Using Short Stories in the
About the Learning English through Short Stories elective module
The Learning English through Short Stories module is designed to introduce learners to the world of short stories, encouraging them to read, write and tell them. The activities that learners engage in should aim to develop their understanding of the major features of short stories, their language skills, cultural awareness, critical thinking skills and creativity. By the end of the module, learners are expected to write a story or develop one from a given story outline.
The module comprises the following three parts:
Part 1: Students will identify and understand the key features of a short story and read short stories with appreciation.
Part 2: Students will read and write specific aspects of a short story such as setting, character, theme, dialogue, opening and closing, and they will start writing their own story for the module.
Part 3: Students will practise oral and storytelling skills by sharing a story with the class. They will also finalise the draft for their module story and perform it.
(Adapted from the English Language Curriculum and Assessment Guide (Secondary 4 - 6), CDC & HKEAA, 2007)
Rationale for this publication
In NETworking: Using Short Stories in the English Classroom, you will find teaching resources that are designed to support the Learning English through Short Stories elective module in the Three-year Senior Secondary English Language Curriculum.
Many of the materials in this book have been used in the professional development workshops for ‘Shorts’: A Short Story Writing Competition organised by the NET Section.
The workshop materials have been revised and updated for this publication to be used more generally in the elective module on Short Stories.
Although this resource package is designed to be a companion to the Short Stories elective module, it is hoped that teachers will also find the materials useful as an integral part of the school-based English Language curriculum
The NET Section would like to thank the following writers for granting us permission to use their original short stories and ideas in this publication:
Stuart Mead, NET Chong Gene Hang College
Adrian Tilley, former NET Jockey Club Ti-I College
For contributing ideas on the use of peer response groups, we are grateful to:
Helen Wong, English Panel Chair United Christian College (Kowloon East)
We also appreciate the many teachers who have shared ideas and materials with us on the teaching of short stories through regional cluster meetings and email exchanges.
Although we are not able to use every idea, we appreciate all the good work that is happening in Hong Kong schools in preparation for the Short Stories elective module.
The following prize-winning short stories from ‘Shorts’: A Short Story Writing Competition have been selected for this publication and are available on the Resource CD:
‘Shorts’ 2010: ‘The Magic Door’ by Alexandria Lee Yik-ki, Christie C. Cheng, Anthea Pang Yin-seng and Nicole Hurip from Marymount Secondary School
‘Shorts’ 2011: ‘The Machine’ by Felix Shih Y. Y., Jeremy Chan Chun-ming, Trevor Sham Tsz-ho and Cheung Chi-kwan from Wah Yan College, Hong Kong
The following prize-winning films from ‘Clipit’: A Student-created Film Competition have been selected for this publication and are available on the Resource CD:
‘Clipit’ 2010: Untitled film by Sprindy Wong Yi-man, Sam Kok Man-chun, Ken Ho Cheuk-him and Watery Choi Chin-wa from Po Leung Kok Tang Yuk Tien College
‘Clipit’ 2010: ‘The Precious Thing’ by Hong Kiu, Tang Pui-shan, Kwan Siu-hoi, Lam Sze-wa and Wong Shing-lung from Hoi Ping Chamber of Commerce Secondary School
Part 1: Reading and Appreciating Short Stories
History of the Short Story ………....…...…....
Selecting Suitable Short Stories ………...….
Supporting Student Reading ………...
Part 2: Writing Short Stories
Organising the Writing Activity ………..…...
Planning a Short Story ……….………...
Developing Characters ………..……...
Describing the Setting ………..…...
Writing Dialogue ………...
Completing the Story ……….…...
Part 3: Telling Stories
Sharing Stories ………..……….………....
The Module Story ………...………....
Using ‘Clipit’ Films ………..………....
Appendix: ‘The Knock at the Door’ by Stuart Mead .………...…...
