In their reflective papers, the majority of students identified ways in which the collaborative fanfiction task enhanced their language learning at the lexical level. In particular, several pointed out that mimicking the language of The Hobbit required them to understand and use words that were more old-fashioned or formal than they were used to using: As one student wrote “this writing activity has influenced my language skills…. During this project I have been able to expand my repertoar [sic] of English words which are not so commonly used in everyday English anymore” (Student 14).
Lexical development was identified by a range of students including those who identified as more proficient in English and found that imitating the writing style in The Hobbit allowed them to expand their vocabulary particularly with respect to adjectives and adverbs, which they found characteristic of Tolkien’s writing.
Fanfiction and Language Learning
FANFICTION AND LANGUAGE LEARNING
1. Do you know how your pupils
use English for fun (outside of
school)? Does this help them
develop their English in some
2. What are your pupils fans of?
What are you a fan of?
3. Have you ever read or written
“…’fan’ is actually a much wider social category, referring to a mode
of participation with a long history in a variety of cultural activities,
including literature, sports, theater, film, and television.”
(Cavicci, 1998 p. 3)
“A fan is a person with a relatively deep positive emotional conviction
about someone or something famous...”
(Duffet, 2013, p. 18)
“the local and international networks of fans that develop around
a particular program, text or other media product” (Sauro, 2014,
"writing that continues,
interrupts, reimagines, or just
riffs on stories and characters
other people have already
(Jamison, 2013 p. 17)
Fanfiction and Language Learning
• Case studies of teen learners’ use of fanfiction in anime fandoms to
transition from novice writer in English to successful writer (Black, 2006)
• Bilingual fanfiction writing practices of young Finnish fans of American
television shows to index multilingualism and global citizenship (Lepännen,
et al, 2009)
• Youth writing of self-insert fanfiction to confront and examine social issues
in their local context (Lepännen, 2008)
The Blogging Hobbit
Blog-Based Collaborative Role-play
Inspiration for task and
technology and model from
the Harry Potter role play fanfic
community, Darkness Rising, on
• Communal Blog
• Individual players/writers
participated using blogs made
for their character
• Stories begin with a prompt or
background in a post.
• The story evolves in nested
A collaborative story of a missing moment from Tolkien’s
Task 1: Story outline and map
Task 2: Collaborative roleplay fanfiction - each group member to
write from the perspective of one character from The Hobbit
Task 3: Reflective paper
Detailed instructions available as a PDF here.
“this writing activity has
influenced my language
skills…. During this project I
have been able to expand
my repertoar [sic] of
English words which are
not so commonly used in
everyday English anymore.”
(Student 14, Cohort 2013)
“[a]fter a short
while, the writing
became very fluent
and I did not have to
think too hard
(Student 40, Cohort 2013)
It is lying still, yet it spins around
It tries to move but its body is bound
All because of the precious it stole
Fool us again and they eats it whole.
(from The Mirkwood Mysteries)
“…I would choose another book. I
felt it unfair to work with The
Hobbit on such a project since a
big part was to connect with a
character from the book and write
from that perspective. To choose a
book with absolutely no women at
all made me not wanting to take
neither Tolkien nor this
assignment to heart.”
(Nonfan, Cohort 2014)
“…fanfics that get really popular, they
kind of answer to some kind of
fantasy that people have about the
characters. Or something they really
want to explore or they create an
alternate universe … We didn’t have
anything like that, really. I mean, I
think ours was very, kind of, very
much like the book it a way, so
maybe it wasn’t as exciting as some
other fanfiction because it wasn’t
innovating in that way…”
B, Dream Team Interview
(Sauro & Sundmark, 2016)
Collaborative mystery writing
1. Retell a Sherlock Holmes
mystery or tell an original
mystery but in an alternate
2. Tell an original Sherlock
Holmes mystery in the
original context (Victorian
London) OR an alternate
Instructions available in PDF here
Example Fanfic Readings
The Beleaguered Red-Head by moonblossom - Retelling of The Red-
Headed League in the BBC Sherlock Universe
The Adventure of the Bridegroom’s Photograph by spacemutineer
Original casefic based on a real life mystery – ACD Holmes
The Vast Profundity Obscure by mistyzeo - Original casefic - ACD
Holmes/His Dark Materials fusion
“…my interest in Doyle and the
Sherlock Holmes world is still at
an intermediate level…. On the
other hand, my knowledge of
the Scooby Doo universe is far
greater and I could enter that
verse much easier than the
universe of Sherlock Holmes. As
a child I loved the characters of
the Mystery Gang and therefore
I really enjoyed this task.”
(Student 18, Cohort 2015)
“…instead of saying “he said”, we and Doyle instead used “said he”. Second, we
and Doyle often, from Watson’s perspective, referred to Sherlock Holmes as “my
colleague”, and from Sherlock’s perspective referring to Watson as “my friend”.
Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes often said “pray” instead of “please”, and “I fancy”
instead of “I believe”, which we also used in our fanfiction. “
(Student 16, Cohort 2015)
“First off, I am highly Americanized in
my English use, and I blame
Hollywood. It has been a welcomed
challenge to write in British. My
biggest inspiration has once again
been the BBC show.…I truly enjoyed
using the word ‘foggiest’ in a text,
and it is now a part of my vocabulary.
My American is being invaded, ‘the
British are coming!’”
CURIOUS? THIS YEAR’S STORIES AVAILABLE HERE.
In this workshop, you will work in small
groups on one of two options:
2. Threaded Games
Both will require you to go online.
As you explore the fansites listed, take
notes on the accompanying handout
and prepare to present your findings
and ideas to the rest of the class.
Black, R.W. (2006). Language, culture, and identity in online fanfiction. E-learning, 3, 180–184.
Cavicci, D. (1998). Tramps like us: Music and meaning among Springsteen fans. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Duffett, M. (2013). Understanding fandom: An introduction to the study of media fan culture. New York/London:
Jamison, A. (2013). ‘Why Fic?’ in A. Jamison (ed.). Fic: Why fanfiction is taking over the world. Dallas, TX: Smart Pop
Lepännen, S. (2008). Cybergirls in trouble? Fan fiction as a discursive space for interrogating gender and sexuality. In
C.R. Caldas-Coulthard and R. Iedema (Eds.). Identity trouble: Critical discourse and contested identities, (pp. 156-179).
Houdsmills, UK: Pallgrave Macmillan.
Lepännen, S., Pitkänen-Huhta, A., Piirainen-Marsch, A., Nikula, T., & Peuronen, S. (2009). Young people’s translocal
new media uses: A multiperspective analysis of language choice and hetero-glossia. Journal of Computer-Mediated
Communication, 14, 1080–1107.
Paran, A. (2008). The role of literature in instructed foreign language learning and teaching: An evidence-based survey.
Language Teaching 41(4), 465-496.
Sauro, S. (2014). Lessons from the fandom: Task models for technology-enhanced language learning. In M. González-
Lloret & L. Ortega (Eds). Technology-mediated TBLT: Researching technology and tasks, (pp. 239-262).
Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Sauro, S., & Sundmark, B. (2016,) Report from Middle Earth: Fanfiction tasks in the EFL classroom. ELT Journal, 70(4),
414-423 . doi: 10.1093/elt/ccv075
@shansauro | ssauro.info| firstname.lastname@example.org