Benefits of Using Short Stories in the EFL Context
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Ahlam, Aya, Ishaq, Muath
The main purpose of this article is to explain the importance of using literature, with greater emphasis on the importance of teaching short stories in ESL classrooms, demonstrating the benefits of short stories and making teachers understand these benefits and planning classrooms that give students what they need
but On the other hand, there are some teachers who believe that teaching a foreign language is based on focusing on linguistic aspects and there is no need to give literature in the classroom, but at the end their students will communicate with the language material that was given to them, but it turns out that the short stories add to the student’s language and develop among their communication skills in the advanced stages of the grades and among these benefits there is the development of the four skills: listening, speaking, writing, and reading as short stories in the classroom, these skills effectively through the implicit stimulation present in these stories that invites the student to think and to use their imagination, operating the mind, attracting attention, and also learning the cultural and literary aspects. There are also higher-order thinking aspects, which we will explain in detail.
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Learning foreign languages appeared more than a century ago, as learning the foreign language was with the help of the Grammar Translation Method, as students were translating literary texts from the foreign / second language into their mother tongue, but then this method was replaced by focusing on structures and vocabularies. Which made the use of literature in the classroom less used, and it was not even necessary to use literature to learn any language, as neither the Direct Method nor the Audio-lingual Method utilized literature to teach second/foreign languages, for example in the seventies, methods such as the Community Language Learning , Suggestopedia, the Silent Way, Total Physical Response, and the Natural Approach did not use literature to teach second/foreign languages, and neither did the Notional-Functional Syllabus.
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But not so long ago, almost two decades ago, teachers realized the importance of using literature in teaching English as a foreign language as literature can be used to enhance skills and supplement language teaching. Sher (1976) asserts that with students at the elementary and intermediate levels, teachers can use literary texts for "language practice, reading comprehension, and potential aesthetic appreciation" as a form of further development of their language skills. (Muyskens, 1983, p. 413). In contrast, with advanced students literary texts may be utilized for the “development of knowledge of world literature, practice in reading and discussing creative work, and the introduction of literary concepts, genres, and terminologies—e.g, recognition of figures of speech, levels of meaning, and other stylistic features ”(p. 413). As deepening in literature leads to a deepening of critical thought and openness to different cultures, which may or may not be familiar, and a journey from the literary text to their minds to find meanings of ideas and an insight and critical view of ideas.
Benefits of short stories
There are many benefits of using short stories in ESL/EFL classes including motivating students, Introducing literary elements , Teaching culture and higher-order thinking benefits. The most important benefit that everyone should realize and to know its value, is the reinforcement of skills. We will feel and see these benefits after reading the story of “The Wisdom of Solomon"
Materials / equipment
Short stories allow instructors to teach the four skills to all levels of language proficiency. Murdoch (2002) indicates that “short stories can, if selected and exploited appropriately, provide quality text content which will greatly enhance ELT courses for learners at intermediate levels of proficiency” (p. 9). He explains why stories should be used to reinforce ELT by discussing activities instructors can create such as writing and acting out dialogues. Also, Oster (1989) affirms that literature helps students to write more creatively (p. 85). Instructors can create a variety of writing activities to help students to develop their writing skills. They can ask students to write dialogues (Murdoch, 2002, p. 9) or more complex writing activities if students have reached a high level of language proficiency. For example, if instructors bring to class “The Wisdom of Solomon,” they can assign the following writing activities:
a. Write a dialogue between King Solomon and the guard holding the sword after the mother and the son, and the other woman left the palace.
b. Paraphrase the first four sentences of the paragraph, “And in this way they argued . . . whose child it was” (fourth paragraph from the bottom).
c. Summarize the story in three sentences, including the main character, setting, conflict, climax, and resolution.
reinforcing the skills
Reinforcing the skills
d. Write one sentence on the theme of the story.
e. Write a paragraph on what causes people to lie.
f. Write a classification essay on different kinds of lies.
Activities a and b are suitable for beginning levels; activities c, d, for intermediate levels; and activity f, for advanced levels.
In addition, stories can be used to improve students' vocabulary and reading. Lao and Krashen (2000) present the results of a comparison between a group of students that read literary texts and a second group that read non-literary texts at a university in Hong Kong. The group who read literary texts showed improvement in vocabulary and reading. Three activities can be added to “The Wisdom of Solomon,” to help students to acquire more vocabulary. These activities are related to form, meaning and use respectively.
Complete the word form chart below. The first word has been done for you.
Remember that some words do not have all forms.
Participle Adjective Noun Verb Adverb
speaking speakable speaker speak ---------
--------- --------- --------- die ---------
There can be as many words as the instructor thinks necessary but not too many so as not to
make students lose interest in the activity that should be included in every story. This activity
helps students to learn more vocabulary, and it also teaches them how to use a dictionary.
Write the letter of the definition/synonym in column B that most closely matches
each word/phrase in column A.
