Finding short stories for adult ESL students is one of the most important things an ESL teacher can do to promote learning. Reading is especially important since it touches on every aspect of language acquisition.
The bottom line is that literary fiction, short stories in particular, is as important for ESL learning as essays, news articles or anything else the instructor might present.
In general, fiction writers are more experimental in their prose, some even bordering on the lyrical. This provides rich examples for the students' own writing, allowing them to experiment with sentence structure and phrasing. Literary works also offer new and interesting challenges in comprehension in an enjoyable atmosphere.
The stories should be short enough to read in a single sitting, somewhere between five and ten pages depending on the skill level of the student.
The student's skill level also governs the style and complexity of the story under consideration. The more basic the learner, the more basic the story should be, regardless of the student's age. The last thing you want to do is turn what should be an enjoyable experience into an exercise in frustration.
With that in mind, here are a few additional tips to follow when selecting a short story for an ESL student:
The temptation some literary folks feel to inject some of the classics of nineteenth-century British literature, like Stoker's Dracula or Conan-Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, into the curriculum should be resisted as much as possible. True, Britain produced some amazing literature during this period and many of these are considered classics today. However, the language tends to be dense and difficult even for many native speakers of English. ESL students have plenty of time, once they master the basics, to tackle these more advanced pieces.
Genre fiction is a term that refers to a story that is clearly within one of the highly identifiable genres or types of fiction. The major genres include:
You do not have to stay away from genre fiction, but you do need to be cautious.
A good rule of thumb is to keep to genre pieces that are as close to mainstream as possible. Poe's The Cask of Amontillado will likely be an easier read than something out of Barker's Books of Blood. This is not due to the language - Barker would probably be easier from the language perspective - it is due to the subject matter and the intensity of the images. You may encounter someone who has never read such a story and really will not know how to process it.
Not every author listed below is appropriate for every ESL student; but, there is enough overlap to cover the needs of most ESL students. The stories are fun, inspirational and thought-provoking, guaranteed to bring about great in-class discussions and response essays. However, most importantly, the writing is accessible for adult ESL students:
If you are looking for short stories that would appropriate for adult ESL students to read, the following sites offer guidance and online materials for both students and instructors:
Reading short stories provides the ESL student with an opportunity to practice reading, see sentence structure and see examples of English in the written form. Whether read as individual activities or used as the basis of class activities, short stories are a key part of the ESL lesson plan.
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