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Creative Use of Short Stories in ESL Classrooms 
ByJ.John Love Joy   posted on01 Feb, 12 3730 Views 0 Comments Regular Feature Add to favorite


Short stories have a long-serving history in the hands of second language teachers as a reliable input. Textbook writers have considered them a reliable source for language acquisition since they provide food for our thought through their plurality of theme, diction, context, and narrative. Nevertheless, the traditional teaching practices have limited their scope and effect to the extent of making the students unenthusiastic about their use in language classrooms. This paper establishes the substance of stories and provides ten creative activities using stories to promote interactive and useful learning experiences among the students.


Stories are inevitable part of human culture. Parents use them for various reasons viz. to soothe their crying children, to put them to sleep, to enrich their imagination, to make them morally responsible and to mould them in rich cultural heritage. Teachers willingly fallback on stories in classrooms giving a break to the subjects they deal with; and if the teachers are friendly students themselves request for stories. At times, parents’ professional demands and teachers’ computer suaveness lead them to use technology as a replacement narrator. Especially, the computer games have given stories a unique dimension in which the users become contributors of the action narrated. Interestingly, these actions determine the flow of the stories, that is, the users become the protagonists whose actions guide the outcome of the stories – an important aspect of the soaring popularity of such games. Two facts emerge here: firstly, parents/teachers depend heavily on stories whenever and wherever necessary; and secondly, children/students involve themselves in the narration if they are active contributors. So there seems to be an inseparable bond between humans and stories.

The substance of stories

Most of us would agree to the belief that stories serve as an effective means of language input which according to Garvie (1990) can stimulate thought and feeling while helping students acquire language skills. The limitless possibilities of varied themes, intense conflict and valuable ideas give students plenty of creative space for discussion. Using stories, Strodt-Lopez (1996) feels, facilitates authentic peer interaction since stories create “a desire to communicate that is natural, unrehearsed, and strong” (Basturkmen 1990: 18). Gwin (1990) says that stories enhance writing skills because they provide an effective platform to understand the subtle nuances of complex elements embedded in writing. Above all, it is the “place where language and meaning meet” (Kooy and Chiu 1998: 79) as nothing of human experiences takes place in a vacuum. Every experience is embedded in plurality of contexts woven into a variety of structures. In this regard, one would certainly agree with Murdoch (1992) who says that “Writing does not occur in a vacuum. The writer is himself a product of a particular environment and society,” (p. 4) - thus attributing meaning through its rich context to help the students deduce meanings of unfamiliar words.

Every sense found in stories relies entirely on words which are winged in appropriate contexts to assist the creative minds of the students; and every character portraying these experiences reflects the culture of the larger society. Houston (1997), a practising teacher, asserts that stories give “a sense of belonging” (p. 382) to the students which makes them feel that they are part of a larger community, which has a system, custom, and identity of its own. This feeling of belongingness comes when the stories are closer to the hearts of the students.

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