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Resource CD Contents
Part 1: Reading and Appreciating Short Stories Handouts
Worksheets Answer keys PowerPoints
Part 2: Writing Short Stories Handouts
Worksheets Answer keys PowerPoints Assessment Forms
Part 3: Telling Stories Handouts
Worksheets Answer keys PowerPoints Assessment Forms
‘Clipit’ Films Short Stories
Publications and Websites
Reading and Appreciating Short Stories
History of the Short Story ………... 2
Selecting Suitable Short Stories ………... 11
Supporting Student Reading ………... 17
History of the Short Story
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.
Myths and Legends 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.
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.
This handout contains information on fables and parables.
Fables and Parables
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.
Folktales and Fairy Tales This handout contains information on folktales and fairy tales.
“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
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.
This handout contains information about ghost stories and other tales from the oral tradition, such as tall tales, trickster tales and urban legends.
Ghost Stories and Other Tales
These stories are available in illustrated children’s books and in simplified readers (e.g.
Macmillan Readers, Oxford Bookworms Library, Penguin Longman Readers).
The Early Literary Tradition
An 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.
Many of these stories are available in simplified readers (e.g. Macmillan Readers, Oxford Bookworms Library, Penguin Readers).
The 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.
The Short Story Develops
The Early 20th Century
The 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.
Many 20th Century short stories written by the authors listed in Handouts 1.7 and 1.8 are available in simplified form.
The 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.
The Late 20th Century
The 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
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.
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.
Selecting Suitable Short Stories
This table describes the three reading levels in terms of word-level accuracy.
Short Story Genres
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.
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.
Using 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.
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.
The language is graded for English language learners at various levels.
Students can read, understand and appreciate some of the best-loved stories written in English.
Pre-reading, while-reading and post-reading activities are often provided.
A CD is often provided so that students can listen to the stories as they read them.
The beauty of the language is often lost in the simplified text.
The stories are often reduced to plot summaries so students may not be very interested in the story.
The pre-reading, while-reading and post-reading activities are not always well-designed.
Opportunities for students to practise reading strategies may be reduced with a simplified text.
“No matter how busy you think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.”
Children’s Literature Using 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.
The table below lists some of the advantages and disadvantages to consider when using children’s literature.
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.
The stories are beautifully illustrated.
The language is rich and authentic.
The plot structure is usually simple.
The themes are often thought-provoking.
The books are expensive.
The language can be difficult for second language learners to understand and appreciate.
Secondary students may perceive stories from children’s literature to be too childish.
Using 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 www.hkupress.org
Asia Literary Review www.asialiteraryreview.com Cha: An Asian Literary Journal www.asiancha.com
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: http://www.adrian-tilley.com/publications 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
Using 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.
Supporting 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.
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.
Activities 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.
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.”
Pre-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.
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. Tell 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?
8. Conduct a picture walk to preview and make predictions of the story. (See Step 2 of Suggested Procedures for Pre-reading Activity 2.)
Pre-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.
“To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.”
1. Tell students the title of the story. Encourage students to guess what the story is about.
2. Project the first picture on the screen. Ask students to talk about what they see and what may be happening in the picture. Encourage students to draw on their personal experiences as they interpret the picture. Focus questions may be used:
• Look at the picture. What do you see? What do you think is happening?
• Look at Joey. How do you think he feels? What do you think has happened?
• Who is the woman? Who is she talking to? How does she feel? What do you think has happened?
• What can you see outside the window?
• What do you think will happen next?
• Have you ever been at home alone on a stormy night?
3. Direct students to details in the pictures that they may not have noticed.
Discuss whether these clues affect their predictions.
4. After completing the picture walk, ask students to predict the end of the story.
(If there is a picture illustrating what happens at the end, do not show it to the class.)
While-reading Activity 1: Story Elements
The three basic elements that all short stories must have are:
1. characters – the people, animals or creatures in the story 2. setting – the place and time
3. plot – the events that happen in the story
A story cannot take place without characters who think, speak and act, and characters need to exist in a certain place and time. For a story to develop, something must happen, i.e. there must be a plot.
Some stories also have a theme. The theme of a story is the central idea that runs through it.
In this activity, students use a graphic organiser to take notes on the three basic story elements (character, setting and plot) as they read.
