Last Day at School

last day at schoolThis story describes the feelings of a teacher on his last day at school. He is not only leaving his school, but moving on to a different . It was written by Italian teacher-turned- Giovanni Mosca, and may talk about his feelings on leaving teaching in 1936.

English Learner Vocabulary Help

The words and expressions in our Simplified English story which are not in our Intermediate level 1800 word list are: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and .

There are also three words that are in our Intermediate word list but have a meaning in the story which is different to the one most commonly used. These words are: (things that make noise in a toy gun), (areas of hard skin), and (child’s toys).

Most of the time you don’t need to know the meaning of all unknown words to understand the main point of a story, and this story provides some good examples of this. In some cases it can be fairly easy to work out the general meaning of a word you don’t know. You can guess that caps, a top, and a water-pistol are some kind of child’s toys because they were taken from students by the teacher and given back at the end of the year. In other situations identifying the kind of thing the word is talking about is enough. You should be able to see from the other words in the sentences these words are in that for this story:

  • a butterfly is a shape;
  • trumpeting is some kind of noise;
  • a smock is something that the students had to wear at school;
  • a courtyard and corridor are places in the school outside the classroom:
  • a lizard is something that the students put into the teacher’s desk as a joke;
  • to be patted, given a hug or have someone rub your hair are nice things.

Some words need a little more thought. The first thing to look for is what kind of word they are. Look at these sentences from the story:

Spadoni used to tell tales when he came into my class two years ago. Now, he would be ashamed to do so.

Without knowing all the words, you can see that Spadoni is a boy’s name, that he used to do something that was probably bad (tell tales), and that he doesn’t do it now. Because the word ashamed follows the “be”, it is most likely to be an telling you about his state or feeling about what he used to do.

General Comments on the Story

The story is written in the minimalist writing style made famous by American author Ernest Hemingway. In this style, the story is presented with simple sentences and conversations and many details are left out. This forces readers to use their imagination to understand the full meaning. Hemingway called it the “Iceberg Principle”. He compared his works to an iceberg floating on the sea, where only one-eighth of the iceberg is above the water. You know that the rest is there, hidden under the water, and need to create its image in your mind.

Hemingway spent time in Italy as a volunteer ambulance driver during World War 1. He returned in 1948 for a long visit after becoming a world-famous author. By that time Mosca was one of Italy’s leading journalists, and it is highly likely that the two writers met.

We are always happy to receive requests for stories. Last Day at School was requested by Solamalai Ramesh, who teaches Engineering at a college in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Solamalai wrote:

“It’s a story I read when I was in college as an undergraduate in 1987. I love to read it again and again. I lost the copy of the textbook and my old professor found it for me after spending a week in the English department library.”

Thank you for requesting and supplying a copy of “Last Day at School”, Solamalai. If you would like us to cover a particular story that you think would be of interest to other learners or is special for you, simply send a request through the “Contact Us” tab above.

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(n: career pl careers) An occupation that requires special training and offers advancement. 2000
An unskilled occupation that does not offer advancement, such as a taxi driver, would normally be called a 'job', rather then a career.

(n: journalist pl journalists) A writer of news stories for newspapers, magazines, radio or TV. 5000

ashamed(adj: ashamed) Feeling bad about something that you have done or something that has happened to you. 3000
(adj: shameful) Something so bad that someone should feel ashamed about it.
(adj: shameless) Having done something shameful without feeling ashamed.

butterfly(n: butterfly pl butterflies) An insect that has a long thin body and brightly colored wings and flies mostly during the day. 4000

corridor(n: corridor pl corridors) A long, narrow passage inside a building with doors that lead to rooms on each side; also called a hall or hallway. 3000

courtyard(n: courtyard pl courtyards) An area of open space wholly or partly surrounded by walls or buildings. 7000

farewell(n: farewell pl farewells) 1. Something that you say to a person who is leaving; goodbye. She wished me farewell. 2. An act of leaving. I will take my farewell of this place tomorrow.
(adj: farewell) Done when someone is leaving, ending a career, etc. A farewell concert/dinner. 6000

hug(v: hug, hugs, hugged, hugging) 1. To put your arms around someone or something, especially as a way of showing love or friendship. 2. To be or stay very close to something. 6000

lizard(n: lizard pl lizards) A type of reptile that has four legs and a long body and tail. 8000

(v: pat, pats, patted, patting) To lightly touch (someone or something) with your hand usually several times in order to show affection or approval or to provide comfort. 2000

pocket-knife(n: pocket-knife pl pocket-knives) A knife with one or more blades that fold into the handle so that it can be carried in the pocket. Also known as a 'jack-knife' or 'pen-knife'. 10000

rubbing(v: rub, rubs, rubbed, rubbing) To move something [such as your hand or an object] back and forth along the surface of something else while pressing. 2000

smock(n: smock pl smocks) A light and loose long shirt, usually worn over regular clothing to protect it from getting dirty. (เสื้อคลุมหลวม ๆ) 8000

strict(adj: strict, stricter, strictest) Being very firm with people; demanding that people obey rules or behave in a certain way, without change or failure. (เข้มงวด) 3000

(phrasal verb: tell tales) To give away secret or private information about the (usually wrong) actions of others in order to get them in trouble. (Often used when talking about a child.) You must never tell tales. (บอกความลับ)

trumpet(n: trumpet pl trumpets) A brass musical wind instrument with a high, clear tone. (แตร)
(v: trumpet, trumpets, trumpeted, trumpeting) To make a sound like the instrument, such as the noise an elephant makes through its trunk. (เสียงเหมือนแตร) 5000

water-pistol(n) A child's toy gun that shoots a stream of water. Also called a water-gun.

caps(n: cap pl caps) 1. A paper or metal container that holds an explosive substance. A blasting cap. 2. Small pieces or rolls of paper with tiny explosive charges to make noise in a toy gun.

corns(n: corn pl corns) A small, sometimes painful hard spot on the skin caused by constant pressure or rubbing. Usually found on the foot. 4000

toy top(n: top pl tops) A child’s toy that spins (goes round and round) very quickly. (ลูกข่าง) 1000

(n: verb pl verbs) A grammar term for a word that expresses an action, an occurrence, or a state of being. (คำกริยา)

adjective(n: adjective pl adjectives) A word that describes a noun or a pronoun. 7000

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