What's your approach to teaching short stories?

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Unbeknownst, Aug 18, 2010.

  1. Unbeknownst

    Unbeknownst Cohort

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    Aug 18, 2010

    I just started prepping my short-story unit, and I'm having a hard time coming up with what I would consider "the most efficient" way to teach short stories.

    I'm thinking the bare basics right now: (1) Give background information, (2) Have students read short stories in class using whole class instruction, independent instruction, and group instruction, (3) interrupt at key moments and guide them to deeper levels of thinking, (4) assess with a lame worksheet.

    I'm much more confident with my novel preps, I'm just trying to think of a better way to teach short stories, more specifically best way for guided practice and how to assess.
     
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  3. chebrutta

    chebrutta Enthusiast

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    Aug 18, 2010

    What grade levels do you have?
     
  4. Unbeknownst

    Unbeknownst Cohort

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    Aug 18, 2010

    9th and 10th
     
  5. chebrutta

    chebrutta Enthusiast

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    Aug 18, 2010

    In that case, it depends on the story. What skills will you be assessing for that particular story?

    If it's prediction, you need to stop throughout. If it's characterization, you should stop at particular points and have them fill out a character map. And on and on.

    I link my short stories to particular benchmarks to ensure I'm teaching what they need to know and not just reading the story because it's good (and there are so. many. good. stories. in 9th and 10th grade).

    Don't assess with a lame worksheet. It's a pain-in-the-butt, but assess (formatively and summatively) with short-response.
     
  6. Unbeknownst

    Unbeknownst Cohort

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    Aug 18, 2010

    Thanks Chebrutta! So, help me out here:

    When I teach "The Most Dangerous Game," the objectives will be to analyze conflict, non-linear plot, foreshadow techniques and/or prediction.

    So, should I stop at all the foreshadow points and have the class make inferences? If so, how do I hold everyone accountable?

    For conflict, should I have them describe the conflict within the story at certain points?

    I'm just worried that my lower students will fall through the cracks during this discussion. How do I hold them accountable? Through the short responses you mention?

    Also, big question: How long would I spend on "The Most Dangerous Game"? One day (impossible imo)? Two days? Ahhhhh -- I'm so confused?

    Great tips btw, thank you very much. I feel like I'm heading in the right direction now.
     
  7. chebrutta

    chebrutta Enthusiast

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    Aug 18, 2010

    Well first - it's the best story in the world. I wish I still taught 9th grade.

    Second, don't forget protagonist and antagonist. Venn Diagram = your friend.

    Have them keep a prediction journal. Simple: Sheet of paper with a line down the middle. Left side = story point (guided by you) with their prediction, right side = actual outcome. Just stop the story, have them write it out, then move on.

    Conflict: You have to introduce types of conflict prior to teaching. They need man vs. man, man vs. self, man vs. nature for that story. Before you begin reading, do a short exercise on the board where the whole class comes up with a list of examples.

    Plot = plot graph. I have a totally awesome one that is not on this computer, but if you PM me your email, I'll bring it home tomorrow and scan it in. This one covers EVERYTHING. I do it for every short story in class.

    For accountability - short group discussions. Have them complete character analyses/Venns/plot graph in small group settings. Have support stations on the wall, but don't allow them to bring paper or pencils with them to the station. Use total response questioning (every child has the same answer written in the same way). And don't forget the magic of art when learning. Short response can be fore a quiz or test, but only give them 3 questions and NO EASY QUESTIONS.

    As far as time - if you read it aloud (or the kids read aloud), minimum one week. If you listen to the recording (easier on the lower kids), it'll move faster.
     
  8. Unbeknownst

    Unbeknownst Cohort

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    Aug 18, 2010

    Amazing.

    I'm going to PM you for some additional clarifications, but I just wanted to go on the record that I think your solutions are brilliant.

    Thank you so very much for your help.
     
  9. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    Aug 18, 2010

    I teach a similar way to the other poster. I love teaching short stories. It's my favorite, with poetry being a close second.