While reading a story with the class, it is important to model particular reading strategies for students so that they learn how to interact with the text and negotiate meaning.
For example, if students have difficulty reading an unfamiliar word aloud, do not simply feed them the correct pronunciation; instead, model for them how to use letter-sound relationships or other ‘word attack’ skills (e.g. breaking words into syllables; recognising familiar prefixes, suffixes or other word parts; making analogies with familiar words that have similar spellings) to decode, or sound out, the word.
If students do not understand the meaning of a word, do not simply translate the word into Chinese for them or ask them to look it up in the dictionary; rather, model for students how to infer the meaning of the word from the pictures or from the context. It is often possible for students to work out the part of speech of an unfamiliar word, and then to use the information that comes before and after the word to infer its meaning.
To become more skilful readers, students should also learn how to ask questions and make predictions as they read. ‘How are these characters related?’, ‘What is this main character’s motivation?’, ‘What will happen if...?’ Reading actively by asking good questions can also be modelled by the teacher in the while-reading phase.
The activities that follow are designed to help students respond cognitively, emotionally and imaginatively to a short story. Through the activities, students will become familiar with the features of a short story, such as characters, setting and plot, and this will contribute to their understanding and appreciation of the text. The amount of support given to students will depend on their reading proficiency.
Worksheet 1.2 is a graphic organiser that students can use to take notes on the story.
1. Explain that all stories have three basic story elements: character, setting and plot. Use a story familiar to students to illustrate this point, e.g. ‘The Three Little Pigs’ or ‘Cinderella’.
2. Distribute Worksheet 1.2 and explain that it will be used to take notes on
‘The Knock at the Door’ by Stuart Mead. Ask students to fill in the title and the author first.
3. Students work in small groups to take notes on the setting and characters of the story.
4. Discuss answers with the class.
5. Have students work in small groups to take notes on the sequence of events, i.e. what happens at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of the story.*
6. Discuss answers with the class.
* A sequencing activity can also be used in place of Step 5 to support students with identifying and sequencing the events of the story. (See Post-reading Activity 1.)
Understanding Characters Worksheet 1.3 is designed to help students better understand the main character, Joey Carter.
While-reading Activity 2: Understanding Characters
The author of a story does not always tell the reader everything. For example, instead of describing a character’s personality, the author may only reveal what the character says or does. Readers must use their imagination to construct the character in their mind.
This activity helps students better understand the characters in a story. If students can put themselves in the imaginary world of the characters, they will be able to appreciate the story more.
Worksheet 1.3 is based on the story ‘The Knock at the Door’. A similar worksheet can be designed for any short story.
1. Distribute Worksheet 1.3 and explain the purpose. Tell students that if they understand the characters better, they can enter the world of the characters and enjoy the story more.
2. Read the instructions with the class and make sure students understand how to complete the worksheet.
3. For the part on relationships, focus students’ attention on what the characters say, think and do. This will help them find clues to support their answers.
4. Give students time to work individually, in pairs or in groups.
5. Ask students to report their answers to the class.* Invite the class to provide feedback on the suggested answers and to discuss whether the clues are appropriate and effective.
* If students work individually, allow time for them to discuss their answers with a neighbour before sharing with the class.
Thoughts While-reading Activity 3: Inferring Characters’ Thoughts
One way of understanding the characters better is to infer their thoughts from the events that happen to them.
This activity gives students practice with inferring characters’ thoughts.
When designing this type of worksheet, it is important to choose events that give readers clues about the characters’ thoughts.
Worksheet 1.4 is based on the story ‘The Knock at the Door’. A similar worksheet can be designed for any short story.
Worksheet 1.4 is designed to help students infer how Joey and his mother feel at different points in the story.
1. Distribute Worksheet 1.4 and explain the purpose of the worksheet.
2. Explain the instructions for Part 1. Select a thought bubble as an example.
3. Ask guiding questions to elicit the answer. Ask students to describe the event when the character is having the thought. Alternatively, ask students for the line numbers where the event happens.
