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Here’s a creative way for students to comprehend the elements of a short story


Language Arts  


5, 6, 7, 8  


Title – A creative way to comprehend the elements of short story
By – Burcu Alkan
Primary Subject – Language Arts
Secondary Subjects – Language Arts
Grade Level – 5-8
Warm Up/Motivation: Greeting and friendly chat with students and introduction of the aim of the lesson and activating background knowledge.

T: Hi everyone! What’s up? How are your classes?
S: …..
T: Today we are going to study a very nice short story and a short story’s elements within that particular short story. What’s a short story? What can be the elements of a short story?
S: …..
T: Good, thank you.

Pre-Reading: The necessary vocabulary and terminology is given before reading the text and focusing on certain points.

[Teacher delivers the photocopies which include terminology -Appendix I]

T: … Now let’s talk about the terminology of a short story. Good now let’s start with what a short story is, it’s a relatively new form in fiction. Now what’s a fiction? Don’t look at your notes immediately, we are not competing for anything just talking okay?
S: …..
T: Thank you. Fiction is generally thought as the opposite of fact but that’s not right. Fiction can be based on facts, too. Shortly, we can say that a short story is a form of fiction which is narrative and generally tells a sequence of events within a certain time and place. It is also said that it’s a shorter version of a novel. What about the elements of a short story?
S: …..
T: Well yes. Point of view, setting, style, character, plot, theme. What can you tell about these?
S: …..
T: Point of view is the focus from which the story was written. Can be 1st person or 3rd person view, it can also be omniscient (all knowing) or limited knowledge. What do we mean by these? If the story is told with “I did …., I saw…. , when I woke up…” it’s first person narration and that is it’s 1st person point of view. According to this we can say that third person point of view is when the narration is “He was walking down…, she started laugh…”
When the narrator (who tells the story, the owner of the point of view) knows what’s on each characters’ mind, their heart, psychology, that means all-knowing; like God -omniscient. When the narrator knows only what’s seen or what can be guessed-maybe like the reader it’s limited point of view, not omniscient. Then comes setting which is the location, time and culture in which the story takes place. Style is the author’s selection of the descriptive details and sentence structures etc… I am sure you all know the character, it refers to the people that the writer create for that particular story. Plot is the patter of action. Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end, the plot involves those and the climax-the most exciting part of a story- and flashbacks-which is going back from where you are at in the time of the story, which is done by the writer. You don’t go back and read but the characters remember or think or dream etc… And the last one is the theme is the major idea of a story. Generally it’s challenging to find it among to sub-themes…

[While giving all these descriptions and information, teacher may stop if there are any question or any statements from the students. When the explanation is over s/he delivers the story-Appendix II]

T: Now we will read the story -keeping all these points in our mind- with the guidance of some anticipation questions. Please write these questions down:

[The teacher writes the anticipation questions on the board-Appendix III]

T: I want you to read the story silently once. You can ask me the words that you didn’t understand when you are done with the reading.

While Reading: The students read the story silently with the guidance of the questions-they write their answers down while reading. When they are done and the unknown vocabulary is clarified, a second reading takes place. If the teacher is a good story teller s/he should read the story out loud, if not each student may read a paragraph/part of the story. The anticipation questions are focused on.

Post Reading: The anticipation questions are widened and discussed among the students.

[The teacher is only an assistant here, just guiding. When the students give the answers, the teacher should just say “Thank you”, otherwise the other students may not want to answer the questions because they think that the correct answer is given.]

T: As we all know what setting, character, plot etc… are, now I am going to divide to into groups of seven and I want each of you to change the part of the story that is given to you and re-write, you can turn back to your texts and read again if you want. That way we will see how these elements affect a story by changing them and seeing the alterations within the story. It’s a way of seeing the importance of those elements.

[Teacher divides the students in groups of seven and gives them the elements of Character, Setting, Plot, Theme, Point of view. Students change their parts in groups and then all these group are combined to create a different story. Then the product is read out loud by one of the students or teacher.]

T: Okay now let’s read OUR story J.

Production: Students write what they think about the story and compare it with their product and analyze the effects of the elements of a short story.

T: Finally I want you to write a short paragraph about what you think about the story and compare it with your product and analyze the effects of the elements of a short story. Then we will read them. Any questions?
S: …..

[Students write the paragraphs and they are read out loud till the end of the class.]

          1- Appendix I: Henderson, Gloria M. et al. Literature and Ourselves: A Thematic Introduction for Readers and Writers. New York: Longman, 1997.
          2- Appendix II: O’Henry. 100 Selected Stories. UK: Wordsworth, 1995.
          3- Appendix III: Prepared by me with the guidance of “Literature and Ourselves”



Point of View:
          1- What’s the point of view in this story? 1st-3rd person/all-knowing-limited?
          2- Do you think that the narrator is reliable or not? Does the narrator’s perception affects the way the story develops?

          1- Is the place and time the story has taken place is clear to the reader? How is it given?
          2- Can this story take place in some other time and place?

          1- Is the language of the writer simple or complex? Is it poetic? How would you define it?
          2- Are there any symbols or language arts? Can you give some examples if there is?

          1- Are the characters in the story believable? Why/Why not?
          2- How are the characters revealed? Through what narrator says about them? Through what other characters say about them? Through what they tell about themselves?

          1- What are the steps in development of the story? Is there a climax?
          2- What do you think about the resolution of the story?

          1- What’s the theme of the story? Could that theme be given as effectively in an essay?
          2- Did the theme provide an insight or understanding that is new to you?

Terminology of Short Stories

Fiction: The created text which are narrative and aim to express the feelings and ideas of the writer within a sequence of events, using the created characters and settings. It can have factuality, it doesn’t have to be the opposite of facts. Some examples of fiction can be; novels, short stories, fables, jokes etc…

Short Story: Short story can be defined as the short version of novel. A sequence of events being told with less details than a novel.

Narration: It’s telling a story. Each story has a narrator that talks about the events, characters and describes the setting, it is called the narration/narrator-who narrates.

Point of View: Point of view is from which focus the story is told. It can be first person or third person point of view and it can be all-knowing (omniscient) or limited knowing. First person point of view is when “I” is used, the third person point of view is “He & She” is used. When the narrator knows everything about everyone, what they think, feel and what their psychology is like it’s called omniscient-all knowing. When the narrator knows as much as the reader-what s/he sees or maybe a little bit more it’s limited knowing.

Setting: It’s the time, place and culture the story took place.

Style: It’s the selection of words, sentence structures and language arts that the writer use for details and descriptions. Irony, symbolism, metaphor can be examples of these…

Character: The people of the story that the writer created particularly for that story.

Plot: The pattern of action in a story. The beginning of the story may not be the beginning of the action. Climax is included in plot and it means that the peak of events, the most exciting part of the events. It can be supported with flashbacks-which are going back in time of the story within the story. Plot’s ending point is the resolution of the story.

Theme: It’s the major idea of the story. It’s generally the most challenging element of the story as it’s often confused with the sub-ideas.

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