- English Language Arts, Reading Literature
- Material Type:
- Lesson Plan
- High School
- Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
The Country Mouse and the Town Mouse
Students continue to look at “Once Upon a Time.” They’ll consider what makes the story so powerful and what makes it a Juvenalian satire.
- Read the lesson and student content.
- Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
- This is such a painful and intense story that students are likely to have strong reactions to it. Strong emotions are a great place to begin class.
- ELL: As students participate in the discussion, be sure to monitor for knowledge of the topic. Stay alert to follow up on interventions that seem unclear or ambiguous. When ELLs contribute, focus on content, and don’t allow grammar difficulties to distract you from understanding the meaning (as much as possible). Help ELLs who make grammar mistakes by rephrasing, but do it only when your rephrasing will not become an interruption or interfere with their thinking.
- Almost surely the students will take you, in this discussion, to the story’s end, where the little boy dies and is suddenly referred to as an “it.”
- SWD: It is important that all students work on the Speaking and Listening Standards; however, some students may be reluctant to speak in front of peers for a variety of reasons. Provide students with multiple means of expressing their ideas that will eventually help them to speak in front of their peers.
Consider your reaction to “Once Upon a Time” and discuss the following questions with your classmates.
- Where in this story did you experience the strongest emotions?
- What stays with you when you think about this story?
- Some would say that the most powerful literature remains with you a long time after you’re done reading, so often it’s helpful to return to that point of intensity and take it apart. What made it work on you as it did?
Happily Ever After
- This close reading gets at the heart of the story, where fairytale details are powerfully juxtaposed with horrific details about South Africa.
- As students are annotating, you can circulate to see what they’re noticing.
- SWD: Monitor students and provide assistance by asking questions that help them see the juxtaposition and the words used to convey it. If a student is struggling, hold an individual conference. If many students are struggling, bring the students together as a focus group.
- Those who finish early can begin to look for other similar sentences in the story.
- Ask students to think back on fairytales that they read or have seen in movies when they were little, and then help them identify some similar elements in the story.
- You’ll remind the class that its initial definition of satire said that it could use humor or irony to satisfy its purpose.
- What’s ironic about this story? A quick discussion of this question will lead you to the term paradox, which means a situation where elements seem contradictory but in fact represent a truth. Define the term for students.
- ELL: In defining words, check in with the ELLs to be sure you define words they don’t understand, even if native speakers might understand them.
- Students should be able to say what’s paradoxical in the sentence, and you might move on to other sentences in the story.
- You can then narrow further to the term juxtaposition, which refers to the writing practice of placing two elements near one another, usually for contrast. Define the term for students.
- ✓ What two contradictory elements are juxtaposed in this sentence?
- ✓ How does this juxtaposition create satire, or social criticism?
Look at the beginning of the second-to-last paragraph of “Once Upon a Time”:
“Next day a gang of workmen came and stretched the razor-bladed coils all round the walls of the house where the husband and wife and little boy and pet dog and cat were living happily ever after.”
As you answer the following questions, keep in mind what makes this paragraph satire and what the author is criticizing in the story. Take notes as you and your classmates discuss the sentence.
- What’s happening in this sentence? Find and annotate the sentence, paying close attention to the words that are used, especially those that seem to contrast with one another.
- Think back on fairytales that you have read or seen in movies when you were little and then find some similar elements in the story. Consider how these elements, alongside the horrific events of the story, create a powerful satire.
- Is it effective satire? Is it enjoyable to read? Why or why not?
- Students who are more adept at reading and writing might aim to craft a thesis statement articulating Gordimer’s goal in utilizing juxtaposition in the story.
- ✓ Why fairytale elements in particular?
- ✓ What is she trying to say about this culture?
- Students who are struggling might work in pairs to answer the questions. Talking through their thinking might move it along and give them more confidence in their thinking.
- ELL: As with other discussions, encourage students to use the academic vocabulary they learned. As they participate in the discussion, be sure to monitor for knowledge of the topic. Follow up on interventions that seem unclear or ambiguous. When ELLs contribute, focus on content, and don’t allow grammar difficulties to distract you from understanding the meaning (as much as possible). Help ELLs who make grammar mistakes by rephrasing, but do it only when your rephrasing will not become an interruption or interfere with their thinking.
Find another example of juxtaposition in the story, making sure it includes a fairytale element.
- Write down the example you’ve selected, and explain why you chose it.
Then discuss your response with your classmates.
Vocabulary in Once Upon a Time
- Monitor students and lend assistance as needed.
- ELL: In addition to using the words in context (which helps all students derive meaning, especially ELLs), ask students to create their own sentences using the words. Giving students an opportunity to think and utter sentences using the new words will reinforce their understanding and will help them remember the words in the future.
Work with a partner on the following task.
- Note any unknown words in “Once Upon a Time.” Look up definitions and rewrite them in your own words.
Gordimer's Juvenalian Satire
- Emphasize that satire is not always funny. Irony can be so sharp as to make audiences uncomfortable.
Write a response to the following.
- Gordimer’s story would be considered Juvenalian satire. Why? What’s the single harshest sentence in her story?
Discuss your response with your classmates.
The Country Mouse and the Town Mouse
- Let the class know that tonight they will read a different type of satire—one intended to be light-hearted and funny.
- SWD: Consider providing students with a partially completed Venn diagram that already includes some aspects of Juvenalian satire.
You may be familiar with the next story. You’re already familiar with Juvenalian satire. This story is an example of Horatian satire.
- Read “The Country Mouse and the Town Mouse” by another ancient Roman satirist, Horace.
- Annotate for satirical techniques you notice.
- Begin a Venn diagram for Juvenalian satire and Horatian satire. You will continue to add to it in the next lesson.