Short Story im Englischunterricht

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2008

20 Pages, Grade: 2,3



1. Introduction

2. Definition of short stories

3. Characteristics of short stories

4. Meaning of short stories for language teaching

5. Different phases of working with short stories

6. Creative handling of short stories

7. Concrete example of a short story in language teaching- Désirée´s Baby
7.1. Pre- reading activities
7.2. While- reading activities
7.3. Post- reading activities

8. Summary




1. Introduction

In the following assignment the use of short stories in the language teaching will be discussed.

Why is it so important to integrate literature in classes of English? Which short stories are appropriate and why is it convenient for students? How can the teacher deal with them and how can he keep the students interested and motivated?

In the first section there will be a definition of short stories and their typical characteristics, furthermore the meaning of short stories within the language teaching will be defined.

In the next part different phases of working with a short story will be described and it will be theoretically dealt with the topic of the creative handling of short stories.

A detailed analysis will be performed on the basis of the practical example “Désirée´s baby” by Kate Chopin. It will contain examples for pre- reading, while- reading and post- reading activities for an actual lesson.

2. Definition of short stories

Modern short stories came into existence between 1830 and 1850 from tales and sketches. In the 19th century short stories flourished in the America, whereas in short stories Britain played a second role to the dominant novel . In the 20th century short stories were very modern, they were a reaction against the Victorian Age, where the world was a place of certainties. Short stories tried to negate these principles by reflecting changes, that were happening in the world. A new interest in psychology rose, rather than paying attention to form or style. The metaphor and symbols had a greater prominence and ambiguity became the norm especially with the loss of the all- seing, all knowing narrative voice. It is typical for the 20th century that the things left out are just as important as information put in.

A short story is a work of fiction which varies in length and has not yet a clear distinction amongst professional writers, it is usually written in prose and narrative format.

(Vgl. Höffler/Späth (2005); Geschichte der englischen Kurzgeschichte. Narr Francke Verlag)

3. Characteristics of short stories

In a short story there is always a point of view, that means - who is seeing the events of the story? It could be either an

- omniscient narrator who can move in and out of the action, or
- one or two character/ character heads in the story.
Another option is the
- observer, who may or not be a part of the story

These point of views are very subjective in their approach, they have a restricted point of view by means of suggestion over a crucial moment in someone´s life.

There are two key ideas to create a short story, it is either showing or telling. Whereas the showing means to describe the characters and their actions and the telling means that the author would tell or explain something.

The beginning can be designed either with an introduction or exposition or the reader will be thrown directly into the action of the story.

The plot is a series of events put together to make a complete story. The story can either be

- plotted, which would be a series of events, whose order is important and that ends in a conclusion, the other possibility is
- plotless, here the story revolves around one major event with no special order and the conclusion at the end is missing.

There is a reason for that, which is that in the 19th century short stories were written to read them out loud, so it was better when they were plotted because it was easier for the listeners to follow and to pay attention. It was different story in the 20th century, where it is assumed that most of the people can read and reread the story if they want, to put together the symbols and to understand the short story.

It is possible to work with ellipsis, that means if there is no plot then this is called ellipsis and it is mostly in the middle or the end of the story.

Framing devices help to increase the credibility of a story and provide a way of beginning and ending a story. There are different ways to do that, the story can for example be framed by a reoccurrence of a similar scene to one at the beginning. Normally the time frame of a short story is shorter than that of a novel and the spatial frame is also narrower in a short story.

There are various possibilities to end a short story, it can either be

- open, so the reader can interpret the story in his own way, or
- completed or
- the author can return to the present or catch up with the present.
By different means the short stories can be made very individual and special for example
- Irony
- A change of the point of view within the story
- Twist
- Repetition, to repeat words, ideas, scenes or actions

(Vgl. Myszor, Frank (2001): The modern Short Story. Cambridge University Press, p. 10- 68)

4. Meaning of short stories for language teaching

Even though there have been discussions in the last decades whether and how to teach literature in class, nowadays it is unimaginable to teach English classes without short stories and there are both psychological and linguistic reasons for that. The students can internalize the language and also reinforce points they have learned before also the students have to analyze the stories not only what is written like the language, style but they also have to see the bigger context. They will have to talk about their interpretation of the text. With short stories you can provide a wide range of texts and introduce different varieties of the English language.

Jennifer Hill describes in her book that it is easier for a non- native speaker to learn and memorize English in a greater context, not from the dictionary. Apparently studies have shown that the discourse context is very important, because people analyze the information relative to collections of memorized sounds and symbols, but also do they have their own knowledge of the world and the context of the message to work from.

The main meaning why a short story is important for language teaching is probably that it is interesting and provides topics to talk about so pupils or people in general get motivated to express their thoughts and create new sentences. The motivation plays a big role here and conditions should be the best they could for pleasure and communication.

However there are also problems with the teaching of literature or short stories in this case. Literature has something scary, too much for English learners to cope with in the beginning, another problem is that sometimes the language is too sophisticated and irrelevant to learners. It is either too formal or it is slang. So it is difficult for the teacher to design the lesson close-to-life.

All this is in the hands of a teacher but if he chooses the texts carefully than he shouldn’t have problems with students not understanding it, suitable texts have a great potential and students will be aware of how important language is and how it may vary, they will demonstrate the different degrees of formality (from slang to formal), they will have different topics which the learner or students may have experienced himself (love story) and short stories exemplify different levels of dictions (poetry will be different to colloquial speech). The written communication might be more important to some students than anything else so by short stories he will find good examples of description, instruction, narrative and argumentation. So all in all one can say that literature or short stories have different arguments to be taught in class which would be the personal development, the aesthetic aspect, a social and moral aspect because of the awareness of the issues and also a psycholinguistic aspect which was described before.

(Vgl. Hill, Jennifer (1986): Teaching Literature in the language classroom. Macmillian Publishers Ltd.)


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Short Story im Englischunterricht
University of Rostock
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Maxi Kramer (Author), 2008, Short Story im Englischunterricht , Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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