Teaching Short Stories

Methods for Using the Short Story in ELT

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2007

13 Pages, Grade: 1,7


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. The significance of literary texts in language teaching
2.1 Characteristics of the short story
2.2 Why should short stories be used in ELT?

3. Teaching short stories: methods and approaches to teach short stories
3.1 Pre-reading activities
3.2 While-reading activities
3.3 Post-reading activities

4. Conclusion

5. Bibliography

1. Introduction

The use of literature in the second language classroom can be legitimated in different ways. Todays methods of second language acquisition (SLA) put emphasis on working with literature which offers a great range of opportunities to familiarize a learner with a foreign language. However, it is not just the aspect of learning or acquiring a second language when dealing with literature. Furthermore, the work with literature includes social and cultural as well as empathetic aspects. Thus, dealing with literature, whatever genre of literature is touched, is highly manifold and undoubtedly of a high value. According to Wolfgang Gehring, the short story, besides the novel, is one of the genres which is used most frequently in school. The short story has many uses concerning the field of didactics: it can be used for introducing different topics and for accustoming the learner to different methods of interpretation. In addition, working with literary texts, especially with short stories, offers the possibility for the examination of several problems, e.g. problems of youths or the topic of life and death.[1] In the framework of the term paper at hand, the focus lies on working with literary texts, namely teaching short stories as one component of the narrative genre besides the novel. For this purpose there will first be a short discussion about the significance of literary texts in language teaching according to Ansgar Nünning, who claims that literature forms an essential part when learning a foreign language (FL). In addition to that, the emphasis in the following chapters lies on working-techniques for dealing effectively with short stories in language teaching. For this purpose different methods for the work with short stories are presented and critically examined. The presented methods are divided into pre-, while-, and post-reading activities. However, in spite of the presentation and explanation of several strategies of teaching short stories one has to bare in mind that a universal formula of how to deal with literature does not exist. Eventually the teacher has to find the method which he favours and his pupils might favour as well and which he considers having the greatest learning effect.

2. The significance of literary texts in language teaching

Nowadays, the most frequent teachers’ opinion is that there is no doubt concerning the effectiveness of literature in language teaching. Although the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages offers the basis for the important aspects of foreign language learning and of course teaching, it gives room to the aesthetic use of language, i.e. the field of literature, on only half a page of the whole framework. Unfortunately the advantage of using literature as learning material is miserably disregarded.

Literature in general must not be underestimated. Literature carries various important features which influence the reader. First of all, dealing with literature embroadens one’s horizon, no matter whether for entertainment or as learning material for foreign languages. It stimulates fantasy as well as creativity and in addition to that, literature confronts the reader with background information, e.g. culture, politics etc. Furthermore, literature offers authentic language at various levels of difficulty. Thus, it enlarges the vocabulary and has positive influence on the language learning process. Ansgar Nünning is a famous didact who elaborates on the change of significance of literary texts in language teaching. He opposes literary texts to common class book texts and emphasizes that the former stimulates fantasy and provides authentic motives for speaking, i.e. it encourages the learner to use the FL in speaking and writing.[2] Furthermore, Nünning focuses on literary texts as a possibility to pick up the cultural aspect as an essential part in the language classroom. Pupils learn to understand a foreign culture by reading and working with authentic texts in the target language. The aim of teaching literature should so to speak make the learner familiar with empathy and transfer of perspectives. Especially in times of a more and more growing Europe and globalization pupils have to develop the ability to put oneself in the position of another person.[3]

2.1 Characteristics of the short story

The short story is one of the most common narrartives that is used in the language classroom. Of course, one of the characteristics of the short story is that it is short. Therefore it can be read in one sitting and the pupils are not put off by an endless amount of pages. As the short story possesses a relative length, it contains just a few characters what makes it less complex and easier for the reader to follow. The short story disposes of limited time and space dimensions. It concentrates on one section of the characters’ lifes and offers a direct access to the action.[4] The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines the short story as “an invented prose narrative shorter than a novel usually dealing with a few characters and aiming at unity of effect and often concentrating on the creation of mood rather than plot”[5] The aspect of the unity of effect has its roots in the theory of one of the most famous writers: Edgar Allan Poe. He, as an author of 19th-century literature and so to speak the creator of the modern short story, emphasizes that everything serves for the effect, i.e. the impact on the reader. This effect can only be reached by the unity of effect or, in other words, by the totality of impression. Thus, the unity of effect demands brevity in the form that the story can be read in one sitting.[6]

Additionally, the short story offers a wide range of authors and topics. It reaches from topics like friendship, life and death, problems of adolescents and discrimination to various genres, e.g. detective stories or fantastic literature.

2.2 Why should short stories be used in ELT?

Many aspects support the use of short stories in English language teaching. A few of the characteristics mentioned above already give an impression what the advantages of short stories are. Apart from the brevity and the amount of different topics it is a great medium for the introduction to text analysis and text production. Furthermore, the pupil gets into contact with new and topic-related vocabulary as well as with literary terms which are necessary for text analysis. So, the work with short stories proposes a good basis for later work with more complex literature. Brain Parkinson and Helen Reid Thomas summarize:


[1] Wolfgang Gehring, Englische Fachdidaktik. Eine Einführung, (Berlin: Erich Schmidt, 2004) 143ff.

[2] Ansgar Nünning, “Text-Literatur-Kultur: Handlungs- und produktionsorientierter Literaturunterricht und Fremdverstehen“, Englischunterricht. Grundlagen und Methoden einer handlungsorientierten Unterrichtspraxis, eds. Bach and Timm, (Tübingen: Francke, 1989) 150.

[3] Ansgar Nünning, 158.

[4] Wolfgang Gehring,143.

[5] Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, 2006. April 20th 2007. <http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/short+story>

[6] Edgar Allan Poe, “The Philosophy of Composition”, The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe. Volume XIV. Essays and Miscallenies, ed. James Harrison, (New York: AMS Press, 1968) 194ff.

Excerpt out of 13 pages


Teaching Short Stories
Methods for Using the Short Story in ELT
University of Münster  (Englisches Seminar)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
446 KB
Short Stories, Literature in ELT
Quote paper
Bettina Vázquez García (Author), 2007, Teaching Short Stories, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/143940


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Teaching Short Stories

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free