Many stories assigned to students in reading classes are short fiction stories. In order for the students to achieve a better understanding of and subsequently a more satisfying reaction to their readings, I want to make them more aware of the technical aspects of short story construction, and the author’s delicate interweaving of these aspects so that the ultimate result is quality short story fiction.
The Scope of Fiction,
by Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren, the authors write “ . . . before extensive reading can be profitable, the student must have some practice in intensive reading.” It also includes “ . . . the student may best come to understand a piece of fiction by understanding the functions of the various elements which go to make up fiction and by understanding their relationship to each other in the whole construct.”
I’m in basic agreement with the above and do think the students will increase their reading comprehension if they understand better more of the elements utilized and the role of each element in a story. Though students are being informed about plot, setting, and characters in lessons presently, I contend that they need to be made more familiar with other elements of fiction tone, mood, point of view, theme and to recognize that from their unification, coherence and quality fiction is achieved.
The workbooks presently utilized in the classrooms may have reference to the other story elements, however they are interspersed in the curriculum, hence they are taught and then absorbed by the students as disparate factors when, in fact, they are essential in one single story to act as connectives and to contribute to the unity and cohesiveness of the total writing.
This curriculum unit will reflect a Gestaltic psychological framework, which suggests that learning should be by related wholes rather than fragmentary parts.
Therefore, I have incorporated and integrated the greater body of story elements in one comprehensive teaching unit, the goal being to have the students achieve a much broader understanding of what they read and to nurture their reading.
This unit is designed to be taught within a period of three weeks. At the outset, particular vocabulary words will be defined. The teacher will also elaborate on this vocabulary so as to develop further the students’ understanding. Additional information expanding on this aspect of the unit will be incorporated in a lesson plan to follow.
The students will then go on to reading a story; the teacher will guide the students to examples of the particular story elements. Simultaneously, the teacher will elaborate on the author’s diction or method of presentation of the particular story elements. When that has been completed, the class will be assigned a second story for similar analysis. Additional information expanding on these aspects of the unit will be incorporated in lesson plans to follow.
With the added insight gleaned from the first lessons, the students’ ability to select those passages that are reflective of particular elements should be more acute for the second story assignment. And, though the students have achieved keenness in their perceptions, the teacher must continue to act as a guide so that the students receive appropriate reinforcement when making their identifications and interpretations.
Within the three-week time frame a comprehensive exploration of the components necessary for quality short story fiction will have been taught. Students may be able to perceive that the way the author arranges the elements of his story is an art. In addition, the students’ new awareness can alert them to independently search out these factors in their future readings. Their reading skills may ultimately be so honed that they will want to expand their independent reading to include a wider range of topics, from adventure, romance, sports,to history, science, and philosophy.
This unit is being constructed for the 7th and 8th grade remedial and developmental reading classes. I will select two stories from the commonly used middle school reading book,
, and analyze the stories explaining how the author portrays and arranges the elements in his story.
My objectives for this unit include:
1) Students will become aware of the elements necessary for constructing a short story
2) Students will be able to define each element
3) Students will develop the ability to independently identify examples of these elements in their future readings
4) Teachers will have a model lesson to teach and to use as an example for future lessons.
In order to reinforce the understanding of the material and to determine if the students are understanding it well, the following methods of evaluation may be used:
1) Vocabulary tests
2) Write a paragraph (or story) stressing the mood of suspense (or sorrow, joy, fear)
3) Write a paragraph (or story) using the first person point of view (or omniscient, objective)
4) Write a paragraph (or story) focusing on the characterization of a performer
5) Write a paragraph (or story) illustrating the conflict patterns
6) Assign specific stories from the text and ask students to select passages representative of particular story elements.
Topics referred to in the evaluation are expounded on in the lesson plans to follow. I have tried to write up the lesson plans so that they can be of immediate use to the teacher.
Lesson Plan I will include the name of the story elements, pertinent vocabulary related to the story elements, and detailed descriptions of the story elements as a resource for the teacher. As often introduced first in a reading lesson, the unit and Lesson Plan I will begin with the introduction of new words, words that require defining so that the students can better understand the accompanying lengthier teacher’s descriptions.
My teaching format includes (1) DEFINITIONS and also (2) DESCRIPTIONS. I recommend that you write the story element name and its DEFINITION on the chalkboard for the students to copy for their reference. I would also encourage you to have the students take notes when you are describing the story element. Feel free to read the DESCRIPTION directly from my lesson plan.