I was thinking about what to prepare for Halloween when I realized that I never wrote about the fantastic Skype class we had with Jess Hartley! She writes great short stories that are usually supernatural in nature and often a bit creepy! Though most stories at WilyWriters are worth a shot I particularly like hers.
In my classes we don't get a chance to do much reading over a page, and a lot of it is essay or non-fiction (newspapers, magazines etc.). That's all fine and dandy, but I really love teaching fiction.
So, for one of the short story assignments we read "Baby" a quick short story by Jess herself. Then we were lucky enough to have her agree to do a Skype class with BOTH of my classes.
We did Vocabulary first: Boyhood, Blamed, Blur, Creaked, Crumpled, Drone, Fins, Fitful, Glimpse, Grills, Hauled, Haze, Joints, Slid, Sparkle, Slumber, Subsided, and Whisper.
I told a story, "In my father's boyhood we lived in a small house with a floor that creaked (eeeeh)" etc. After I told the story we went through the vocabulary.
We randomly had students draw pictures of the words and then we tried to figure out who drew what. I took these pictures to scan the best for review PowerPoints later (you could also save them for a game of flyswatter).
For homework they read the story and had a quick quiz the next day, "How did he treat her? Where did the man live at the end of the story? When did she come back? Who is she? etc."
Then we talked about how the author gave the story the ending that she did. What techniques did she use? Did they expect the story to have the twist that it did? What clues did the author give?
Then they had a short story writing assignment.
1. In a SOLID well written paragraph (Main Ideas, Details, Impersonal, No slang, etc). Explain if you were surprised by the end of the story? If yes, explain why. If no, explain why not? (20pts)
2. Re-write the story IN YOUR OWN WORDS so that the man is pining over something else. Try not to give away what until the very end (there is no word limit). (20pts)
3. Do you find it odd that the man loved his Baby more than his children? What example can you think of from your life (personally or from stories, TV shows, legends, the news, etc.) that are similar? How so? (10pts)
BONUS If you could ask the author any question what would it be? We WILL be talking to the author so make it good! One good question is worth 5 bonus points. ONLY five points will be added regardless of the number of questions, however if you would like to ask more than one question that’s OK.
The day the assignment was due we Skyped Jess! Students had great questions about her inspirations, if she believed in the supernatural, etc. Jess was great she talked about herself, her background, and offered to help students if any of them wanted to pursue writing. Since the students had their questions prepared before (and weren't just talking to their teacher) they actually got pretty excited about talking in English.
In short, "Baby" is probably not Jess' best work, but I LOVED it for my class because it was short and had a great twist! Plus, Jess was AWESOME. Everyone should check out the story (and others) by Jess if you are looking for a Halloween story (or any story really!).