Prose Fiction in the English Classroom

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Prose Fiction in the English Classroom

In this module we will be looking closely at how to approach close reading of fiction with our Senior English students. We will:

- think about text selection.
- think holistically about what a fiction unit might cover.
- understand some 'generic' elements of prose fiction as a form and how they might be taught. - learn how to develop 3 level guides as prompts for "close reading".

Let's begin by discussing the novels we might use with a senior English class. In most departments, teachers are free to choose texts for study with their class (departmental resources will limit the scope of your choice). It is important that you develop an idea of what you think is suitable for a senior class. Think back to your own experiences with prose fiction study and to texts you have enjoyed reading independently. Are there any you would consider appropriate for study with a year 11, 12 or 13 class? Why?

Activity 1:1:1: Discussion Forum - Texts for study

Narrative study - an overview
The study of narrative is the study of how stories are told. When we study prose fiction, we are looking in detail at the choices that the author has made and how those choices combine to create a particular piece of writing. It is important to convey to your students the idea that nothing happens by accident; everything contained in the novel /short story is a product of the author's choices. These choices are made purposefully for a particular effect and to elicit a particular response in the reader. In order to help students understand this, we need to focus our study on the 'selection' and 'organisation' of material in the text.

The following outline provides a useful overview of the headings we might include in a novel study structured around the 'selction' and 'organistaion' of material in a text. Read through the outline carefully.

NarrativeNarrative is how a story is told.

The how of story-telling involves techniques and conventions characteristic of narrative genres, e.g. narratives, anecdotes, news stories, parables.

How involves:

A) SELECTION(i) Vantage Point:1. Who tells the story. (Narrator) 2. Scope of the access. (Limited/omniscient)
3 Perspective in time (Removed/retrospective, immediate -- tense) (ii) Content:1. What are the significant settings?
2. Who are the significant characters?
3. What are the significant events and actions?

B) ORGANISATION(i) The basis for sequence (plot)
(ii) The basis for juxtaposition.|

Using this as our guide, let's look at how we might approach each aspect with a senior English class. In particular, we will discuss the activities, explanations and questions that might be of use. First though, we need a short story to read as an example for discussion. Read through the story "A Piece of Yellow Soap" by Frank Sargeson.

Pre-reading
At the very beginning of a prose fiction unit, it is common for a teacher to ask students to engage in an introductory activity. These activities are designed to draw students into the study of a text they have not yet read. A pre-reading activity might address itself to the theme of a piece of fiction, or be concerned with some aspect of style or form. Design a pre-reading activity you might use with a class studying "A Piece of Yellow Soap", then add your ideas to the discussion below.

Activity 1:1:2: Discussion Forum - Pre-reading

Point of View
Once the pre-reading is complete and the students have read the text (hopefully), it is time to look in detail at various aspects of the text. It is not unusual for teachers to begin discussions on a novel/short story with a close look at the 'vantage point' or point of view chosen by the writer. In my experience, students tend to struggle a little with point of view and the idea of a narrator, so it is important to have a clear explanation up your sleeve. Think about how you would describe the concept of point of view to a senior English class. And,...
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