How to Teach 'Interpreting simple stories' in Form Two

How to Teach 'Interpreting simple stories' in Form Two

Welcome to UNIT 20.3

PREVIOUSLY: In Unit 20.2, we discussed about the various ways of teaching the sub topic “Analysing information from the media” in Form One.

IN THIS UNIT 20.3, we will cover the sub topic “Interpreting simple stories" in Form Two.

Sub Topic: Interpreting simple stories
Periods per sub topic: 10
Class: Form Two

There is a joy in reading stories. People laugh as they read stories especially funny stories like those about animals and so on. However, these stories can be read and analysed as well. Reading is the habit that should be built by exercising reading regularly. Like Form One students, Form Two Students are also guided to read various simple stories. These simple stories help them the following:
  • To build their reading habit.
  • To learn how to appreciate literary works.
  • To learn important lessons in life.
  • To make them problem solvers.
  • To help them understand the situations they can't understand in real life.
  • To pass time through reading.
  • To read for pleasure and entertainment.

In this sub topic/lesson, the student should be able to explain the message from simple stories read.
This stage is about the preparation of the teacher before undertaking the lessons of the particular sub topic. These are all activities, procedures, materials, teaching aids, and games prepared by the teacher for teaching a sub topic:
  1. Putting heads together: Introducing the topic/lesson properly. Organising how students will be able to get to know what is the topic/lesson about. It is where teacher makes sure that students are going to be in his/her train. It includes brainstorming and familiarisation of the topic/lesson with the students.
This makes students stay together with the teacher. It is at this stage students can understand what is going to be discussed in the particular topic.
In this sub topic/lesson, the teacher brainstorms with students by telling them some funny story or stories and try to ask them to say what the message is in the particular story the teacher has read to them.

  1. Preparation of Materials. A teacher has to decide on the teaching/learning materials he/she is going to use.
In this sub topic/lesson, a teacher will have to use a variety of texts especially reading cards, Class Readers, and class or school library if there is any. Class Readers can be read aloud to the class. But before reading the selected Class Reader Story, a teacher may select a very simple story like any from Reading Cards or any short Aesop's fable that is funny. In a few minutes, the teacher can read it and ask students some oral questions about it. See more on class activities below.
  1. Target Practice. Show them/Guide them to the practice of the functions of the sub topic. A teacher has to show or guide students to the target practice of the grammatical functions of the sub topic.
In this sub topic/lesson, the teacher will guide students to practice how to write and explain the message from simple stories read. The teacher can start guiding students to identify message from the reading card or simple funny story he/she has read to them. Whether in reading simple funny stories, reading cards, or Class Readers, the teacher should encourage students to employ the following patterns as they read:
  • The message is.....
  • The book is about....
  • The main topic/subject matter of the story is...
  • The author explains about....
  • The author talks about.....
  • The author is....
  • The point of view of the author is....

Note: Some of these questions may sound the same but they help students how to express the same ideas by using various sentence patterns.
  1. Context-Based Practice. A teacher leads students to the discussion on how the target grammatical functions practised earlier can be applied or integrated into the contexts and situations. The students are guided by the teacher to apply the learnt skills in relevant contexts and situations like school and library.
In this sub topic/lesson, the teacher will engage students in various contexts like school, class, home, streets, farm etc. Most of traditional stories in our societies are told at homes even in the farms. At school and in classes in particular, these stories can be told. Some of these stories are written and others are not.
  1. Vocabulary Building Practice. At this time, teachers will discuss with the students on the vocabularies and phrases to apply in the already mentioned contexts and situations. It's a good idea as well to remind and guide students on identifying vocabulary as they read stories.
In this sub topic/lesson: The most commonly applied vocabularies are: short stories, plays, poems.

Guide the students to the full lesson procedures, activities and games for better understanding of the sub topic by following these activities:
ACTIVITY ONE: Brainstorming. The teacher has to brainstorm with the students on the sub topic/lesson's aspects through oral questions with answers, pair works, and group discussions of all important concepts to get students on track.
In this activity, the teacher can tell the students a certain simple story and ask them simple questions like what is the story? about and what is the message of the story?. This simple story and questions will open students to what they are going to learn. Through the story, a teacher can ask students more questions and students should respond through brainstorming.
ACTIVITY TWO: Teacher's Demonstration. The teacher applies his/models or examples so as to bring the topic/lesson and the students into the real or common sense of the topic/lesson.
In this activity; teacher narrates or writes his/her story he/she has selected to the board. It can be very short. Then the teacher can tell the message of the story he/she has read.
The teacher has to provide students with a short, funny story if there is any and give them guiding questions to respond to.
Teacher's Model
(The excerpt from The Citizen, Thursday 27 July 2017)
A priest, an evangelist, and a minister were in a row boat in the middle of a pond fishing. None of them had caught anything all morning.
Then the evangelist stands up and says he needs to go to the bathroom so he climbs out of the boat and walks on the water to the shore. He comes back ten minutes later the same way.
Then the minister decides he needs to go to the bathroom, too, so he climbs out of the boat and walks on the water to the shore. He, too, comes back the same way ten minutes later.
The priest looks at both of them and decides that his faith is just as strong as his fishing buddies and that he can walk on water, too. He stands up and excuses himself. As he steps out, he makes a big splash down into the water.
The evangelist looks at the minister and says, "I suppose we should have told him where the rocks were."
Complete the following questions:
  1. What might be another suitable title for the story? _______________
  2. What is the story about? ________________
  3. What is the most interesting event/part of the story? ______________________________________________________________
  4. What are the characters of the story? Name them _________________________
  5. What is the message of the story? _____________________________________
  6. What would you advise the people who are like the Priest? _________________________________________________________
  7. What would you advise people who are like an evangelist? ______________________________________________________________