4. Give students time to complete Part 1.
5. Discuss answers with the whole class with reference to the events.
6. Explain the instructions for Part 2. To demonstrate, work on the first item with the whole class.
7. Tell students that they must be able to justify their answers.
8. Give students time to work individually, in pairs or in groups.
9. Ask students to report their answers to the class*. Invite the class to provide feedback on the suggested answers and to discuss whether the clues are appropriate and effective.
* If students work individually, allow time for them to discuss their answers with a neighbour before sharing with the class.
While-reading Activitiy 4: Somebody-Wanted-But-So
‘Somebody-Wanted-But-So’ (SWBS) is a useful strategy to summarise a story in one sentence using this pattern:
Somebody wanted something, but there was a problem so it must be resolved.
Students need to focus on the various elements of the story:
1. Somebody - Who is the main character? (Character) 2. Wanted - What does the character want? (Goal/Motivation) 3. But - What stops the character from getting what he/she wants?
4. So - How is the problem resolved? (Resolution)
Somebody Wanted But So
Cinderella to go to the ball her evil stepmother wouldn’t let her go
her fairy godmother sent her to the ball where she met the prince.
Cinderella to stay at the ball with the prince
she had to leave before midnight
she ran away in a hurry and left one glass shoe behind.
The prince to see Cinderella again nobody knew who she was
he sent a servant to get every woman in the kingdom to try the glass shoe on.
Cinderella’s evil stepsisters
to stop her from trying the shoe
the prince’s servant invited her
she put her foot in the shoe and it fitted her.
As students read through a story, the SWBS strategy can be used to summarise different parts of the story. We can then use words like THEN, LATER, AND, or BUT to connect a series of SWBS sentences, producing a longer summary of the story. (See table below.)
1. After reading the first section of the story, tell students that they are going to summarise the section. (Teacher can decide how to chunk the story into sections.)
2. Illustrate the SWBS strategy by using the beginning of a story that students are familiar with, e.g ‘Cinderella’.
3. Apply the SWBS strategy to the first section of ‘The Knock at the Door’. Give students time to re-read the section if necessary. Discuss possible answers for each of the four headings with the class.
4. Ask students to complete the SWBS table for each of the remaining sections of the story.
Worksheet 1.5 is designed to help students summarise different parts of the story.
While-reading Activity 5: Literary Devices
Literary devices are used to make a story more beautiful and memorable because they help the reader to create images in the mind. An understanding of these tools will create pleasurable reading experiences.
In addition to recognising literary devices in a story, it is important to understand why the author uses the device to create a particular effect.
Literary Devices Handout 1.11 provides basic information about literary devices.
1. Draw students’ attention to the literary devices as they occur in the story.
2. Tell students to highlight the literary devices and label them in the story.
Refer to Handout 1.11 for examples.
3. Have students practise reading the lines with the literary devices aloud.
4. Discuss with students how the pacing of the story varies when the author combines short sentences with long sentences.
5. Have students practise reading these lines aloud:
• lines 30 – 49
• lines 62 – 83
6. Discuss with students how the dialogue moves the action along and adds to the suspense. The lines spoken by the characters are short and are not always written in complete sentences.
7. Have students practise reading lines 119 – 132 aloud.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
Dr. Seuss,I Can Read with My Eyes Shut!
After students have finished reading a short story, there is a wide range of activities that teachers can design to extend student learning. One way to design post-reading activities is to refer to the different levels of thinking skills in Bloom’s Taxonomy, as revised by Anderson and Krathwohl (2001). They are as follows:
Remembering: Can students recognise, list, describe, identify, name or locate the main characters and events in the story?
Understanding: Can students interpret, summarise, infer, paraphrase, compare or explain the character’s motivations or the plot development?
Applying: Can students apply a lesson from the story to their own lives?
Analysing: Can students compare, organise, deconstruct, outline, structure or integrate ideas about the characters or the events in the story?
Evaluating: Can students critique or judge the story based on how successful it is in achieving its purpose, e.g. to entertain an audience?
Creating: Can students design, construct, plan or produce something new based on the characters and the events in the story?
