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Teaching english through short stories
Transcript of Teaching english through short stories
One of the most effective long-term methods of learning a language is that of an on-going series of readings. In fact, among the ways native speakers of English, French and other languages continue to improve and grow their first language (L1) skills, reading ranks very high up on the list. Whether or not language learners are able to wade through a complete book or novel, reading short stories is a time-proven method of language learning and acquisition. Collie and Slater (1991: 196) list the advantages of using short stories for language teachers: short stories are practical as their length is long enough to cover entirely in one or two class sessions; they are not complicated for students to work with on their own; they have a variety of choice for different interests and tastes; and they can be used with all levels (beginner to advanced), all ages (young learners to adults) and all classes (summer courses to evening classes). Accordingly, what Hirvela and Boyle (1988) report is not surprising: they examine students' attitudes towards four genres of literary texts (short story, novel, poetry and drama) and state that their adult Hong Kong Chinese students indicated short stories as the genre that is less feared and the second most enjoyed (43%; the novel is the most enjoyed with 44%), since short stories are easy to finish and definite to understand. Grammar
1. As the story is filled with supernatural elements, the story was divided into several sections, and the students were asked to predict the likely course of the events after they read each consecutive section. (This activity offered a nice opportunity to practice the language of prediction.) When they finished reading, the open ending of the story also gave way to hot debates among the students. Some of them read the story at its literal level and argued that Kathleen had an abnormal psychology and made up the letter in her imagination; and some preferred the supernatural level and argued that the ex-fiance with his non-human skills took his revenge on Kathleen, who failed to wait for his return from war Speaking
1. In a speaking class, as a valuable oral practice for the connectors and discourse markers, the students retold the story as a chain activity in small groups. Each student had a lot of opportunities to practice the relevant connectors or other discourse markers in a meaningful context. (They were given a list of the connectors and discourse markers beforehand.)
2. As the story is filled with supernatural and mysterious elements, there are many ambiguous points, leaving room for inference. Thus, the students were presented with some questions to provoke their inference skills Writing
1. The ending scene and its aftermath were used as input for creative writing, and the students dramatized what they produced in front of the class. As homework, some of them wrote a monologue for Kathleen when she sees the letter in her shut-up London house and some wrote Kathleen's cries for help for the taxi-driver scene in bubbles. Conclusion
Since they provide an authentic model of language use, literary texts offer various benefits in second/ foreign language teaching programs. However, the selection and adaptation of short stories should be done in accordance with the aim of the course, the profile of the learners and the content of the story in order to make the best of it. Since every teaching situation is unique, the use of one single piece of literature varies from teacher to teacher and from classroom to classroom. In our case, it offered us a wealth of different activities for grammar, writing and speaking classes saving us a lot of time. It helped us to create a meaningful context to teach different language focuses and to improve the students' interpretative strategies. The above tasks only hint at the rich reservoir of activities offered by the same story: the same story may also serve for some other language focuses or skills such as vocabulary development or listening.