Choose the correct answer for the following questions:
1.Who is to blame for priest's drowning? ____________________
A. The priest himself.
B. An evangelist
C. Both an evangelist and a minister
2.This is _____ story.
A. Funny
B. Sad
C. Both funny and sad.
These questions help to test students if they are capable of tackling questions after reading the story. After this activity, the teacher can take students to the actual reading and analysis of the Class Readers.
Note: In the topic that is about creativity like this one, students should not be limited to few examples. That's why, here even the funny stories from the newspaper is applicable. Students should be allowed to explore more and then brought back to the relevant materials. In so doing, students become masters of not only what they've learnt but also masters of what is beyond the circumstances of their current topic.
ACTIVITY THREE: Students' Demonstration. The teacher guides students how they can apply a model like that of a teacher. The skills demonstrated by the teacher should now be demonstrated/applied by them. Here students need to be guided on how to use given expressions, structures, vocabulary, and phrases or similar ones.
In this activity, the teacher selects one Class Reader the students are going to read. After selecting the Class Reader, the teacher will conduct the reading of the text in groups (according to available copies of the text). After reading the text, the teacher should guide students in their respective groups to discuss the following:
  • -The title of the book they are going to read.
  • -The cover of the book they are going to read.
  • -Using guiding questions the students to read a part of the book silently then note down answers for those questions.
  • -The teacher to lead class discussion basing on the guiding questions about what they have read.
In this article, the following Selected Class Readers will be used:
Mabala the Farmer

Pre-reading activities. After supplying copies to the students, the teacher can conduct the following activity, ie. Pre reading activity in which the following questions can be asked to keep students attentive of what they are going to read:
Guiding Questions:
(i)            What is the title of the story?
(ii)          Who is the writer of the story?
(iii)         What can you predict about the story?
(iv)         What is the meaning of the cover of the story?
(v)           What information do you get from the blurb of the book?
ANSWERS to Guiding Questions
After looking at the texts they have been given, students should have the following answers or related ones.
(i)            The title of the story is ‘Mabala the Farmer’.
(ii)          The writer of the book is Richard S. Mabala.
(iii)         The book/story is about the farmer who is called Mabala/The story is about the farmer who is lazy.
(iv)         The cover of the story means that the farmer is lazy or some of the farmers in our society are lazy.
(v)           The blurb of the book gives us the information about the writer and other details of the book.
While Reading and Post-Reading Activities. Here the students can read a part of the book and teacher guides them to the guiding questions. The other part can be read another time with other guiding questions to respond to. The following guiding questions are suitable when the students have finished reading the whole story, but a teacher can always have other guiding questions concerning the part the students have read or the part he/she has instructed students to read.
Guiding Questions
(i)            Mention the title of the book you have read.
(ii)          Who is the main character of the book?
(iii)         Mention two other characters of the book.
(iv)         What is the book about?
(v)           Mention and explain why you like one character from the story.
(vi)         What can you advice the lazy people like Mabala?
ANSWERS to Guiding Questions
(i)            The title of book I have read is ‘Mabala the Farmer’.
(ii)          The main character of the book is Mabala/Mabala the Farmer.
(iii)         Other characters of the story are: Mama Martine, the wife of Mabala and Martina, their daughter.
(iv)         The book is about a man called Mabala. This man did not know how to dig a shamba because most of his life has been in town working in offices. When he retires he found himself having no money to make him live in town because he was not saving money when he was still working. Therefore, he decides to go the village to do the shamba works. He gets a lot of difficulties but at last he succeeds to make his life happier in the village.
(v)           I like Mama Martina because she is a hard working woman.
(vi)         I can advise lazy people that they should work hard to succeed in life. They should also save what they get for the future use.