The following post-reading activities address different cognitive levels, from Activity 1, which requires students to remember and understand the main events in the story, to Activity 6, which requires students to work across several levels of the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Post-reading Activity 1: Sequencing Activity
Sequencing helps students recollect the story and allows them to demonstrate their understanding.
In a sequencing activity, only significant events should be used. The beginning, the climax and the end should also be included so that the result is a summary of the story. Students should not be tested on the details of a story.
Depending on the level of the students, sentences or picture cards can be given to students.
Sequencing Activity Suggested Procedures
1. Review the meaning of ‘events’ with the class.
2. Ask students to recall the significant events from the story. Record the events on the board, using words that they will come across in the worksheet whenever possible. Determine with the class which events are most significant and put them in the correct order.
3. Distribute Worksheet 1.6.* Explain the instructions and allow time for students to read the sentences.
4. Identify the beginning, the climax (the most exciting part) and the end of the story with the class before asking them to sequence the other events.
5. Give students time to complete the activity.
6. Check answers with the class.
* Arrange group work if students need more support from one another. Make copies of the sentences on big paper. Cut them up and give each group one set of paper strips. After checking the answers, ask each group to keep their strips in the correct order for the plot structure activity that follows.
In Worksheet 1.6, students must sequence the most significant events of the story from beginning to end.
Post-reading Activity 2: Understanding Plot Structure
Although the structure of different short stories will vary, the following terms are useful in describing the various components of plot structure.
(See Handout 1.12 for details.):
1. Orientation (Exposition) 2. Complication (Rising Action) 3. Climax
4. Resolution (Falling Action)
These terms can help students discuss and analyse short stories more knowledgeably.
Plot Structure Handout 1.12 provides basic information about plot structure.
1. Have the answers from the sequencing activity ready. (See Worksheet 1.6.) 2. Show Worksheet 1.7 on the screen and distribute it to the students. Draw
students’ attention to the shape of the plot structure.
3. Distribute Handout 1.12. Explain the stages of plot development with reference to the plot structure.
4. Have students work in groups. Ask them to discuss how they will arrange the answers in the sequencing activity to fit the plot structure.
5. Check answers with the class.
Structure of a Short Story Students can use the graphic organiser in Worksheet 1.7 to take notes on the plot structure of the story while they are reading it or after they have finished it.
“So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install, a lovely bookshelf on the wall.”
Roald Dahl,Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Plot Structure Graph
Post-reading Activity 3: Plot Structure Graph
A plot structure graph can be used after a sequencing activity to plot the significant events on a graph according to how suspenseful or exciting the action is.
The significant events in the story are arranged in sequence along the x-axis of the graph. The y-axis represents the level of suspense or excitement in the story on a scale of 1 (lowest level of suspense) to 10 (highest level of suspense)
Worksheet 1.8 can also be used to understand plot structure.
1. Have the answers from the sequencing activity ready. (See Post-reading Activity 1.)
2. Distribute Worksheet 1.8. Tell students that the story has a lot of suspense.
Refer to the first part of the worksheet to explain what this means.
3. Explain instructions of plotting the graph. Draw the grid on the board and do Steps 1-3 together as a class if necessary.
4. Give students time to complete the graph on the worksheet.
5. Tell students to compare their graphs with a neighbour.
6. Show a few students’ work on the visualiser and discuss the shape of the curves.
7. Distribute Handout 1.12. Explain plot structure and the stages of development with reference to the graph of ‘The Knock at the Door’.
8. Ask students to label the stages of the plot on their graphs.
“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates’ loot on Treasure Island.”
Interviewing Characters Post-reading Activity 4: Interviewing Characters
Interviewing characters is an activity to take the main characters out of the story and bring them into the classroom. It involves students’
understanding of the characters and plot development and their use of imagination.
The students playing the roles of the characters in the story have to put themselves in the characters’ shoes. They must give answers that reflect the characters’ personality and that are relevant to the plot. The students playing the roles of the interviewers pretend that they do not know much about the story. They must ask a series of questions that require the interviewees to draw on the characters’
personality and the events in the plot.
