Tag Archives: Short stories

Reading to Write

4 Sep

I have been spending a lot of time thinking about the new stage 6 English syllabus.  In particular, I have found myself unable to stop thinking about the new Year 11 unit ‘Reading to Write’.   In this unit students are offered opportunities to “undertake the intensive and close reading of quality texts,” using these to “develop the skills and knowledge necessary to appreciate, understand, analyse and evaluate how and why texts convey complex ideas, relationships, endeavours and scenarios” (Stage-6 Advanced English syllabus document).

Below are a selection of texts which I think could offer some interesting opportunities for engagement.  I will add to the list as I come up with more ideas.

‘Healthy Start’

25 Jan

I think I am on a short story kick!  I have read Etgar Keret’s ‘Healthy Start‘ and cannot help but think it would make a great related text for AOS Discovery.

The text centres upon a change meeting and mistaken identity.  Sitting in a cafe, our protagonist is approached by a man who presumes he is someone else.  Our protagonist does not correct him.

I like this narrative as it explores how chance encounters can lead to discoveries about self and the world.


‘A Ride Out Of Phrao’

23 Jan

Dina Nayeri’s ‘A Ride Out Of Phrao‘ is an interesting narrative about a woman who joins the Peace Corps and moves to Thailand in order to escape the embarrassment of her life in America.

If using this as a related text for AOS Discovery, students should explore the interlinked nature of discoveries about self, others and the world as Shirin, the protagonist, establishes herself in Thailand.  Students should also consider the possibility that the move to Thailand and the establishment of a life there offers Shirin an opportunity to rediscover herself as well as the values and relationships she holds dear.

This short story could make an interesting partner to Go Back to Where You Came From as it engages with discoveries made while journeying and exploring unfamiliar cultural contexts.  It could also pair well with some of Frost’s or Gray’s poetry, particularly in terms of discovering through reflection and experience as well as engagement with place.

For other related material ideas please click here.


‘Wrong Channel’

20 Jan

I happened upon ‘Wrong Channel‘, a short story by Roberto Fernandez.  This very short narrative centres upon an error of interpretation.

This would be an interesting narrative to use with students as an example of humour and effective dialogue.

It would also be valuable as a writing prompt, encouraging students to speculate as to what happens next in the narrative.

‘There Was Once’

19 Jan

I recently read an interesting short story by Margaret Atwood entitled ‘There Was Once‘.  In this story the speaker attempts to recount a traditional fairy tale, only to be interrupted by the listener who notes all the politically incorrect elements of the story.

I think this would be an interesting narrative to share with students for a number of reasons:

  • It offers an alternate narrative style
  • It engages with social commentary
  • It offers strong perspectives and voices
  • It offers students permission to think and write outside established categories and stereotypes.

Geography and the heart

2 Feb

One of my favourite short stories of all time is Isabel Allende’s ‘And of Clay We Are Created’.  In that story, a young girl, stuck in the mud after a natural disaster, touches the heart and rekindles the memories of a typically detached journalist.  One of the many things I love about the story is the way that Allende revisits the language used to describe the natural disaster when discussing the unleashing of memories.  The implication, of course, is that the flow of memories is just as significant and transformative as the natural disaster.

I recently read a poem that immediately reminded me of Allende’s story.  This poem is entitled ‘After the Earthquake‘ and is by Welsh poet Mererid Puw Davies.   I think what reminded me of Allende’s story was the way Davies used the language of the earthquake to describe a woman’s reading of her partner’s face.

For my Year 10 students, a comparison of these texts might assist them with their creative writing.  For my Year 12 students, consideration of the two texts could provide an interesting way in to understanding journeys and processes of discovery.

‘Marriage is a Private Affair’

2 Nov

I recently read Chinua Achebe’s short story ‘Marriage is a Private Affair‘.  I wish I had stumbled across this earlier and had been able to show it to my Year 9 students when they studied Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet!  Achebe’s story beautifully illustrates the rifts and divisions that would, undoubtedly, have faced Romeo & Juliet had the ending of Shakespeare’s play been different.  Indeed, when ‘Marriage is a Private Affair’ is considered in partnership with Shakespeare’s play, the play becomes about family rather than merely the young lovers themselves.

