project.
"He was Scottish and I'm Scottish, so it's an embracing my roots sort of thing," James said. "He was the only major author who wrote in the actual Scottish language."
The Bard: Nicki Leamer chose William Shakespeare.
"I already knew something about him, so I thought I'd be able to do a better job," she said.
Jenny Jacobs picked Rebecca West, a journalist, essayist and novelist, who had an affair and a child with the much-older writer, H.G. Wells.
"I was going to do Lewis Carroll," she said. "I like his writing, but I didn't really find him interesting."
Jenny and James both say the relaxed atmosphere adds to the subject matter.
"It's less of an uptight theme," James said. "There's more freedom."
"You don't feel as much pressure," Jenny added.
In comfort: Allison Kacmar and Jeremy Minor hovered over their literature books on a couch at the back of the room.
"It's comfortable," Jeremy said.
"It's a better atmosphere," Allison said. "You feel more at ease in class."

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