In Worksheet 1.9, students have opportunities to role play Joey and his class teacher in an interview.
1. Arrange students in pairs.
2. Distribute Worksheet 1.9 and explain the instructions. Tell students that they will take turns role-playing Joey and the class teacher. First everyone will prepare questions for Role 2, Joey’s class teacher.
3. Tell students that they need to prepare five questions for Joey. They also need to be prepared to ask follow-up questions based on the answers that Joey gives.
4. To demonstrate this, ask the question ‘What were you doing last night?’ Elicit possible answers, e.g. ‘I was reading a book.’
5. Explain that a good follow-up question would be ‘What were you reading?’
because it requires students to recall that Joey was reading a scary story.
6. Give students time to prepare for the role play by writing five Wh- questions and thinking of possible follow-up questions.
7. Assign roles and give students time to do the role play.
8. Tell students to change roles and do the role play again.
9. Ask volunteers to come to the front of the class and demonstrate the role play.
10. Discuss with the class whether the role plays were successful or not.
”We read to know we are not alone.”
C. S. Lewis
Writing Tasks Post-reading Activity 5: Writing Tasks
After students have finished reading a short story, there is a wide range of writing tasks that students can do. At a basic level, teachers can ask students to write a summary. To further challenge students, teachers can design writing tasks that require students to demonstrate their understanding of the story in more creative ways. For example, students might be asked to write a letter to one of the main characters, write a drama script based on one part of the story, introduce a new character who will change the outcome of the story, or create an alternative ending to the story.
Every good short story contains opportunities for engaging students in creative writing tasks. Teachers should be able to recognise these opportunities and design appropriate writing tasks that enhance students’ understanding and appreciation of the story.
Worksheet 1.10 has three creative writing tasks based on ‘The Knock at the Door’ that students can choose from.
1. Distribute Worksheet 1.10, explain the instructions and read the three writing tasks with the students.
2. Discuss the type of writing that each question requires students to do and show examples of the text types if necessary. For example, show an interview script for Question 3.
3. Give students time to select the task and plan their writing.
4. When students have finished their first draft, provide opportunities for peer response and for students to revise their work.*
5. Collect students’ work for assessment and feedback.
* See ‘Organising the Writing Activity’ in Part 2 for more details.
“A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it.”
Writing a Short Story Review Post-reading Activity 6: Writing a Short Story Review
In a short story review, students share their understanding of and opinion about a short story they have read. A review of a short story should include the following:
1. A brief introduction that includes basic facts, such as the title of the story, the name of the author and the genre.
2. A brief summary of the story that includes information about the setting, the main character(s) and the main events or problems.
(Remind students not to give the ending away!)
3. A personal reflection on what the student liked or disliked about the story and why.
4. A critical analysis that might include a discussion of the author’s purpose, the theme of the story or the use of literary devices, etc.
5. A conclusion that includes an evaluation and a recommendation to read the story (or not!)
Handout 1.13 provides guidelines for writing a short story review.
On the Resource CD, you will find sample short story reviews written by fictional Hong Kong senior secondary students, Virginia Woo and D. H. Law. Each has written a review of Shel Silverstein’s ‘The Giving Tree’. Virginia likes the story very much and writes a favourable review. D. H. has a different point of view, and his review is less favourable.
These samples can be used along with Handout 1.13 to highlight the features of a review before students write their own review of ‘The Knock at the Door’ or another short story they have read and would like to share with the class.
Story Review 1A
Story Review 1B
Worksheet 1.11 is useful for collecting information and ideas that can be used to write a short story review.
Collection Sheet for a Short Story Review
1. Give students Handout 1.13 and Virginia Woo’s story review in Handout 1.14.*
2. Read the review with the class. Refer students to Handout 1.13 and discuss each part of Virginia’s review, focusing on how she organises her ideas and meets the basic requirements of a story review.
3. Give students D. H. Law’s story review in Handout 1.15.*
4. Read the review with the class. Refer to Handout 1.13 again and discuss each part of his review, focusing on the organisation of ideas and the requirements for a well-written review.