    I have a specific focus for each story, although I typically hit on all of the major story elements for each story.

    I've also always felt that it is important to compare stories instead of viewing them as independent from one another.
     
  10. scooter503

    scooter503 Comrade

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    Aug 19, 2010

    Great ideas everyone. I will be doing a short story unit this year as well. Thanks.

    If you don't mind a short hijack...could anyone suggest any short stories that would be appropriate for 7th and 8th graders? This will be my first year with this grade level.
     
  11. ekk5968

    ekk5968 Rookie

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    Aug 19, 2010

    Do you mind sharing that plot chart with me as well?
     
  12. chebrutta

    chebrutta Enthusiast

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    PM me your address.

    7th grade stories: Rikki Tikki Tavi, Three Skeleton Key, The Naming of Names, After Twenty Years, The Smallest Dragon Boy, The Zoo, All Summer in a Day.

    8th grade stories: The Landlady, Tell-Tale Heart, The Cask of Amontillado, The Treasure of Lemon Brown, Was Tarzan a Three Bandage Man?, Man from the South.
     
  13. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    Aug 19, 2010

    Thanks so much for the email chebrutta! Great resource!
     
  14. bmault

    bmault Rookie

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    Aug 26, 2010

    I always google study guides for the short stories in our textbook. Tweak them and save them as your own. Make the kids responsible for getting the answers and let them use for the test. TMDG movie is available free online as well. I always google tests, worksheets etc. Why reinvent the wheel?
     
  15. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    Aug 26, 2010


    Thank you! I've been contemplating putting together a unit HS SPED comprehension strategy practice. I needed short stories most likely at their independent level.
     
  16. camembert

    camembert New Member

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    Aug 31, 2010

    Develop a concept-based focus???

    Another idea is to keep in mind the big idea that Marzano and the ASCD guys are always hammering on: develop a conceptual focus -- a big idea focus -- for things like a short-story unit. (NCTE and IRA make similar suggestions: thematic units beat generic units.)

    So say you're doing "The Most Dangerous Game," maybe you cast about for a theme that a number of stories will support. A big question about life or human nature or history or reality or the relationships.

    Maybe the question would be: "When is violence justified?"
    Or maybe: "How do we justify our actions?"
    Or maybe just: "Why do people do the things they do?"

    Ideally, you'd want a number of pieces that would all contribute to that.

    Just glancing around at my desk, I've got a book of poems by Nobel-Prize winner Wislawa Szymborska that would work for 9th or 10th graders. Her poems "Torture" or "Hatred" or "A Word on Statistics" or "The Turn of the Century" would all work.

    I sometimes use a scene from 50 Cent's memoir ("From Pieces to Weight") where 5-year-old Curtis's mom forces him to go back outside and fight a bigger boy (It's in the first chapter.)

    Or that story about Harriet Tubman pulling the gun on a slave who wants to go back.

    There's a brutal poem by Anthony Hecht called "More Light, More Light," but it's kind of hard.

    William Blake's "The Tyger" raises the question ... as does "The Circle of Life" song from "The Lion King."

    What a long, bizarre answer this is ... but the basic point is what my quondam teacher Jim Marshall used to say: "You don't choose stories to teach because the stories are good. You choose them because of the discussions and thinking they'll sponsor."

    Or something like that ....
     
  17. brekekex

    brekekex New Member

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    Sep 3, 2010

    I've had success teaching tenth-graders with "short short stories," those that are a thousand words or less. They are a little harder to come by in quality, but I find the students are more apt to be held in interest with the shorter format.

    I would recommend (some) stories from Michael Crummey's book "Hard Light". Personally, I gave them the story 'Bread' from this collection; he has a whole section in the book called "Little Stories" that will give you a good launching pad. At just under 400 words, Bread is a great place to start and while they certainly won't be able to analyze it the way it should be analyzed (I've seen the story in a Uni. anthology), it will give them a comfortable stepping stone when they see the page and say "That's all I have to read?? Wow..."

    I believe the story is available freely online.

    brekekekex, coex, coex
     

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