Networking Using Short Stories in the English Classroom

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Using Short Stories in the English Classroom Regional NET Coordinating Team NET Section CDI EDB August 2012History of the Short Story Folklore Stories are an important part of every culture. Short stories have their roots in folklore, or the oral tradition of storytelling. In the oral tradition, stories were told to explain beliefs about the world (e.g. myths), to remember the great deeds of past kings and heroes (e.g. legends), to teach moral principles (e.g. fables and parables) or simply for the sake of entertainment (e.g. folktales and fairy tales). The following handout on the Resource CD contains information on myths and legends. Handout 1.1: Myths and Legends A myth is a traditional story that explains the beliefs of a people about the natural and human world. The main characters in myths are usually gods or supernatural heroes. The stories are set in the distant past. The people who told these stories believed that they were true. A legend is a traditional story about the past. The main characters are usually kings or heroes. Some examples of well-known legends include the tales of Odysseus from Ancient Greece, Beowulf from the Norse lands and King Arthur from Old England. Like myths, legends were thought to be true. Part 1 - Reading and A ppreciating Short Stories 2 History of the Short Story 8 221204248_EDB_Text.pdf July 31, 2012 12:34:48This handout contains information on fables and parables. Handout 1.2: Fables and Parables A fable is a brief story intended to teach a moral lesson. The main characters are usually animals, objects in nature (e.g. mountains, lakes, stones) or forces of nature (e.g. the sun, the wind, the rain), which are given human qualities. The most famous fables in Western tradition are Aesop’s fables from Ancient Greece. There are also many well-known fables from China, India and other Asian cultures. A parable is a brief story that illustrates a moral principle through the use of metaphor. Unlike fables, the main characters of parables are human beings. The most widely-read parables in Western tradition are the parables of Jesus in the New Testament of the Bible. There are also many parables from the Buddhist tradition and from ancient Chinese philosophers like Confucius, Mencius and Han Fei Zi. Part 1 - Reading and A ppreciating Short Stories 3 History of the Short Story 9 221204248_EDB_Text.pdf July 31, 2012 12:34:49This handout contains information on folktales and fairy tales. Handout 1.3: Folktales and Fairy Tales A folktale is an anonymous story passed on through generations by word of mouth. Folktales are often timeless and placeless, with formulaic openings like: ‘Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom, there lived an old man and an old woman in a small cottage in the forest…’ Folktales were told as a form of entertainment. ‘Folktale’ is a general term that can include a wide range of traditional narratives, such as myths, legends, fables and fairy tales. A fairy tale is a traditional folktale involving imaginary creatures such as fairies, wizards, elves, trolls, gnomes, goblins and fire-breathing dragons. “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” G. K. Chesterton Part 1 - Reading and A ppreciating Short Stories 4 History of the Short Story 10 221204248_EDB_Text.pdf July 31, 2012 12:34:49This handout contains information about ghost stories and other tales from the oral tradition, such as tall tales, trickster tales and urban legends. Handout 1.4: Ghost Stories and Other Tales A ghost story is a story about ghosts or other supernatural beings. In cultures all over the world, ghost stories have been told and passed down orally from generation to generation. These stories reflect the superstitious fears and beliefs that people had in various cultures. Stories about witches, ghosts, goblins, vampires, werewolves and all sorts of land and sea monsters came out of the oral tradition of storytelling. A tall tale is a story with unbelievable elements that are exaggerations of the truth. The characters are usually heroes that are ‘larger than life’. Many tall tales are based on actual people. The tall tale is a part of the American folktale tradition. Some famous examples include Johnny Appleseed, Davy Crockett, Paul Bunyan, John Henry and Pecos Bill. A trickster tale is a story involving a character, usually an animal, who likes to play tricks on other characters. Trickster tales are common in many cultures. Cartoons like Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner are based on trickster tales. Part 1 - Reading and A ppreciating Short Stories 5 History of the Short Story 11 221204248_EDB_Text.pdf July 31, 2012 12:34:49An urban legend, also known as an urban myth, is a story that is thought to be true, but is usually not. Urban legends may contain elements of truth, but they are usually exaggerated and sensationalised. Television programmes such as Ripley’s Believe It or Not (1949-1950, 1982-1986, 2000-2003), Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction (1997-2002), Mostly