5. Tell students that when they write a review of a short story, it can be favourable (like Virginia Woo’s review) or unfavourable (like D. H. Law’s review), but they must support their opinions with evidence from the story.
6. Give students Worksheet 1.11 for collecting information about ‘The Knock at the Door’ (or another short story they have read).
7. Tell students to use their notes to write a short story review, following the guidelines in Handout 1.13 and referring to the sample reviews.
* Alternatively, use the two story reviews of Isaac Asimov’s, The Fun They Had, written by C. S. Lu (Handout 1.16) and William Shek (Handout 1.17) as models.
Writing Short Stories
Organising the Writing Activity ……...…….….. 46
Planning a Short Story ……….………...… 55
Developing Characters ………...………..……... 58
Describing the Setting ………...………..… 70
Writing Dialogue ………...… 73
Completing the Story ...… 78
Organising the Writing Activity
The Suggested Schemes of Work for the Elective Part of the Three-year Senior Secondary English Language Curriculum (Secondary 4-6) recommends that in Part 2 of the Learning English through Short Stories elective module students plan and write their own short stories.
The suggested activities outlined here are based on ‘Shorts’: A Short Story Writing Competition, organised by the NET Section for secondary students in Hong Kong.
Although the process suggested can be modified for individual writing, the spirit of
‘Shorts’ is to have students collaborate on planning, drafting, revising, editing and presenting a short story in small groups. The final story is presented in writing and is also read aloud and recorded in the form of a radio broadcast.
Each student in the group is accountable and must write individual drafts on the characters, the setting and the events in the story. Students keep their drafts in a writing folder for continuous assessment. The final story, however, is a collaborative effort combining the best ideas from each student into a cohesive and coherent whole.
As part of the writing process, students engage in peer response to receive feedback from one another.
If the collaborative writing activities are well structured, students will gain a better understanding of writing as a social process. In the real world, professional authors often collaborate with others to produce a finished piece of work. Even when authors work alone, they are aware of and influenced by their audience – the knowledgeable community of readers who will read and respond to their work.
All the activities suggested in this part of the book are set up for collaborative writing in groups of three or four. It is also possible to use the worksheets for individual writing.
The Writing Task
In the ‘Shorts’ competition, the writing task requires students to work in groups to plan and write a short story that includes
• the basic elements of a short story (e.g. characters, setting, plot structure);
• the use of narrative writing techniques (e.g. character development, description of setting, use of dialogue); and
• the use of literary devices (e.g. simile, metaphor, alliteration).
To begin, students are asked to select one image of a person for the main character of the story and one image of a place for the setting of the story. They are then asked to choose a suitable title. This provides a framework for students to work with.
Below is a writing task similar to the one used in the ‘Shorts’ competition.
In the ‘Shorts’ competition, the images of people and places are all taken from the archives of ‘Clipit’, which is a film-editing competition organised by the NET Section.
Short Story Writing Task
A much wider range of interesting images can be found in popular magazines or on the Internet. Using images of people, places and events as prompts for writing a short story is a great way to trigger the creativity of your students.
Notice that at the end of the writing task, there is a checklist to help students remember the stages of the writing process that they will go through to complete their short story.
It is important that students go through the stages of the writing process as they develop their short stories with their group members. A story that is carefully planned and drafted and that goes through several revisions and edits is more likely to be successful than a story that is hastily written in one go.
1. Planning the narrative 2. Drafting the narrative
3. Revising the drafts (peer response) 4. Editing the drafts (peer editing) 5. Typing the final copy
6. Recording the story on a CD
“Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes
The Writing Process
When students work in groups to write a short story, it is important that they have a clear understanding of the writing process. Whether working individually or collaboratively, there are five basic steps that writers go through in order to produce a finished product.
The five steps of the writing process are as follows:
Step 1: Pre-writing / Planning
First choose a topic. Then plan and organise what you are going to write. You can use a mind map or graphic organiser to help you plan and organise your ideas.
Step 2: Drafting
Write a rough draft of your ideas. Do not worry too much about making mistakes. You can correct them later. Just write!
