Disconnected — a short story for English reading and speaking

Disconnected a short story for English reading and speaking (1)

Sonia has been on her phone all day…

The same messages played out all the time.

Then a strange feeling strikes her. And she puts her phone down.

She puts on her shoes and goes outside.

And does something that could change her life…

 

This is a short story in English about smartphones. I think your students will love this tale about the power of phones and social media.

Use this lesson in your English class. This is great for ESL students or English learners.

In this lesson plan, you can find a full short story plus:

  • many reading comprehension questions to check for English comprehension
  • more discussion questions to help your students speak out in English
  • a full table of essential vocabulary from the story
  • many English grammar exercises to use in class or as homework
  • a writing exercise to practice English writing skills
  • and much more…

 

Take a look below and tell me what you think!


Download the full lesson plan for free and use in your English class today!

Disconnected a short story for English reading and speaking (2)

Introduction

What do you think about the use of smartphones and social media apps?

Do you think they can be harmful to our health?

Or are they a useful part of our lives?

Disconnected

Sonia blinked and raised her head.

She took a breath and looked down again.

That same nagging question in her mind at times like this.

How long had she been sitting here?

She pulled her phone up to her line of vision and stared at the screen. Some messages about a girl at school.

One girl trying to round up a feeling of suspicion about her. To raise some resentment.

Hatred.

Sonia barely knew this girl. She had spoken to her at school maybe once or twice in real life.

But nothing important. Just vague, meaningless stuff.

She squinted at the screen.

And then this vague thought that sent whispers through her mind; Why was she involved in this chat? Why was she adding any comments?

What had this girl done to her?

Or to anyone?

Sonia went to type these thoughts out on the screen.

But then stopped herself.

If she went against the flow. Held her hand out against the mob, she would become the target.

Another group chat would be set up very quickly and within minutes, she would become the object of derision.

Those were the rules.

So she stopped herself.

A feeling inside her head of confusion. A constant nagging exhaustion.

Like she had to be on guard 24 hours a day.

The whispering from inside her mind; Do you like this feeling? Does anyone like this feeling?

Sonia felt overcome with a sensation she could not describe. That she could not understand.

All she knew was that it didn’t feel good. There was nothing remotely pleasant about this feeling at all.

The whispering; Put the phone down.

She placed it on the floor in her room. She looked at it like it had just suddenly become an object of shame. Something she should not own. Something to be avoided.

Sonia pulled her knees closer to her body and wrapped her arms around her legs in a comforting gesture.

This feeling again. She recognised it. Yes, shame. Or guilt. Tinged with anger.

Another whisper; Let’s get rid of it. Throw it away.

Sonia turned to her phone. The screen had flickered off to black. She rarely let it go dark. It was usually bright and flashing. She liked to flick from one app to another. To maintain contact. To make sure that she was not missing out.

That she didn’t miss one comment. One jibe.

One snide remark.

The whispering. This time, more of a growl. Get rid of it.

Sonia jumped to her feet and picked her phone up. She picked it up between her thumb and finger. Like it was a piece of trash.

Or something the dog had been chewing on.

On her desk was an old plastic bag, a wrapper for something she had eaten earlier.

She dropped her phone inside it and clutched it tight.

The whispering; Let’s go outside. Let’s touch green.

Sonia ran downstairs. Her mother was in the living room, bent over her own phone.

‘Hey love, going somewhere?’

‘I just need to — ‘ Sonia went to complete the sentence, but her mother was already focused back on the screen on her phone. She wasn’t listening.

Sonia pulled her sandals on and ran out the door.

Outside, the sky was overcast and unwelcoming.

A sharp breeze that blew coldly against her face.

She stopped in her tracks, thought about going back inside, back into the safety of her room, back to her bed and the screen on her phone.

But she snapped herself to attention and marched on towards the end of the road.

Coming towards her, a young guy who also lived on her street. She could see him, could recognise his face from the videos he had posted online.

His head was bent down, gazing at his phone. His feet stumbled along at a plodding pace below him.