In this activity, the words/phrases in column A come from the story students are reading. The definitions and/or synonyms provided in column B must match the meaning of the
words/phrases in the context of the story to help students to understand how a different
word/phrase can be used in the same context.
Choose the word/phrase that best fits each sentence, drawing upon the list under
column A in the previous activity. You may need to add -s to a plural word or to a third
person singular of a verb in the present tense, -ed to the past tense of regular verbs, etc.
In activity c, students practice using the words that they already understand the meanings of.
Since “The Wisdom of Solomon” does not include a list of unknown words/phrases in bold and the words/phrases do not have explanation and/or synonyms on the footnote, instructors should add both. As a student taught by this author and instructor has said: “The list of words help us go on reading without stopping for too long to look them up in a dictionary or thesaurus.”
As far as reading comprehension is concerned, the new vocabulary will help students with comprehension; however, it does not guarantee that students will understand the story. The activities included in section 3, Introducing literary elements, will reinforce reading comprehension.
High-intermediate and advanced students also profit from literary texts. What they read gives them the opportunity to come up with their own insights, helping them to speak the language in a more imaginative way. They become more creative since they are faced with their own point of view, that/those of the main character(s) of the story and those of their peers, according to Oster (1989, p. 85). This thoughtful process leads to critical thinking. As Oster confirms, “Focusing on point of view in literature enlarges students' vision and fosters critical thinking by dramatizing the various ways a situation can be seen” (p. 85). Therefore, when students read, they interact with the text. By interacting with the text, they interpret what they read. By interpreting what they read, they can work toward speaking English more creatively.
In reference to listening, instructors can do the following:
a. Read the story out loud so students have the opportunity to listen to a native
speaker of English (if at all possible)
b. Play the story if a recording is available.
The activity is done for fun or for students to find answers to questions given and explained to
them prior to the listening activity. For students to understand the story when they listen to it
for the first time, the questions can be based on literary structures.
a. Who is the main character of “The Wisdom of Solomon”?
b. Where/when does the story take place?
c. What is the problem (conflict) in the story?
Since short stories usually have a beginning, middle and an end, they encourage students at all levels of language proficiency to continue reading them until the end to find out how the conflict is resolved. Elliott (1990), for example, affirms that literature motivates advanced students and is “motivationally effective if students can genuinely engage with its thoughts and emotions and appreciate its aesthetic qualities” (p. 197). He stresses the importance of developing student–response (individual and group levels) and competence in literature.
In addition, one of the reasons Vandrick (1997) lists for using literature with students is that literature motivates students “to explore their feelings through experiencing those of others” (p. 1). In addition, according to the Internet article (author not named) “Using Literature in Teaching English as a Foreign / Second Language” (2004), “Literature is motivating. . . . Literature holds high status in many cultures and countries. For this reason, students can feel a real sense of achievement at understanding a piece of highly respected literature.
Also, literature is often more interesting than the texts found in coursebooks.” As a result, instructors should agree that literary texts encourage students to read, and most literary texts chosen according to students’ language proficiency levels and preferences will certainly be motivating.
By selecting stories appropriate to students’ level of language proficiency, instructors avoid “frustrational reading” (Schulz, 1981, p. 44). To choose stories according to students’ preferences, stories should have various themes because, as Akyel and Yalçin (1990) point out, variety of themes will offer different things to many individuals’ interests and tastes (p. 178). But the themes should be “consistent with the traditions that the learners are familiar with” (Widdowson, 1983, p. 32) to avoid conflicts.
Introducing literary elements
Short stories can be used to introduce literary elements to students. Instructors can teach elementary components like character, place, and storyline at the beginning and low intermediate levels.
More advanced levels can introduce the same and more sophisticated aspects, such as conflict, climax and resolution. Gajdusek (1988) shows how literature might be presented by listing the activities in the following order:
factual in-class work
Students can learn about the story's context and terminology by participating in pre-reading activities.
If students are reading “The Wisdom of Solomon” for the first time, instructors can include questions in the story's left margin. Each question should be presented next to the paragraph in which the solution can be located so that students can begin to understand what each literary structure implies with the help of the instructor.
The following are some possible questions:
a. Who is the main character of the story?
Here's an example of how each question may be positioned on the story's left margin.
“Solomon's Wisdom” is a book about Solomon's wisdom. 1. Who are you? One of the principal women spoke first when she arrived to King Solomon to plead her case.
“I beg you, Sire, to listen to what I have to say!” a persona? The King exclaimed, "Speak!" “What exactly is your issue?” The left-hand questions introduce students to character Because they involve little analysis, both pre-reading tasks and factual in-class task analyses can be assigned to beginning and low intermediate students. Extending activities, on the other hand, is concerned with why, namely "involvement and experience".
*Students must be able to express themselves through their language skills
As a result, these exercises should only be offered to pupils who have achieved a high intermediate/advanced level of language proficiency.