True Stories: Urban Legends Revealed (2002-2008), Mythbusters (2003-present), and Urban Legends (2007-present) have helped popularise urban legends in recent times. Urban legends are also commonly spread by e-mail. The Early Literary Tradition The first stories to be written down were stories from the oral tradition, such as Aesop’s Fables and the many other fables, folktales and fairy tales recorded by storytellers and story collectors around the world. The following handout contains information about some of the earliest stories from the oral tradition to be preserved in writing as part of the literary tradition in English. Handout 1.5: The Early Literary Tradition These stories are available in illustrated children’s books and in simplified readers (e.g. Macmillan Readers, Oxford Bookworms Library, Penguin Longman Readers). Part 1 - Reading and A ppreciating Short Stories 6 History of the Short Story 12 221204248_EDB_Text.pdf July 31, 2012 12:34:49The Short Story Develops In the 19th Century, the short story developed as a literary form as magazines became more popular and widely read. Many 19th Century writers contributed to the development of the short story as a literary form. These writers are frequently anthologised in collections of short stories. The following handout contains information about some of these writers and the short stories they wrote. Handout 1.6: The Short Story Develops Many of these stories are available in simplified readers (e.g. Macmillan Readers, Oxford Bookworms Library, Penguin Readers). Part 1 - Reading and A ppreciating Short Stories 7 History of the Short Story 13 221204248_EDB_Text.pdf July 31, 2012 12:34:49The Early 20th Century By the 20th Century, the short story was a well-established literary form in the West, thanks to the influence of earlier writers like Edgar Allan Poe, Guy de Maupassant, and Anton Chekhov. The short story continued to flourish throughout the 20th Century due to the proliferation of popular magazines. Writers began to use the literary form of the short story to explore a variety of genres, including love stories, fantasy and horror stories, crime and mystery stories, and science fiction. Many short stories written in the early 20th Century reflect issues related to the Age of Industrialisation. During this time, a growing number of people left their farmlands and moved to the cities to work in factories. Some short stories feature the lives of immigrants, who worked hard and learned to adapt to a new language and culture in an unfamiliar environment. Major historical events like World War I, the Great Depression and World War II form the backdrop to many of the best short stories written in the first half of the 20th Century. The following handout contains information about some of the most frequently anthologised short story writers of the early 20th Century. Handout 1.7: The Early 20th Century Part 1 - Reading and Appreciating Short Stories 8 History of the Short Story 14 221204248_EDB_Text.pdf July 31, 2012 12:34:50The Late 20th Century Short stories written in the latter part of the 20th Century often reflect the pressures of modern life and deal with issues that affect society, the family and the individual. The application of science and technology also becomes a major theme in many short stories written in the years after World War II. The genre of science fiction is popularised by writers like Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury. The following handout contains information about some of the most frequently anthologised short story writers in the latter part of the 20th Century. Handout 1.8: The Late 20th Century Many 20th Century short stories written by the authors listed in Handouts 1.7 and 1.8 are available in simplified form. Part 1 - Reading and Appreciating Short Stories 9 History of the Short Story 15 221204248_EDB_Text.pdf July 31, 2012 12:34:50The Short Story Today English has truly become a global language and there are more and more writers, both male and female, from countries and cultures all over the world writing their stories in English, even when English is not their mother tongue. F. Sionil Jose from the Philippines, Farida Karodia from South Africa and the Maori writer Witi Ihimaera are just a few notable examples. Ha Jin is another example. He is a Chinese writer living in the United States who writes short stories in English about the struggles of ordinary Chinese people. Some publishers of simplified readers are now including authors like these in short story collections under the category of ‘World Stories’. “The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.” Harold Goddard, The Meaning of Shakespeare Part 1 - Reading and Appreciating Short Stories 10 History of the Short Story 16 221204248_EDB_Text.pdf July 31, 2012 12:34:50Selecting Suitable Short Stories Introduction The short stories you select for your students to read in the Learning English through Short Stories elective module will depend largely on the language and interest level of your students. The Suggested Schemes of Work for the Elective Part of the Three-year Senior