Step 3: Revising
Get other readers’ responses to what you have written. Make revisions based on their comments and your own ideas to improve your draft. Think about what to add, what to cut and what to change.
Step 4: Proofreading / Editing
Read your revised draft carefully and look for mistakes in grammar, spelling, capitalisation and punctuation. Correct any mistakes that you find. Then get other readers to help you find errors that you have missed.
Step 5: Publishing / Presenting
Complete your final copy. Share it with others by publishing it or presenting it.
Sometimes you need to go through the earlier steps several times before a piece of writing is ready for publishing or presentation.
The following PowerPoint slides can be used to introduce the writing process to students.
The Writing Process The following handout is also available on the Resource CD.
The Writing Process
After drafting a piece of writing, students can engage in peer response in order to receive feedback from their peers on what they have written. Peer response can be done in pairs or in small groups of three or four.
With students who are more proficient in English, peer response can be done orally.
Student writers read their work aloud and ask their peers for feedback. The response from peers can begin with simple acknowledgements and impressions, such as:
‘Thank you for sharing your work.’
‘I really enjoyed that.’
‘That was interesting.’ (sad, exciting, inspiring, etc.)
Peer responders should then try to give constructive feedback to the writer, using such expressions as:
‘I like this part because…’
‘I don’t understand what you mean in this part. Can you explain it to me?’
‘I think you should add more details to this part.’
‘I think you should delete this part.’
‘I think you should change this part. Instead of saying…, why don’t you say…’
When engaged in peer response, students should not spend too much time commenting on errors in grammar, spelling or punctuation. This type of response is called ‘peer editing’ and can be done at a later stage in the writing process.
The main purpose of peer response is for students to help one another improve the content and organisation of their writing. Peer responders should stay focused on these two aspects of their writing.
To facilitate peer response, student writers can prepare photocopies of their written work for their peers so that the peer responders can highlight parts of the text and make notes in the margins.
“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.”
George Bernard Shaw
A peer response feedback form like the one below can help students give written feedback to one another. It is a simple T-chart for recording what students like about their peer’s writing and what they think needs improvement.
Assessment Form 2.1:
Peer Response T-chart
When students are expected to meet specific criteria, a peer assessment rubric can be used. Assessment Form 2.2 below is for writing a character sketch and Assessemnt Form 2.3 is for writing a descriptive paragraph. The rubrics should be shown to students before they write so that they are aware of the criteria. After students have completed their work, they can then use the rubrics to provide feedback to one another through peer response.
Assessment Form 2.2:
Character Sketch Rubric (Peer Assessment)
Assessment Form 2.3:
Descriptive Paragraph Rubric (Peer Assessment) Notice that vocabulary, grammar and mechanics are included in both rubrics. Students should be reminded not to focus too much on these. Tell them to “look at the forest first before they look at the trees.”
Assessment Form 2.4:
Short Story Rubric (Self Assessment)
Peer Response Students should take the feedback they receive from their peers into consideration when revising their drafts, but ultimately each student (or group) can decide whether or not to take on the suggestions they receive from peers.
The following PowerPoint slides can be used to introduce students to the practice of peer response.
Students can also engage in peer response after completing a draft of the entire short story. Assessment Form 2.4 below will help them to do this.
Engaging in peer response may be difficult for students for various reasons. Some students may not be comfortable with the idea of ‘criticising’ a piece of work written by a peer. Others may not feel qualified to give meaningful feedback. Students tend to value feedback from the teacher more than from their classmates. Giving meaningful feedback in English, a second language for most students, presents an additional challenge.
With proper training and practice, however, students can benefit greatly from engaging in peer response. They will develop a greater awareness of what makes a piece of writing ‘good’ and they will gain confidence both in writing and in responding to the works of others. They will be able to see writing as a social process and will develop a greater understanding of ‘purpose’ and ‘audience’. Engaging in peer response in English also gives students much needed practice with their oral communication skills.
As students collaborate in groups to plan, draft and revise the different parts of their short story, peer response can be used at various points along the way.
Peer Response Guidelines The following handout for students is also available on the Resource CD.