Short Story: The Next Light (Advanced Lesson)

ESL/EFL Level: Advanced (C1/C2)
Lesson Topics: short story analysis, technology, the cyclical nature of history
Skill Focus: Reading, Speaking, Vocabulary
Approximate Class Time: 2 hours
Lesson Plan Download: the-next-light-short-story-advanced-082023.docx
Lesson Overview:

  • Background: This story is based on a 424-word short story called The Next Light by Matthew Barton (the author of this lesson). The story was written with high school students in mind, but should also work well with for advanced (C1) ESL learners.
  • After warm-up questions that include the discussion of some story elements such as foreshadowing and symbolism, students read the short story. After a recall, retell activity, students answer comprehension questions on the story itself and (some of ) its literary elements.
  • Next, students make their own discussion questions based on the story, and then answer some follow-up questions related to the story's themes. Afterward, students match vocabulary to definitions.
  • The next section contains speaking activities. First, students role-play a conversation between two fictional characters based on the plot of the story. After, students imagine what they would do if they only had 48 hours to live, and then what five items (technology or knowledge) they would preserve for future civilizations if they had the opportunity (similar concept to the TV show 'Foundation).
  • This is followed by some famous quotations related to humanity and technology.
  • The final page reviews vocabulary from the short story, key collocations, and presents two writing extensions for homework.
  • As always, the lesson ends with some final discussion questions.

A monochrome crosswalk signal

ADVANCED (C1/C2) EFL Lesson Plan on The Next Light

Warm-up Questions

  1. What type of reading do you enjoy?
  2. Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of humanity?
  3. Would you rather have been born in a pre-industrial age, e.g. before 1700? Why or why not?
  4. Define the following literary elements: symbolism, theme, and foreshadowing

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-- Lesson plan on the short story The Next Light written by Matthew Barton of (copyright). ChatGPT was used for feedback on lesson activities and to generate answer keys. Site members may photocopy and edit the file for their classes. Permission is not given to rebrand the lesson, redistribute it on another platform, or sell it as part of commercial course curriculum. For questions, contact the author.

Possible answers to comprehension questions:

  1. The story traces the cyclical progression and decline of a human civilization. Main themes include seeking a balance with technology and the cyclical nature of human history.
  2. (Debatable)
  3. The most obvious symbol is that of the light on the street. It symbolizes technological advancement and the state of human society. Its transformation throughout the story highlights the cyclical nature of civilization's rise and fall, underscoring themes of impermanence and the potential dangers of technology.
  4. Some examples of foreshadowing:
    • The initial mention of "there’s always the next light" hints at the future challenges that the characters will face.
    • The story's reference to the DRX-AV5 incident foreshadows the war with technology.
    • The recurring motif of counting down in the opening scene hints at the impending catastrophe at the end of the story.
  5. Some examples:
    • “They sparked largescale riots” - The verb “sparked” hints at the conflict with the (human force and its electrical opponent. Sparks are also associated with flames and destruction, which relates to the upcoming war.
    • “A long period without illumination” - This both literally means there were no lights and it also describes the regression of society.
    • “There were even stories of sharp blades that drew power from nature itself.” – The “sharp blades” alludes to the double-edged nature of technology.
    • “Occasionally, a dim light flickered.” – This light is symbolic of the weak state or fleeting hope of the community after the outbreak.

Vocabulary Answers: 1-b, 2-j, 3-L, 4-h, 5-k. 6-g, 7-a, 8-e, 9-d, 10-c, 11-i, 12-f

Vocabulary Review: 1-address, 2-stewardship, 3-flickered, illumination 4-trajectory, 5-spark, 6-isolation, 7-propel, 8-outpost, 9-predecessor, primitive 10-the naked eye.

Collocation Answers: 1-c, 2-h, 3-f, 4-d, 5-a, 6-g, 7-e, 8-b

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