Secondary English Language Curriculum (Secondary 4-6) recommends that teachers go over one short story with students at the beginning of the module to highlight the features of a short story, using ‘pre-reading, while-reading and post-reading activities’; students should then ‘be encouraged to read a couple of stories’ on their own and respond to them in a reading journal. (p. 14-15) Selecting Texts for Instruction For the first short story of the module, it is important to select a story that is at the ‘instructional level’ for the majority of students in the class. An instructional level text is one in which a student is able to read at least 90% of the words accurately and understand no less than 75% of the overall content. If the text is too difficult, the teacher will spend too much time explaining vocabulary and scaffolding student learning. Students will spend too much time focusing on word recognition and will struggle to understand the meaning. To determine whether a particular short story is at the instructional level for the majority of students in a class, the teacher can conduct a quick reading test with a random sample of 10 students. For the test, the teacher selects one paragraph of roughly 100 words from the short story. Each of the 10 students then meets with the teacher individually and follows the procedures below. Suggested procedures 1. The student holds out two hands on the desk and reads the paragraph aloud. 2. The student puts down one finger for every unfamiliar word. 3. The teacher analyses the results: a. If the student puts down all 10 fingers before finishing the paragraph, the story is too difficult for the student; b. If the student still has at least one finger up at the end of the paragraph, the story is likely to be appropriate for instructional reading; c. If the student still has at least six fingers up at the end of the paragraph, the story is likely to be appropriate for independent reading. Part 1 - Reading and A ppreciating Short Stories 11 Selecting Suitable Stories 17 221204248_EDB_Text.pdf July 31, 2012 12:34:50This table describes the three reading levels in terms of word-level accuracy. Reading Word Description level accuracy Independent 95% The student can read and understand at least 96% of the words. The text is relatively easy for the student. The text is a good choice for the student to develop fluency. Instructional 90%-95% The students can read and understand 90-95% of the words. The text is challenging but manageable for the student. The text is appropriate for instructional reading. Frustration 90% The student cannot read or understand more than 10% of the words. The text is difficult for the student. If the teacher expects students to read a short story and respond to it in a reading journal, the short story should be at students’ independent reading level. Short Story Genres To give students a more varied experience with short stories, teachers are encouraged to introduce stories from various genres. The following handout on the Resource CD contains information about the major short story genres. Handout 1.9: Short Story Genres Part 1 - Reading and Appreciating Short Stories 12 Selecting Suitable Stories 18 221204248_EDB_Text.pdf July 31, 2012 12:34:50Using Simplified Readers Many short stories are available in simplified readers for English language learners. The table below lists some of the advantages and disadvantages to consider when using simplified readers. Advantages Disadvantages The language is graded for English language The beauty of the language is often lost in the learners at various levels. simplified text. Students can read, understand and appreciate The stories are often reduced to plot summaries some of the best-loved stories written in so students may not be very interested in the English. story. Pre-reading, while-reading and post-reading The pre-reading, while-reading and post-reading activities are often provided. activities are not always well-designed. A CD is often provided so that students can Opportunities for students to practise reading listen to the stories as they read them. strategies may be reduced with a simplified text. If you choose to use a short story in a simplified reader with your students, also have them read excerpts from the original version of the story. By doing so, students will be able to analyse and appreciate the use of language in the original text. Several major publishers produce sets of simplified readers. More information is available on their websites. “No matter how busy you think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.” Confucius Part 1 - Reading and Appreciating Short Stories 13 Selecting Suitable Stories 19 221204248_EDB_Text.pdf July 31, 2012 12:34:51Using Children’s Literature Children’s literature may also work well in the short story module. Handout 1.10 contains information about some of the most popular authors of children’s literature in English. Handout 1.10: Children’s Literature The table below lists some of the advantages and disadvantages to consider when using children’s literature. Advantages Disadvantages The stories