Teaching actively through short stories

I have chosen Guy de Maupassant’s short story The Necklace because I think it is quite easy to understand and I enjoyed a lot while reading through it, I think students might like it. I like the message that it contains as well; it might make them reflect on the important aspects of life, and also make them think that you have to be careful if you are too materialistic because in the end it can cause you the ruin as it happened to Mathilde, the protagonist. You can find the short story in a previous post called “The Necklace”.

Now I’ll tell you which activities I’d use to teach English through this short story in an active way. The activities will be divided into pre/actual and post-teaching.

PRE-TEACHING ACTIVITIES

1. Students read the first paragraph of the story and they have to predict what the story will be about.

She was one of those pretty and charming girls born, as though fate had blundered over her, into a family of artisans. She had no marriage portion, no expectations, no means of getting known, understood, loved, and wedded by a man of wealth and distinction; and she let herself be married off to a little clerk in the Ministry of Education. Her tastes were simple because she had never been able to afford any other, but she was as unhappy as though she had married beneath her; for women have no caste or class, their beauty, grace, and charm serving them for birth or family, their natural delicacy, their instinctive elegance, their nimbleness of wit, are their only mark of rank, and put the slum girl on a level with the highest lady in the land.

They’ll do a brainstorm in small groups and they’ll create a wordcloud (http://www.wordle.net/) that summarises their ideas. They have to explain orally to the class what are their predictions and why do they think that will happen. They can also share their wordclouds on Edmodo (http://www.edmodo.com/).

2. Discuss  the following quotes in small groups:

“There are people so poor that the only thing they have is money.” –Unknown

“You might be poor, and unhappy; but become suddenly rich, and you will still be unhapy.” –Rick Beneteau

“How poor we truly are when we measure wealth in monetary terms; overlooking the true value of ourselves and those we love.” –Kelly Comeau

 

This short story is about a lowly woman who aspires to become rich. One day she has the opportunity of attending to an important event but she has nothing decent to wear. She has a rich friend who borrows her a beautiful (and apparently expensive) diamond necklace. Unfortunately, Madame Loisel loses it and she and her husband spend all their possessions and work hard in order to buy a new necklace. After 10 years, Madame Loisel and her friend found each other again and, talking about the issue, Madame Loisel discovers that the necklace she was lent by her was an imitation and the one she bought cost her a fortune!

Students have to discuss in small groups the quotes, expressing themselves and sharing their opinions. Through this story we can teach our students some values. We live in a materialist world and we sometimes have to reflect to see where the real happiness come from: family, friends, health…etc.

ACTUAL TEACHING ACTIVITIES

1. Try to represent one or two of the major points of action of the story: when Madame Loisel borrows the necklace from her friend, the affair… through a scene. You can use either goanimate (http://goanimate.com/) or bitstrips (http://www.bitstrips.com/) to do so.

Students must read the whole story. Then, they get into small groups and they have to identify the different parts of the story: introduction, plot and conclusion. They have to focus on the plot and select the best moments and represent them using a nice tool online. They can share their stories on Edmodo as well. The scenes must be coherent and students can’t copy directly from the text as they have to use their own words to retell the scenes. The best scenes will be awarded with a special badge on Edmodo from the teacher!

POST-TEACHING ACTIVITIES

1. Role-play. Get into pairs and represent the last part of the story where Madame Forestier and Mathilde Loisel found each other after 10 years. Try to represent Mathilde’s reaction when Madame Forestier tells her that the necklace she lent her was an imitation indeed. 

This activity is purely communicative although students should take notes in order to arrange the script of the role-play. They can dress up as if they where the characters in the story and record themselves and then upload it on Edmodo so the rest of the class can see and share each others’ works. With this activity they think about what will happen next in the story and can also provide a different ending for the story. There are many possibilities, they just need to be creative and have fun while doing it!

So, this is it! I enjoyed a lot while designing my activities for the song and the short story. There are so many possibilities in which we can teach our students in an innovative way… I can’t wait to teach students of Secondary Education and try these activities with them! I have discovered a new world through blogging! This is my first blog and I feel it won’t be the only one!

Sara

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