The teacher can construct other questions to help students practice more and understand the story.
Select one section of Hawa the Bus Driver and guide students to answer the following questions:
(Exerpt from Hawa tha Bus Driver/Some responses from story)
(i)           What is the story/book about?
The book/story talks about a story of a strong woman who is called Hawa. This woman drives a bus and she proves to men that even women can do different works in the same way as men. The main character in the story is Hawa, and other characters are: Selemani, Bus conductor, drivers, a drunkard, and Hawa’s children.
(ii)          What is the importance of the story/book?
The story has got many things of importance in the society we live in because of the following reasons:
First, it educates people on different ways of getting or earning money. For example, Hawa gets income through driving and selling vitumbua.
Second, it educates people on how to use experience to help other people like what Hawa did to save the lives of the child and the passengers when the careless people bus driver left the bus parked on the slope and it started moving.
Third, the book also entertains as it gives us a lot of pleasure as we read it.
Other Guiding Questions:
As you approach to finalise the reading of simple stories in Form II, it is a good idea to discuss with students how to write a book report about what they have read in their stories.
Guide the students to write a book report on a story/book they have read. As they write the simple book report, they should consider the following parts/questions:
(i)            The title of the book.
(ii)          The author of the book.
(iii)         What is the story about/what is the summary of the story.
(iv)         Main character of the story, and what they like or dislike about the main character.
(v)           Other characters of the story, and what they like or dislike about the characters.
(vi)         How the story ends. Does it have happy or sad ending? Explain.
(vii)        Lesson. What did you learn from the story/book?
(viii)       Advice. What can you advice your friends about the story/book you have read?
The teacher can always construct other questions in order to help students cover most of the areas of the story/book.
ACTIVITY FOUR: More Contextual Students’ Demonstration .Taking/leading students to the real situations or contexts where they can apply what they have mastered. Here speaking, reading or writing activities are involved.
In this activity, students write more book reports using guiding questions. The teacher will collect the book reports, mark them, and give the students better feedback so as to help them improve them skills on writing various book reports.
ACTIVITY FIVE: Winding up the topic/lesson. Here teachers summarise the topic/lesson by emphasizing the importance of the sub topic/lesson and suggesting other related aspects of the sub topic/lesson.
ADDITIONAL ACTIVITY: As a teacher, what other activity can be applied in this sub topic/lesson? You can always drop your alternative activity or activities to this article so as to improve teaching and learning of O’ Level English Blog! (OLE).
Our life is blessed with various stories. These stories are told at homes, in streets, in the farms, at schools and even at colleges and universities. They are either spoken or written to be read. Ask students how where they get simple stories from people or events in various settings or situations. Actually, some students will say they get them from their parents or grandparents or others. At school, they will say they get them from teachers, friends and from various subjects like English, Literature, Kiswahili and History. This is how stories are experienced in the real life.
A teacher should design an evaluation for students by using appropriate assessment tools like oral questions or assignments so that to see if the student is able to explain the message from a book read.
Assessment #01: Group work
Ask students to create groups. In these groups, ask them to discuss what could Mabala the Farmer do to remain prosperous. Each group should give certain number of points.
Assessment #02: Pair works
In pairs, ask them to play the roles of Mabala the Farmer and Martina. Ask each member of the pair to give advice to another. For example, a Student A is Mabala and Student B is Martina. They should advise and criticise each other.
Assessment #03: Individual work
Ask each student to write five reasons why he/she likes the character of his/her choice. In other activity, ask individual student to write five reasons why he/she dislikes any character of his/her choice.
Note: You can give students more individual works, pair works, and group works to facilitate their interaction and understanding of the sub topic or lesson. As English language teacher you have to give students more works to do. Because language is meant to be largely spoken and written, the teacher should rely on written exercises and notes. Instead students have to learn English language by vigorously exercising individually, in pairs, and in groups.
Telling stories is a very old tradition. Students should understand that stories are part and parcel in everyone's life. They should be encouraged to read various stories for their benefits and for the goodness of their society. Students should also be encouraged to develop the habit of creating their own stories for their benefit and for their societies as well.
The teacher should tell the students that writing stories is not only entertaining people but also it can be an income generating activity.
NOTE: These stages explained above are not necessarily covered in a single lesson of single or double period. Remember that this is the guide for teaching the whole sub topic which has periods ranging from 6 to 20. So, the teacher's task is to divide these stages according to the total number of periods for a particular sub topic.

This article is about how to study and teach "Interpreting simple stories" in Form Two. As a student or teacher, what is your opinion on how to study and teach this sub topic/lesson?
Your opinion is worth and I believe that it can make these materials better for our own consumption.
You are Welcome!
K. R. Cripwell (1978) Fast Money, Dar es Salaam.
K.R. Cripwell (1977) The Magic Garden, Dar es Salaam.
Mabala, R. S (2012) Hawa the Bus Driver, Dar es Salaam.
Mabala, R. S (2012) Mabala the Farmer. Dar es Salaam.
Worthington, F (1963) Kalulu the Hare, Longman Group LTD, Nairobi, East Africa.

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Emmanuel Kachele

Emmanuel Kachele is a founder and Blogger of KACHELE ONLINE Blog, an educational blog where 'O' Level English - 'OLE', 'A' Level English (ALE) and other related teaching and life skills are shared extensively. This is an online center for all Tanzanian Secondary School English Language students and teachers (Forms I-VI) and all interested English Language learners and teachers worldwide.

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