are beautifully illustrated. The books are expensive. The language is rich and authentic. The language can be difficult for second language learners to understand and appreciate. The plot structure is usually simple. Secondary students may perceive stories from The themes are often thought-provoking. children’s literature to be too childish. Schools can buy children’s literature for the school library (see Handout 1.10 for suggestions) and students can be encouraged to read them on their own. Teachers can also read the stories with the whole class. A good story from children’s literature can serve to illustrate concepts like character, setting, plot and theme in a fun and interesting way. Part 1 - Reading and A ppreciating Short Stories 14 Selecting Suitable Stories 20 221204248_EDB_Text.pdf July 31, 2012 12:34:51Using English Short Stories Set in Hong Kong Teachers may want to use short stories written in English by Hong Kong-based authors, although some of these stories are not easy. City Voices: Hong Kong Writing in English, 1945 to the Present (Hong Kong University Press, 2002) has a fine selection of novel excerpts and short stories written by authors with a Hong Kong background, such as Xu Xi, Timothy Mo and David T. K. Wong. Xu Xi’s Access: Thirteen Tales (Signal 8 Press, 2011) is a collection of short stories featuring a wide range of strong female characters in Hong Kong. Two additional sources of local fiction are Asia Literary Review and Cha: An Asian Literary Journal. More information about these sources is available at the websites below: City Voices: Hong Kong Writing in English, 1945-Present Asia Literary Review Cha: An Asian Literary Journal Adrian Tilley, a former Native-speaking English Teacher (NET), has published a book of short stories suitable for young people in Hong Kong called Cheung Chau Paradise and Other Stories (Meejah Publications, 2006). More information about this collection of short stories is available on his website: You will find two of Adrian Tilley’s short stories on the Resource CD. You will also find two short stories written by Stuart Mead, as well as two stories written by Hong Kong secondary students for ‘Shorts’: A Short Story Writing Competition. These stories can be printed and used in the classroom for the Short Stories elective module. “Hong Kong is … dense with history, from the pre-historic through the many changing Chinese dynasties, to its present position as a world financial centre where international routes interweave on a daily basis. What more can a writer ask for...?” Louise Ho, City Voices Part 1 - Reading and A ppreciating Short Stories 15 Selecting Suitable Stories 21 221204248_EDB_Text.pdf July 31, 2012 12:34:51Using Other Stories Other types of stories that may be considered in the Short Stories module include jokes, anecdotes, personal recounts and short feature stories in the news. The Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul series, edited by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Kimberly Kirberger, contains a wide range of inspirational stories written for young people. The following websites are good resources for self-access learning. Students can use them to practise their English skills through reading stories. This website has a large collection of stories for students learning English as a second language. There are also audio files and exercises for vocabulary, grammar and comprehension practice. This website has a large number of short funny stories on a variety of topics similar to those that circulate on the Internet. Students can search for stories by category or select stories randomly. This website has an online library of short stories written by students. Click on ‘You Read’ and follow the link to ‘Enter the Library’. Search by genre (e.g. ‘Horror’) to find short stories that your students will enjoy reading. They may also be inspired to write similar stories of their own. Finding Short Stories Online The following websites contain short stories that are in the public domain. If you are looking for the original version of a short story, these are good websites to know about. Part 1 - Reading and A ppreciating Short Stories 16 Selecting Suitable Stories 22 221204248_EDB_Text.pdf July 31, 2012 12:34:51Supporting Student Reading Beginning the Module After selecting suitable short stories, you are ready to begin the Short Stories module. You may want to begin the module with a brainstorming activity to help students think about the different genres of the stories they know. The following worksheet is designed for this purpose. Worksheet 1.1: Story Genres Suggested Procedures 1. Students work in groups of three or four. 2. Distribute the worksheet and explain that ‘genre’ refers to the type of story, e.g. fairy tale, love story, horror story. 3. Students brainstorm in groups and complete the mind map with the genres they know and with examples for each genre. 4. Students share their responses with the whole class. 