Comparing literature to modern day fascinations like the TV
will hopefully bring the topic home to students. I ask my
class what they think people did in their spare time in the
"olden days" before the invention of the television. It
will shock most of them to know that most people read for
fun! The modern day sitcom is the 20th century version of
the 19th century short story. Draw up a chart to compare
them. They're both short in lenght, involve only a handful
of characters, uncomplicated plot lines, and usually one
central conflict, etc.
I give my students "The Seven Crucial Questions" to answer
for each short story we cover. Have the students go home
and watch a sitcom for homework (how shocking!) and answer
the seven crucial questions for the show.
1. Who is the protagonist? antagonist?
2. Describe the setting/locale.
3. Describe the central conflict/problem the protagonist
is facing? Is it psychological, physical, or both?
4. Describe three ways the character's personality is
revealed. (actions, words, others' words, etc.)
5. List and explain the six stages of plot.
6. Describe the mood using at least five expressions.
7. What is the theme/message of the story?
Another addition to this assignment is a sitcom/short story
web. On the four corners of a blank page students write
the names of the major characters. As the characters
interact students draw lines of various colours to connect
the characters. Their page will end up a mass of scribbley
lines connecting virtually every character to one another.
This proves the point that with only a few characters the
plot inevitably involves everyone. Alternatively, read a
short story aloud to the class. As you read have them
connect their webs.