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Malaysian contemporary short storiesBookmark

Learning area: English
Year level: Year 8
Country: Malaysia
General capability: Intercultural understanding, ICT

This learning sequence explores four contemporary short stories written by Malaysian writers. Students will discuss how the stories provide insights into life in Malaysia. They will analyse the conventions and tools used by the authors to tell their stories and write a literary interpretation.

Key inquiry questions

  • What can we learn about people and their cultural practices from literary texts?
  • How do we interpret the structure of short stories?
  • How do writers use literary codes and conventions to create meaning?


Person swimming at the bottom of a waterfallA Malaysian waterfall

Acknowledgements

Image: Waterfall by Chee Hong (CC BY 2.0) – Hantu: a Malaysian ghost story

Related resources

Activity 1: Short stories from Malaysia

Stories are written for many reasons. In this activity you will read four contemporary short stories written by Malaysian authors to explore how texts can reflect or represent viewpoints about Malaysia, its people and multi-layered cultures.

Key inquiry question: What can we learn about people and their cultural practices from literary texts?

Exploring texts

  1. Read each of the stories to gain first impressions. Then write notes on the following questions:
    • What jumps out at you as you read?
    • Is there anything surprising about what happens? 
    • Does the author appear to use specific words for a reason; do some stand out? 
    • What role do the characters play – the main character and others?
  2. Write additional notes using the following coding to explore your connections to the text:
    • Text to self – did any of the story remind you of something that has happened in your life?
    • Text to text – did any part of the story remind you of something that you have read or seen recently?
    • Text to world – did any part of the story remind you of similar themes in the local, regional or global context?
  3. Share your ideas collaboratively. You can use one of the following online tools or another that you prefer:

    • padlet – easy to use software that enables you to drag, drop and share instantly
    • Twiddla – a way to swap ideas with your classmates
    • Primarypad – allows you and your teachers to work in real time.
  4. Complete the activity by discussing as a group how each of the stories provides information about Malaysia, its people and everyday living. Compare and contrast this information with your life in Australia.


Acknowledgements

Images: ChocolateJPG by André Karwath (CC BY-SA 2.5) – Anger; Waterfall by Chee Hong (CC BY 2.0) – Hantu: a Malaysian ghost story; Kaaba.jpg byYousefmadari (public domain) – The stalker within; Wild rat by Jans canon (CC BY 2.0) – Rats and cats.

Activity 2: Mapping the story

In this activity you will be digging deeper and analysing the short stories. You will be using a short story map.  This is a worksheet that guides your focus or 'scaffolds' your thinking.

Key inquiry question: How do we interpret the structure of short stories?

Mapping the story

  1. Fill in all parts of the story map. Ask your teacher if you have any questions about the terms or use this basic Literary terms or more detailed Literary vocabulary.
  2. Think about how each of the parts (plot, key words/word choice, symbols, culture/setting and characters) work together to support the author's theme.
  3. Draft a thesis statement using the information in your story map to outline your opinion about the author's theme and the main language features and literary devices he or she uses to make the story work.
  4. Complete this process for each of the stories.
  5. Form groups of four, allocate a story to each group member, and share your statements and discuss them.

Acknowledgements

Images: Short stories map – AEF

Activity 3: Writing a literary interpretation

In this activity you will use the information in your story maps and your thesis statements to write a literary interpretation.

Key inquiry question: How do writers use literary codes and conventions to create meaning?

Refining the thesis statements

Your thesis statements should provide an outline of how the author communicated their message and will be used as the structure for your literary interpretation. It takes quite a few drafts before refining the final road map. This is important, because what it says and how it is structured will guide the rest of your writing on the topic. Sometimes it helps to see that your thesis statement is really an answer to a question.

  1. Re-read each short story and answer the questions below:
    • How does author, Catalina Rembuyan, build reader sympathy in Angry?
    • How does author, JC Martin, use character, plot and dialogue in Hantu: a Malaysian ghost story to build dramatic tension?
    • What does, Sabrina Abu Abu Akar, tell us about Islam and Malaysian life in The stalker within?
    • What message is author, Timothy Nakayama, trying communicate through his unusual use of plot, character and symbols in his story Rats and cats?
  2. Use these answers to add to and refine your thesis statements.
  3. Form a group of four people to work together to improve each person's thesis statements.
  4. One person in the pair or group should go online to PrimaryPad.

    Screen grab of Primary Pad website
  5. Click on 'Create Pad.' Once the new page loads, find the URL or web address for your page and share this with those who will help you revise the thesis statement.
  6. Each person in the pair or group should paste or type in the thesis statements they want assistance with.
  7. Once each person has their own best version typed or pasted into PrimaryPad, the helpers can take turns editing each other's work. Notice that each writer has their own colour so it becomes clear who is editing whom at any given time. If it helps to identify yourselves, each person can enter their names in the 'user' field located under the top right 'Users' icon. You will find this a great tool.

