February 3, 2010

John Steinbeck, “The Harness” in 50 Great American Short Stories, ed. Milton Crane (Bantam, 1965): 336-48.

I started a “Book Club” class for the more advanced students at my school. The idea is basically a book club but with short stories for advanced ESL learners. I plan on having it once a month, and slowly going through some of the more interesting short stories I have available to me.

I began with Steinbeck’s “The Harness”. I wanted to start with F Scott’s “Bernice Bobs Her Hair” but it’s a little long and because of how scheduling works I couldn’t give the students that much time for advanced reading. “The Harness” proved the right length.

At first, the students were a little dismissive of Steinbeck: “This story is very simple.” But with study questions and getting them to look at how Steinbeck used language (how does he use the word vinegar, for example), they slowly got into it. When I asked with just a minute to go whether or not Peter murdered Emma by his “business trips”, they became much more intrigued in the story and more interested in the idea of Book Club.

Will let you know what develops.


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