The Leaving — a short story for English reading and speaking

The Leaving blog cover

Danny can’t keep his eyes off the sky above.

All the birds flying in a manic fashion.

Where are they going?

What do they know?

 

This is a science-fiction based story that will enthral your students in your English class.

This comes with a full lesson plan including:

  • introductory questions
  • the full short story for reading
  • a huge list of reading comprehension questions
  • a table of essential vocabulary
  • another great list of discussion questions

 

Download the full and complete lesson plan and use in your class today!

The Leaving a short story for English reading and speaking (1)

Introduction

Can birds feel or see things that people can’t?

Are they able to feel things in the earth?

Would you like to have this kind of sense?

If you had this sense, what use would it be to you?

The Leaving a short story for English reading and speaking (2)

The Leaving

Danny looked up again.

The sound of the birds filled the air. Not singing or calling out to each other.

It sounded more like they were screaming. Like they were in a state of sheer panic.

“Where are they going?” He spoke to himself. Like his own mind would reveal the answer.

His friend Fergie swung his bag back and forth in a big arc. Maths class was the first period, and he was not looking forward to it.

“What are you on about now?”

“The birds,” said Danny. “Look at them.”

Fergie glanced up. Birds were for the birds.

“Yeah, birds fly, Dan. Well done.”

“No, they’re not just flying. They’re leaving.”

From above, another great dark cloud of birds flew over the trees, darting and weaving against the torrents of the wind.

They arrived at the school gates and joined the crowd of other kids, shuffling reluctantly into their classrooms.

In his classroom, Danny sat by the window as the teacher called out the register. People answered with monotones, dreading the next seven hours ahead.

Endless fifty-minute periods of maths, English, history, physics…

From the corner of his eye, Danny caught some dark mass moving sharply into his field of vision.

He turned and saw a huge mass of birds flying across the sky.

This time, they were not of the same type.

Danny didn’t know all the different species of birds, but he knew that they generally flew together.

These were not the same type at all.

Blackbirds, smaller blue finches, tiny sparrows — they all flew as one. Their voices shrill and panic-stricken.

Danny! Dan!”

He turned to the voice of his teacher, Mr Wylde, at the front of the class. Other kids faced him. They smirked at Danny, lost in his thoughts.

A few seconds of entertainment before the first period.

“When you can be bothered to join us again, Mr Lupin.”

And the kids laughed.

Danny shuffled in his seat.

“Sorry, Mr Wylde. Here.”

“Yes, I can see that,” said Mr Wylde. ‘Here in body, at least, if not mind.’

The teacher continued to call out the names of the students.

Danny turned to look outside.

The huge great cloud of birds still moving as one homogeneous mass of flight. Flying away.

Escaping.

Where were they going?

Why were they going?

Fergie nudged him. “What are you gawping at?”

“Look at them,” said Danny. “Where are they going?”

This time Fergie could see the huge great cloud of flight fleeing across the sky. Like an exodus.

He let out a gasp of air and got to his feet.

“Look at them,” he called out. He turned to the class. “Look at the birds.”

As one, the class rose up out of their seats to see out the window. When they saw the black cloud of birds in the sky, some ran to the window.

Even Mr Wylde joined them.

Danny caught the look on his face and knew at that moment that something was wrong.

“Mr Wylde, what are they doing? Where are they going?”

Mr Wylde shook his head, glanced at Danny, a look of concern on his face.

“I don’t know,” he said.

The door of the class burst open and another teacher stood there. Miss Haven, Danny’s science teacher.

“Have you seen outside?” she said to Mr Wylde.

The two teachers began talking hurriedly.

Outside in the corridor, kids were moving around, running to the doors to the playground.

As one, the kids in the class rushed for the door.

Danny ran with them.

A mass of kids ran to the two swinging doors at the end. Running, screaming, and laughing.

The kids burst out the doors and into the open air outside.

Above their heads, the sky was filled with birds. All flying in the same direction. All at high speed.

Danny positioned himself at a space in the playground and stared up.

He had never seen anything like it in his life.

Joining the students, teachers and other staff members, all looking up in awe and bewilderment at the birds, but at the same time trying to get the students back inside the school.

One teacher, Mrs Darrow, grabbed at boys running around and tried to usher them back inside.

But they were enjoying the scene. Laughing and jumping up and down with excitement.

