Have you ever heard of “mini-fiction”? “flash-fiction”? “the short short story”?

 

 Have you ever felt the need to move beyond the one-off news article reading lessons?

 

Have you tried to squeeze readers – either original stories written for learners or adaptations of well-known books – in your class syllabus?

 

If the answer to the question above is yes, have you had the chance to exploit the material at length?

 

I particularly love reading and have attempted to include fiction – especially readers - in my classes.

 

The feeling I usually get is that I’m overlooking the material, asking learners about the characters, the plot, their personal impression but without really finding the time to work on the book in depth.

 

Mini-fiction is another tool we have at hand to provide learners with the opportunity to read for pleasure in the classroom and to give teachers the chance to exploit the material fully - concentrating on both content and form within a tight schedule.

 

So what’s mini-fiction?

 

It’s a new form of writing found under many names; flash fiction, sudden fiction, nanofiction, microfiction or the short short story. All of these have one thing in common: their extreme brevity, minifiction´s defining characteristic.

 

Other features which characterise mini-fiction are:

ü      intertextuality (an author’s borrowing and transformation of a prior text or a reader’s referencing of one text in reading another)

ü      implicit meaning

ü      humour and irony

ü      memorable quality

ü      abrupt beginning

ü      unexpected ending

 

How can we use mini-fiction in the classroom?

 

Like with any other written text you’ve dealt with in class, you can engage your students in:

 

ü      Pre-reading tasks: predictions based on the title/pictures/first line, discussion about the topic, raising awareness about the author, feeding students information about the author

 

ü      While-reading tasks: skimming (activities designed to find out the gist – general information – for example questions/true or false/gaps) and scanning (reading quickly through the text with a more definite purpose or to find specific pieces of information. E.g – timetables, names, dates, the order action takes place, pieces of vocabulary and grammar)

 

ü      After reading tasks: drawing conclusions about the story, discussing the best part of the story, talking about the best character, writing a review, retelling, discussing intertextuality in the short short story, role-plays, etc.

 

 

In short, minifiction may give both teachers and students a sense of achievement out of reading a story which is original and fun and whose length makes it simple to focus on both the storyline and specific language items.

 

 

If you’re interested in reading a little bit more about this type of fiction and getting stories to use in class, you may like:

 

http://www.mini-fiction.com/

http://www.classicshorts.com/abc/t-z.html

http://www.bigeye.com/thurber.htm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/series/shortshortstories

http://www.indianchild.com/short_stories.htm

http://www.shortshortshort.com/sample_stories.htm

http://www.amazon.com/Sudden-Fiction-American-Short-Short-Stories/dp/0879052651

http://www.amazon.com/Great-Short-Stories-Writers-Thrift/dp/0486440982/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1289419369&sr=1-1

 

 

 

Georgina Hudson blogs by Georgina Hudson are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

 

 

Comments

Georgina
 
This is a new look at using fiction in language teaching, which, I feel will give many teachers the courage to expand on their teaching repetoire, whilst encouraging creativity in the classroom.
 
I'm always on the look-out for new ways to encourage  higher level thinking skills in students, and what better way to promote independant thinking than the use of literature? It's so nice to back - off from the mechanics of the language from time to time, and just give students something to play with.
 
Thank you for the wonderful tips and links. The concept of mini-fiction definitely makes literature more accessible to the busy ESL class,  and less daunting to the students.
 

Dear Georgina,
Thank you for opening my eyes about this new type of fiction.
I couldn't agree more about the graded readers. They're lovely but I always feel I need to devote several complete classes to them and I'm usually short of time to invest in readers, which is a shame.
I have visited some of the sites you suggested and they're really worthwhile. I loved many of the "short short" stories. I'll certainly try them out in my classes.
Regards, Stuart
 
 

Dear Ms Hudson,
Thank you for this new blog. As always, I've marvelled at the ideas you gave us.
I had never read or heard anything about this type of fiction.
Do you think you could provide us with practical examples of how to use one particular story?
I've been browsing the recommended pages and they look very complete.
Look forward to your new blog. Regards,
Sabrina

Dear Silvers,
Thank you for such motivated reply. I go along with you 100% - minifiction definitely makes literature more accessible to the busy ESL class, and less daunting to the students.
The stories which are available on the net (for free) are great. I also love the idea of being able to provide learners with a beautifully-crafted piece of fiction and at the same with the chance to work on special items of language.
These stories are usually very short, so it really becomes simpler to encourage higher level thinking skills in students, as you clearly put it, and they're also a great source of pleasure and information.
Many thanks again, keep in touch, Georgina

Thank you Stuart.
Allan Pulverness said something which I find very true to reality:
"An extensive reading programme’ sounds as though it is a stand-alone course. It may be possible to organize
a separate reading programme like this, with lessons set aside for activities to support students’ reading,
separate materials, a separate programme of homework, etc. But in most schools time is limited, language
classes are only allocated a few hours a week and there are too many other demands..."
The short short stories are usually lots of fun because of their unexpected endings and the intertextuality. In addition, there are a lot written by well-known authors, which could broaden our learners experience of the world.
Thank you again!

Dear Georgina,
Thank you. This topic's really lots of fun. I've already dished into a lot of material.
As you have been so kind, I'd like to share something I found, which is really great.
It's a short short story + youtube version of the same short short story.
It's name's "The Little girl and the wolf" by Thurber and it's under the same name on youtube.
I wonder if it could be of any use to you for a future blog.
Thank you! Nicolás

Hi Georgina, actually mini fiction is really stimulating and interesting to be taught in primary schools. Children love stories therefore their attention is focused to the lesson. We can get their active participation; turning a passive classroom into an active one. Ideas just flow unexpectedly. Children are great when they are in control of the learning task. For example, I used the story- Spider and the Web to teach my Year 2 pupils (8yrs); the story is about a spider who would keep on spinning the web despite of so many obstacles ande failures for a number of times until it succeeded finally. My purpose was to expose the children on 'don't give up and keep on trying until you succeed'. To my surprise, one of pupils asked me, 'Teacher, why the spider wasted so much of time spinning the web as it knows the present place is not safe for it as it had a lot of troubles? I think the spider should find another place so that it can live happily without any harm'. So, nowadays children are more advanced in their thinking skills therefore we teachers also need to adapt and adopt techniques like this to go inline with our children. Thank you.

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