Gajdusek says that the activities ask for “creative, relevant replies from the readers” when it comes to extending activities (writing and in-class group activity such as role-playing) Students must have comprehended the story in order to succeed.
Role-playing is an extension exercise that can help students become more immersed in the story. Instructors can assign students to play many characters.
a. Assume you're a guard who's been ordered by King Solomon to split the infant in half Tell the King how you feel if you don't think you can do what he has asked. Make sure you're persuadable.
b. Imagine you're a guard who's been ordered by King Solomon to split the infant in half. Tell the youngster how you feel about his decision after you've split him in half. Make sure you're persuadable.
when teaching culture to EFL students, short stories are effective, The culture of the people for whom the stories were written is transmitted through short stories. Students learn about the past and present, as well as people's habits and traditions, by studying culture.
Culture teaches students to appreciate and respect the differences among individuals. When employing literary texts, educators must keep in mind that the culture of the people for whom the text was written (if it differs from that of the students) should be researched. Students grow more aware of their own culture as they encounter new cultures.
They begin to compare their culture to that of the other to determine if there are any similarities or discrepancies between the two. Misinterpretation may occur as a result of cultural differences as Gajdusek (1998, p. 232) explains.
Instructors should introduce the culture to students or ask them to discover relevant knowledge about it to avoid misunderstandings. Students should learn about King Solomon before reading or listening to the narrative "The Wisdom of Solomon." The paragraph below explains who King Solomon was and how he became the world's wisest leader. If students have Internet access, instructors can ask them to read information about the King .
According to the account, God then praised Solomon for asking for wisdom rather than riches and honor.
The Old Testament writer says that Solomon subsequently became the wisest leader in all the world. Many came to seek his advice, even leaders of other countries.
The most famous story of the wisdom of Solomon. However, it is the one in which he settles a dispute between two women about questions of motherhood. (Janssen, 1981, p. 123)
Teaching higher-order thinking
higher order thinking or "HOT", is takes thinking to higher levels than restating the facts. HOT requires that we do something with the facts. We must understand them, infer from them, connect them to other facts and concepts, categorize them, manipulate them, put them together in new or novel ways, and apply them as we seek new solutions to new problems. Following are some ways to access higher order thinking.
The stories put issues of critical thinking in an easily remembered context. Howie (1993) agrees with the use of short stories to teach critical thinking. He believes that through reading and writing skills, students will be decisive, come to conclusions, synthesize information, organize, evaluate, predict, and apply knowledge.
Young (1996) discusses the use of children’s stories to introduce critical thinking to college students. He believes that “stories have two crucial advantages over traditional content:-
Because they are entertaining, student's pervasive apprehension is reduced, and they learn from the beginning that critical thinking is natural, familiar, and sometimes even fun.
Bloom’s Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain
According to Bloom et al in (1956), thinking skills called Bloom’s Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain, include both lower-order and higher-order thinking, teachers can activate student's lower-order or higher-order thinking, depending on students’ level of proficiency.
Students go through 4 stages to reach a stage of critical thinking:
• level (1) students will not face any problem responding to the questions.
• level (2) students start comparing, interpreting, giving descriptions and stating main ideas.
• level (3) students try to solve problems by using the knowledge they have about the story
• level (4) students must have reached the high intermediate level of proficiency to succeed, in order to make student analyze, compare, contrast, and explain. After reaching to this stage students will be able to answer some questions.
1. In the story, “The Wisdom of Solomon,” would it have made any difference if the real mother of the baby who was about to be cut in half, had stayed quiet instead of pleading to King Solomon not to cut him and give him to the other woman?
2. What would have happened if King Solomon had not heard the real mother of the baby and cut the baby in half, giving half to the real mother and half to the other woman who claimed to be the real mother?
These questions 1&2 require students to think of a different end to the same story.
3. Do you agree with the way King Solomon acted? Do you agree with the way the real mother acted?
4. Do you agree with the resolution of the story?
Questions 3 and 4 require students to make judgments like agree or disagree with showing evidence.
The main goal of learning any language is the ability to converse in the target language, but the introduction of short stories into the school curricula leads to the development of language and mental skills as well, such as knowledge of culture and literary criticism and thinking about these works more than just learning the language and its vocabulary ,and also it leads to education and openness to different ideas and cultures, which the education system does not provide with lingual material only (quoted in Shanahan, 1997, p. 165). Accordingly, one can say that integrating short stories into the curriculum will help ESL/EFL students to become well rounded professionals and human beings since short stories teach more than the skills necessary for survival in the target language. Short stories teach to introduce literary elements , Teaching culture and higher order thinking benefits. As in the story, which gave us a cultural background and taught us not to judge things hastily, when King Solomon said, “Bring me a sword.” You will think that this person is not as wise as it is known that it is not the fault of the child, but later it turned out that it was an excellent way to find out the real mother.
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