A wider selection of texts

3 Oct

I have previously written about a proposed Year 10 Crimes Fiction unit.  The more I think about this unit, the more things I want to add to it.

For example, I would like to show students Roald Dahl’s famous short story ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’, and maybe even Robert Browning’s poems ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ and ‘The Laboratory’.  I think accessing and analysing these texts will help students to develop a fuller and deeper understanding of the conventions of the Crime Fiction genre and how these conventions can be demonstrated in a range of different textual forms.  Furthermore, exploration of Browning’s poems in particular will provide a reality check for some of my students who are planning on pursuing higher levels of English in Year 11.

Encouraging wide reading

14 Jul

The kids that I teach are awesome.  They are also, however, with a handful of exceptions,  non or occasional readers.

On a human level, this concerns me because students who do not read regularly miss out on opportunities to explore new worlds, to develop their ability to empathise with others and to see the world from different perspectives.  Indeed, there are worlds and experiences that my students are unable to access due to geography, time, or personal circumstances.  Reading would enable students to transcend time and space and engage with that which is currently out of reach.

As a teacher, my non or occasional readers cause concern because these students are disadvantaged when it comes to understanding how sentences should be structured, how images are built, how ideas are connected to create a coherent whole, and  how meaning is constructed.  They are also disadvantaged as they have less access to popular and quality literature (and yes, these are often different categories).  As such, these students have greater difficulty in evaluating the quality of their own work and that of their peers.  They also have greater difficulty in analysing texts set for study.

In light of all this, the question then becomes: How do I get my students to read?

As it turns out, my students are not overly receptive to novels.  Perhaps this is because, for many of these students, it takes ages to read a novel and, during that time, they lose track of the story line.

With this in mind, I think I am going to focus on getting students to engage with short stories.  My more motivated and competent students can read a short story in one sitting, while weaker students can read one over the course of the week.

The hitch, it seems, is figuring out how to sell this approach to my students! Any ideas?

Exploring Transitions related texts

8 Jun

The Exploring Transitions elective in Module C of the Standard English course requires students to find a related text.  The list below represents my suggestions.  I will update it as I find new potential texts.

  1. Set No Path (short film)
  2. Marisa (short film)
  3. Fourwalls: London‘ (short film)
  4. Freedom Writers  (film)
  5. ‘Two Words’ by Isabel Allende (short story)
  6. ‘And of Clay We Are Created’ by Isabel Allende (short story)
  7. Making it in America‘ (short film)
  8. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (film)
  9. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (film)
  10. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (novel)
  11. A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah (memoir)
  12. Persepolis (film or graphic novel)
  13. A Streetcar Named Desire (play)
  14. Over a Thousand Hills I Walk With You by Hanna Jansen (biography)
  15. Maestro by Peter Goldsworthy (novel)
  16. Room (novel)
  17. Briar Rose (novel)
  18. Hairspray (film)
  19. Girl Rising (film)
  20. The Devil and Miss Prym by Paulo Coelho (novel)
  21. The Kite Runner (novel, film or graphic novel)
  22. My Fair Lady (musical)
  23. ‘The Moment Before the Gun Went Off’ by Nadine Gordimer (short story)
  24. The Arrival by Shaun Tan (picture book)
  25. Eric by Shaun Tan (picture book)
  26. The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers (picture book)
  27. Martin’s Big Words (picture book)
  28. To This Day‘ by Shane Koyczan (poem or graphic novel)
  29. El Deafo by Cece Bell (graphic novel)
  30. Nutshell by Ian McEwan (novel)
  31. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba (novel/memoir)
  32. The Door (short film)
  33. The Book of Mormon (musical)
  34. Grave of the Fireflies (film)
  35. Scattered Lives (play)
  36. Hunt for the Wilderpeople (film)