Something hit the side of Danny’s face.

He turned and felt another. A stinging stab of pain in his cheek.

Then he saw them.

Hundreds of insects buzzing and flying through the crowd of kids and teachers.

As the insects flew into kids’ faces, they yelped out. Others started to scream.

The atmosphere went from exhilaration to panic in the space of a second.

“Everyone, get back inside now,” Mrs Darrow called out, her voice a sharp tone of authority.

Danny saw a speck of blood on her forehead. Saw the look of fear on her face.

As the crowd of kids had run into the playground, manic faces of glee on their faces, now they ran back inside screaming in terror.

Danny held his hands to his face. Felt the small bullets of insects hitting his hands as he peered between his fingers.

He could see no sky at all now. Only a black mass, like static on a broken TV, of birds and insects.

All flying. All leaving.

What did they know?

What were they flying from?

Other kids knocked at his shoulders as they ran for the doors again. He saw a kid fall down and others trampled over his body in absolute panic.

Then, below his feet, a tremor. A small rumbling.

He pulled his head down and gazed at the ground by his feet.

He could feel the ground shaking.

The sound of it rose up to his ears and drowned out the sound of the kids screaming.

His feet shook at the tremor below. His legs shook like jelly.

He was unable to comprehend what was happening.

Then a loud cracking sound.

Reading Comprehension Questions

Who is the main character in the story?

What is his full name?

Where is he going?

Who is walking with him?

What does Danny notice about the birds in the sky?

What is Fergie’s reaction to what Danny can see?

What is Fergie’s mind occupied with instead?

Describe the atmosphere in Danny’s classroom.

Are the students looking forward to the first class?

Are the birds that Danny sees outside all the same type or species?

What three species of bird does Danny see flying outside?

Does Mr Wylde think Danny is paying attention in the classroom?

Are the other students entertained by Danny’s behaviour in the class?

What does Fergie ask Danny? What does he want to know?

Who brings the attention of the other students to the birds?

Do the other students look at the birds?

What is Mr. Wylde’s reaction when he sees the birds?

Who enters the classroom?

What does she say?

What do the students do next?

Describe the feeling in the playground as all the students observe the birds flying above their heads.

What causes the atmosphere to change from excitement to panic in the playground?

How does Mrs. Darrow try to control the situation?

What does Danny feel and see when the insects start flying into the crowd?

What happens to the ground beneath Danny’s feet at the end of the story?

The Leaving a short story for English reading and speaking (4)

Essential Vocabulary

Birds

Window

Bewilderment

Class

Face

Gawping

Crowd

Hands

Tremor

Teacher

Panic

Rumblings

Sky

Shrill

Usher

Running

Homogeneous

Comprehend

Laughing

Exodus

 

 

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:

 

BirdsA type of animal that can fly and lays eggs. Often live in trees.

 

ClassA group of students in a school or university that are taught together.

 

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

 

I like to get up early, walk around, and hear the birds singing as the sun rises.

 

Sarah looked forward to her sociology class, as she loved the subject so much.

 

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

The Leaving a short story for English reading and speaking (5)

Discussion Questions

What did you think of this story?

At the beginning of the story, Danny seems to be the only person that notices the birds.

Why is this so, do you think?

The story doesn’t say what time of year it is. What do you think it might be?

Is this relevant to the story?

Finally, other people start to notice the birds. The story says that Mr Wylde the teacher has an expression of concern on his face.

Why would he be concerned about it?

After Miss Haven comes into the class and mentions the birds, all the students seem very excited.

What is the reason for this do you think?

Are they interested in the birds?

Or do they just need an excuse to not do any studying?

Do you think Mrs Darrow knows something about the birds?

Why is she so keen to get the students back into the school building?

Describe the change in atmosphere, when insects start to fly among the students and teachers.

What emotions were the students feeling before?

How does the story end do you think?

What do the birds’ and insects’ instincts tell them, that human beings do not know?

What is the rumbling sound in the ground?

What could it be?

Do you think birds and other animals have other senses that can feel things that we as human beings cannot?

Try to give some examples.

How can there be so many birds and insects in this one place?

Is it possible? Or just for the elements of the story?

If you were one of the students in the story, would you run outside to the playground with the others?

How do you think you would react if you were one of the students?

The story ends by saying there is a loud cracking sound.

What do you think it is?

What do you think happens next?

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

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