Tuesday, December 23, 2008

How the Grinch Taught English Class

In this week's "lesson" students walk into the classroom to see several verses of "Jabberwocky" on the screen.

I read the first verse to them, and ask for volunteers to explain what it means. Needless to say, there are no takers. I indicate in broad, dramatic strokes that I likewise have no idea what it's about. It's filled with nonsense words, or jabberwocky!

So then I explain that we're going to watch a movie that has a fair amount of jabberwocky in it, invented by Dr Seuss (who we've touched on before, and whom some students recall).

Also, just as the poem by Lewis Carroll introduced a new word to the English language, so did the story by Dr Seuss--GRINCH! I'm going to ask them later to tell me what they think the word means. I also remind them to take note of the elements of film that we've talked about--genre, setting, characters, etc--before starting the movie. Which I found in three parts on youtube.com. Using the switch to subsequent parts to review and ask key questions, we watch the whole movie.

The whole time, I've been wearing the FC Seoul scarf I bought at the game that bitterly cold day; after the movie is over, I turn on the lights and make a subtle show of drying my moist eyes on the corner of the scarf. This gets a big laugh.

Speaking of big laughs, the students understood the story, I think, quite well (a testament to the genius of Seuss, and director Chuck Jones) but they clearly have three favorite parts:
1) when Max the dog is pulling the empty sled, it overtakes him and he ends up sitting on the back of it, giving the Grinch a shrug and a shy wave;
2) the Grinch takes a billiard shot with an ornament, which knocks the other ornaments from the tree, and they roll into the mouse hole, out the downspout and into a waiting sack; and
3) after Grinch's heart grows three sizes, he lifts up the overloaded sled with the strength of ten Grinches plus two.

Maybe the language is tough--the jabberwocky, at least--but the fact that these fifteen- and sixteen-year-old Korean boys watched with rapt attention (most of them) suggests to me both the genius and universality of Seuss, and his applicability to English instruction. Also, there's no question that if you want to understand the American psyche, you've got to acknowledge the influence of the Seuss-man.

As for me, I have actually gotten paid for a "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" quiz, and my most-requested poem at poetry slams is my "So Long, Dr Seuss" composed on the occasion of his passing.


Mr. B said...

Starting my Grinch filler lesson today... here's to hoping that mine is anywhere as successful.

Then again, I've got middle school. You really never know.

Lynn F. said...

Hello again,
I used to teach Jabberwocky too and can still win the occasional bar bet when I bust out with my recitation of it!
On another note, I just got word that I've been placed in Seoul starting Feb. 2013, so I may have a number of questions for you. (I'm that middle-aged teacher from Texas who wrote earlier.)