    Screen grab of PrimaryPad field for Enter your name
  8. Take enough time so that everyone has had a chance to edit or refine each thesis statement. Do you think that others' ideas have actually made your thesis statement worse? Or perhaps it was improved by one person and then someone later made it unclear?  Use the 'Timeslider' feature to playback the whole editing session! Just drag the editing point (the blue arrow) back to the beginning then click the 'play' button.

    Screen grab of PrimaryPad icons of Time slider

Drafting your literary interpretation

You might already have a very good process for composing essays. If this is the case, please use the structure and approach that you have found most effective. Alternatively, you could use a common and helpful essay shape shown on the right. The three sections represent the introductory paragraph, the body paragraphs and the concluding paragraph.

The introduction transitions or funnels down from a general, attention-grabbing opening to the point of your thesis statement.

The body paragraphs begin with a 'stem' from your thesis statement. This is one of the parts you listed, such as character, symbol or plot, and they all follow with a paragraph for each in the same order you listed them in the thesis statement. Follow this topic sentence of the paragraph with evidence from the story, such as references or quotations that support your opinion, then give commentary of your reasons why this 'proves' your thesis. Write at least two paragraphs.

The concluding paragraph is short and basically is like the introduction, but upside down. Begin with a reworded version of your thesis statement. If you write the exact same thing as your thesis statement from the introductory paragraph that is okay, but pretty boring. So a little rewording is good, just don't change the order or your main opinion. You can stretch it out to a couple sentences if you like. Then return to what you used as your attention-getter – this gives the reader a sense of closure. Finally, because these authors have written about significant things that relate to all human beings, finish with a statement that shows how their message can apply to everyone as a universal truth.

Diagram of essay shape using triangles

You can download Shaping your essay (PDF 61 KB) that more graphically explains all this as well as the Evaluation rubric for literary interpretation (PDF 48 KB).

Choose the essay format you find most helpful and then:

  1. Select the short story you wish to focus on and use the thesis statement to create your literary interpretation.
  2. You might want to review and highlight sections that you will use as supporting evidence from the works. You can do this either from a Diigo account using the highlighting tool; copying and pasting the story into a document that you can then highlight; or by printing out a hard copy of the story and highlighting manually.
  3. Use word processing software to outline your essay. You can paste your thesis statement at the end of the first paragraph, divide out the 'stems' as topic sentences for the body paragraphs and reword sections for the conclusion. Or you can start from the beginning and write straight through to the end.
  4. Complete your draft. Reread it. Compare it to the evaluation rubric. Use your word processor to make revisions based on what you learned from using the evaluation rubric. Share your essay with a friend and help each other with things like coherence, evidence and explanations.
  5. Consider publishing your finished literary analysis on a school blog or other platform!

Acknowledgements

Image: Refining the thesis statement generated by using PrimaryPad.com © 2013 Primary Technology ® – AEF; Literary interpretation diagram – AEF

Activity 4: Reflection

In this learning activity you have read four contemporary Malaysian short stories. Reflect on your story maps of each story and their theme and plots. What have you learnt about Malaysia, its people and cultures?

You may wish to use a Cluster map (PDF 71 KB) template to describe this information or create your own. The central square tells you what the main topic is. In this case it is the country Malaysia. The four squares around it are the four short stories. The outer squares connecting to each of these squares represent information you have discovered.

Once you have completed your diagrams, discuss your findings. Determine whether the information is factual, fiction or supposition. Complete the activity by discussing how an author can shape information to create literary texts.

Acknowledgements

Image: Cluster diagram – AEF

This learning sequence explores four contemporary short stories written by Malaysian writers. Students discuss how the stories provide insights of life in Malaysia. They analyse the conventions and tools used by the authors to create their stories and write a literary interpretation.

Key inquiry questions:

  • What can we learn about people and their cultural practices from literary texts
  • How do we interpret the structure of short stories?
  • How do writers use literary codes and conventions to create meaning?

Year 8 English: level description

In Years 7 and 8, students experience learning in both familiar and unfamiliar contexts that relate to regional and global contexts.

Students engage with a variety of texts for enjoyment. They read, interpret, and evaluate written texts in which the primary purpose is aesthetic. These include digital texts. Students develop their understanding of how texts are influenced by context, purpose and audience.

The range of literary texts [includes] classic and contemporary world literature, including texts from and about Asia.

Literary texts that support and extend students in Years 7 and 8 as independent readers are drawn from a range of realistic, fantasy, speculative fiction and historical genres and involve some challenging and unpredictable plot sequences and a range of non-stereotypical characters. These texts explore themes of interpersonal relationships and ethical dilemmas within real-world and fictional settings and represent a variety of perspectives. Language features include successive complex sentences with embedded clauses, unfamiliar technical vocabulary, figurative and rhetorical language.

Students create a range of persuasive types of texts and begin to create literary analyses.



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