As she passed him, Sonia went to call out and say hello. But she stopped herself. Just to check how much he was aware of the world around him.

He shuffled by, completely ignoring her. Totally unaware that she was even there.

At the end of the road, was a park.

Sonia used to go to the park all the time. Years ago, when she was just a little kid. Before she owned a phone.

Before she joined all the apps.

The gate to the park was wide open. A welcoming gesture to the community. To all the people.

Inviting everyone to step into the green.

A sign read: Feel Free To Walk On The Grass.

And Sonia did.

She slipped off her sandals and stepped onto the lawn that lay in front of her.

The soft blades of grass beneath her feet felt more comfortable than any carpet inside her home.

Cool and gently massaging against the soles of her feet.

The whispering; This is better. Better than being in your room.

Then, in a deeper tone; Now look ahead.

The lawn came to the edge of a lake. Sonia remembered coming here with her parents. To feed the ducks.

To look at the fish slithering around inside the inky depths of the water.

It was just a lake inside a park in her town.

But it was nature.

It felt like heaven.

Sonia came to the edge of the lake and stopped.

The water lapped at the edge. Gently licking rhythms between water and land.

The whispering ushered into her inner ear; Take out your phone. You know what to do.

She pulled out her phone.

The screen remained jet-black. And Sonia dared not to touch it, she did not want to bring it to life.

Then she pulled her hand back as far behind her as she could, and with one deft movement, she hurled her phone into the lake.

It landed with a quiet splash in the middle of the water. And was gone.

Right on cue, a fish jumped from the lake and plunged back into the water below.

A bird called out from a tree.

And the wind blew through the trees, creating a flurry of voices in the branches and the leaves.

And Sonia smiled.

For the first time in ages, she smiled.

Now take a look at the video below. Listen to the way I read the story. You can follow along with me and practice your English speaking and pronunciation. Good for listening too!

Disconnected a short story for English reading and speaking (5)

Reading Comprehension Questions

Who is the main character in the story?

Where is she?

What is she doing?

What question was on her mind at the beginning of the story?

How did Sonia feel about the messages being exchanged on her phone?

What was the group chat about?

Why did Sonia hesitate to go against the flow of the group chat?

Describe Sonia’s feelings as she decided not to type her thoughts.

Does Sonia know the girl in the group chat very well?

How does Sonia know the girl?

What does the whispering ask Sonia the first time?

Can Sonia explain the feelings she has at this moment?

What is the second question from the whispering?

Does Sonia comply with this request?

How does Sonia regard her phone at this moment in the story?

What position does Sonia get into her body?

What three words does Sonia think of that describe her feelings at this moment?

What does the whispering suggest doing with the phone the third time?

When Sonia looks at her phone, is the screen open or closed?

Does she allow this to happen very often?

Why/why not?

The fourth time the whispering speaks to her, what does it say?

How does Sonia react? What does she do?

Where does she place her phone? Why does she do this?

What is the fifth order from the whispering?

When Sonia goes downstairs, who does she see?

Does her mother speak to her?

Does Sonia reply?

How does her mother react?

How is their communication? Good or not?

Why/why not?

What kind of shoes does Sonia put on her feet?

What was the weather like when Sonia went outside?

Does Sonia go back inside the house?

Who does she meet when she is walking down the road?

Does she know this person?

How?

What is the young guy doing?

Does Sonia speak to him?

Why/why not?

What does the young guy do?

Does he see her?

What is at the end of the road?

What memories does Sonia have of this place?

What did the sign at the park entrance say?

How did the grass feel under Sonia’s feet?

What is inside the park?

What memories does Sonia have of this place inside the park?

Did she like this place when she was younger?

What did the whispering suggest to Sonia to do when she reached the lake?

What happened to the phone after Sonia threw it into the lake?

How did the fish and bird contribute to the scene at the lake?

What elements of nature did Sonia experience standing by the lake?

What did she do after throwing her phone in the lake?

