This past week I gave a short story to my English conversations students to read as homework, titled “The woman at the station” from the most recent edition of Spotlight Magazine. While the story was written by a woman, Rachel Peterson, she doesn’t necessarily make it clear if the narrator of the story was the author herself or someone else. Furthermore, the short story does nothing to explain how the woman at the station arrived at that point in her life, which is why I really liked it. After reviewing language, the students could work together to finish the stories they would create around Peterson’s story and then, if there was still time we could attempt to have a serious discussion about homelessness and welfare in German as it possibly compares welfare in the US or Britain.
So, the specific homework was to:
- read the one-page story and note whichever words the students struggled with so that we could discuss them in class.
- create as much of a back story as interests the students about the narrator (name, gender, profession, location, where they work, why they go to the station daily, etc)
- create the back story for the woman at the station (name, gender, previous profession, location, where she used to work (if at all), how & why she ended up at the station, why she disappeared, etc).
Once in class, I asked the students to work in groups of three to essentially complete the chapter before Peterson’s, about the narrator as well as the next chapter, about the woman filling in blanks and questions that the students might not have though of while alone. They seemed to have such a good time talking about the (endless) possibilities the direction of this story could go it took up almost the entire class. When the students were finished with their back stories, the groups took turns sharing their stories as I wrote them on the board, asking questions to them as we went. The resulting three stories are short, but at times pretty funny (or dreary).
This is what they came up with, which if you ask me is pretty good:
Let me know if you cannot read them as I will post the transcripts.
This seemed to be a fun exercise for the students and it was fun having them tell me their stories, especially when I asked them questions about aspects of the story they had not thought of yet. When I came home and told my husband of the fun we had in conversation class, all he could say was how elaborate he would have made his story…but he wasn’t there so, oh well – shoulda, woulda, coulda buddy!
Maybe next time!