Owl and the Pussy-Cat Context and lesson plan

Owl and the Pussy-Cat.

Context: this lesson with minor variations has been used four times with different groups ( 8 – 12) intermediate – advanced teachers as part of their ‘formacion’ – in Spain.

It has also been used with two advanced students (Spain) in a ‘Proficiency’ class. The primary aim of the lesson is to encourage speaking and to stretch students’ vocabularies – ‘zone of proximal development’ if you need a theoretical label.

Timing : The lesson takes from one hour to an hour and a half.

Organisation: Students in pairs or threes There are a number of activities associated with the lesson that can be used as a carousel – if you want to move the learners about – or serially if space is more restricted, or with low numbers.

Carousel version of the lesson. Place copies of the activities on separate tables at the back of the room.

Warmer: Ask students about rhymes, riddles and poems from their youth, what can they remember – did they ever recite any English songs/verses.

Try to elicit descriptions of metre, rhythm and rhyme. Some students may also mention that British English is a stress timed language.

Activity 1 – Introduction -Whole class

Explain that the students will read a very famous English poem, that was published in both England and America in 1871 and was reprinted in a number of books many times over the following years.

Assign students to pairs or trios – you want a maximum of 5 groups.

Give group of students one copy of the 1871 poem, give them five minutes to skim read the poem. At the bottom of the poem there are 6 questions for the students to answer.

Explain that the groups will ‘do’ 5 out of the 6 activities, they will change Tasks when you shout ‘change’ the groups will move ‘clockwise’ to the next task – this is an English lesson after all!

I ask groups to choose a letter from a to f and then send them to the associated table.

Activity 2 – Carousel – pairs/trios:

Task a) find the rhymes and half rhymes in the poem.

Task b) compare the punctuation, capitalisation and organisation of two versions of the poem – do the differences change the way you would recite the poem or its meaning?

Task c) there are many ways of forming new words in English – list them and give examples of  each method.

Compounding – pea-green, five-pound

Nonce words – runcible

Task d) do the illustrations change your understanding of the poem and if so how?

Task e) Is the Owl male or female and why? How old are the creatures?

Task f) Describe the metrical pattern of the poem – illustrate by writing out the syllable/word stress for any consecutive four lines of the poem.

Additional or alternative tasks are : find three phrasal verbs – to go to sea, to wrap up , to sing to (accompanies by) : findfour collocations;  the stars above, for a year and a day, by the light of the moon, hand in hand.

Additional additional task – this activity has not been tried in a classroom.  Ask the students to speculate about why the Owl and the Pussy-Cat sailed away in the first place [- perhaps society did not like trans species romances]

The link to the article that inspired the question:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/jul/24/terry-jones-owl-pussycat-opera

 

Activity 3 – Information exchange – whole class

Tell students to find answers to the question they have not yet answered – ask other groups ‘formal’ questions.

Activity 4 – Whole class feedback and voting

Elicit why each group only completed 5 out of 6 tasks – explanation – they then had to ask other groups about what they had done that was different and hopefully use English question formats.

Ask for votes about the gender of the Owl, and the Pussy-Cat.  After the voting show the students the 1889 version of the poem with different illustrations – does anything change?

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