Essential Vocabulary

blinked

guilt

community

nagging

anger

gently

suspicion

flickered

massaging

resentment

maintain

comfortable

hatred

attention

parents

vague

wrapper

lake

whispered

whispered

ducks

target

sandals

nature

confusion

overcast

ushered

exhaustion

unwelcoming

dared

guard

breeze

deft

sensation

attention

movement

ashamed

shuffled

splash

avoided

plodding

plunged

comforting

aware

branches

 

Exercise

 

Write down all the words and phrases in your vocabulary notebook. Look in your dictionary and find the meaning of each word. Write the definition next to each word.

Then make up your own sentences using each word or phrase.

 

For example:

 

Blinkedthe action of shutting and opening one’s eyes quickly.

 

Naggingsomething or someone that is persistently annoying or creating a sense of worry.

 

Then write a sentence of your own that uses the new word or phrase correctly.

 

When John realised who he was looking at, he blinked in total surprise.

 

I got on the train, but still had this nagging thought that I had left something at home.

 

Do this with all the vocabulary and, over time, this will help improve all your English skills — reading, writing, speaking and listening.

Disconnected a short story for English reading and speaking (6)

Discussion Questions

What is this story about? Try to sum up in two or three sentences what you think this story’s message is.

Why do you think Sonia feels confused and exhausted at the beginning of the story?

Sonia is participating in a group chat on her phone. What do you think the members of the chat are talking about?

What do you talk about in group chats?

Can group chats be negative sometimes?

Why do you think Sonia is chatting in this group? What encourages her to do this?

How does Sonia feel about the girl mentioned in the messages? Is she a good friend of hers?

Why do you think Sonia stopped typing out more messages on her phone?

What stopped her?

In the story, there are the lines; ‘If she went against the flow. Held her hand out against the mob, she would become the target.’

What does this mean?

Is this common in social media?

If so, why?

Can you describe the feelings that Sonia is experiencing at the beginning of the story?

Sonia places her phone on the floor beside her. What do you think this action symbolises?

What does it say about Sonia and her regard for the group chat?

What do think ‘the whispering’ is?

A voice inside Sonia’s subconscious?

From her phone?

From a higher power?

What could it be?

The story describes Sonia’s emotional state at the beginning of the story.

Why do you think she is experiencing so many emotions?

What is causing it?

Sonia’s phone turns to a black screen. She rarely allows this to happen.

What does this say about Sonia’s phone use?

How many hours do you think she is using it every day?

How many hours do you use your phone every day?

Is this too much? Or acceptable?

When Sonia stands up and leaves her room, she puts her phone in a discarded plastic bag.

Why does she do this, do you think?

How does she regard her phone at this moment?

How does Sonia’s interaction with her mother highlight the theme of disconnection?

Why do you think Sonia decides to go outside, and what does she hope to achieve?

Sonia meets a boy she knows on her street. What does this moment symbolise about the theme of the story?

Have you ever encountered someone like this? Someone who never stops looking at their phone?

Are you like this?

If you are, why do you do this?

Describe Sonia’s feelings as she walks through the park. How do they differ from her feelings indoors?

What memories does Sonia recall when she reaches the park?

In the story, there is a sign that reads: Feel Free To Walk On The Grass.

Do you think the park really has a sign like this?

Or does the sign just have a special meaning for the story?

What does this message mean?

How does the park environment contrast with Sonia’s room and her usual routine?

Sonia takes off her shoes and walks on the grass barefoot.

What does this symbolise?

Why does Sonia throw her phone into the lake? What does this action symbolize for her?

What is the significance of the fish jumping and the bird calling out after Sonia throws her phone into the lake?

How does the story address the impact of social media on mental health?

What message do you think the story is trying to convey through Sonia’s experience?

How does the ending of the story reflect a change in Sonia’s state of mind?

What do you think will happen to Sonia after the story ends? How will her life change?

Discuss the importance of nature in the story. How does it affect Sonia?

What lessons can we learn from Sonia’s experience about the use of technology and social media?

You can download the full lesson plan by clicking the link below!

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