5. Ask students which genres and stories they like best, and to explain their reasons. Part 1 - Reading and A ppreciating Short Stories 17 Supporting Student Reading 23 221204248_EDB_Text.pdf July 31, 2012 12:34:51Activities for Teaching a Short Story After selecting a suitable short story to read with the class, it is time to prepare pre- reading, while-reading and post-reading activities to support students with reading and appreciating the story. These activities should help students develop their language skills, critical thinking skills, cultural awareness and creativity as they read and interact with the story. Students will also become more familiar with the major features of short stories as a literary form. Below are examples of reading activities for the short story ‘The Knock at the Door’ by Stuart Mead, which can be found in Appendix I and on the Resource CD. Similar activities can be designed and used for any short story. Pre-reading Activities Students should be encouraged to engage in pre-reading activities and to establish a purpose for reading. Well-structured pre-reading activities are most important with students who have a low level of reading proficiency. As students become more competent readers, teachers will be able to reduce the amount of support and allow students to do pre-reading activities independently. Pre-reading activities can serve the following purposes: • Activate prior knowledge and/or provide background information necessary for comprehending the text. • Clarify cultural information that may cause comprehension difficulties. • Familiarise students with features of the genre/text type. • Encourage students to make predictions based on the title, the illustrations and/or the opening of the story. Many teachers may also feel the need to pre-teach vocabulary before students read a short story. However, to develop students’ reading skills it is better to give students as many opportunities as possible to infer the meaning of unfamiliar words using pictorial or contextual clues. These skills can be modelled and explicitly taught in the while- reading phase. This will be discussed further in ‘While-reading Activities’. In the following sample activities, students must think about the genre of the story, as well as information about the characters, setting and plot development, before making informed predictions about the story. “Read, read, read.” William Faulkner Part 1 - Reading and Appreciating Short Stories 18 Supporting Student Reading 24 221204248_EDB_Text.pdf July 31, 2012 12:34:51Pre-reading Activity 1: Activating Schemata Part of the reading process involves applying prior knowledge and experience of the world to the text in order to make sense of it. What we already know about the world is sometimes referred to as our ‘schemata’. When we read about an unfamiliar topic, reading comprehension becomes much more difficult. One way to help students improve their reading comprehension is to give them background information about the topic and/or help them activate their schemata. In the following activity, students must use their knowledge of the story genre and their imagination to make predictions about the story. Suggested Procedures 1. Tell students to close their eyes. Play a recording of spooky music to create a feeling of suspense. Knock hard on the desk or door three times quickly. 2. T ell students that what they have heard is a scene in the story that they are about to read. Ask students to guess which story genre it is and why they think so. 3. Accept reasonable answers, such as ‘horror story’ or ‘ghost story’. Students should be able to relate the spooky music and loud knocks to their prior experience with horror stories or ghost stories. 4. Ask students to guess: • Who is knocking in the story? • What is the person knocking on? • Why is the person knocking so loudly? • What time is it in the story? • Where does the story take place? 5. Record students’ guesses on the board. 6. Tell students the title of the story. Ask if they would like to change their responses to the questions. 7. Ask students: If you were in the house alone, would you open the door? Why/Why not? 8. Conduct a picture walk to preview and make predictions of the story. (See Step 2 of Suggested Procedures for Pre-reading Activity 2.) Part 1 - Reading and A ppreciating Short Stories 19 Supporting Student Reading 25 221204248_EDB_Text.pdf July 31, 2012 12:34:52Pre-reading Activity 2: Picture Walk In a picture walk, students talk about the illustrations of a story in sequence before reading the text. Going through a picture walk with the class reinforces students’ use of pictorial clues and encourages them to anticipate what might happen in the story. Students will read more actively if they have expectations about what will happen in the story before they begin reading. When walking through the pictures with the class, make sure you do not give away the ending of the story PowerPoint 1.1 contains illustrations from the short story ‘The Knock at the Door’ by Stuart Mead. It can be used to do a picture walk before students read the story. PowerPoint 1.1: Picture Walk Part 1 - Reading and A ppreciating Short Stories 20 Supporting Student Reading 26 221204248_EDB_Text.pdf July 31, 2012 12:34:52