“The Secret Garden”
Mary Lennox is almost ten years old when she becomes an orphan. She becomes a disagreeable child because she feels unloved and unwanted. However, when sent to her uncle’s mansion in the English countryside, her life becomes completely changed. She finds many hidden secrets in the dark old house. At night she hears mysterious cries as she wonders through the dark corridors. Mary discovers a secret garden that has been locked up for years. With the help of a robin and a boy who befriends and talks to animals, Mary finds a way to unlock the secret garden. She also helps her invalid cousin to unlock his inner strength from within and regain his childhood through the secret garden.
First graders find it difficult to differentiate between city, state and country. It becomes even more difficult for those who have had few experiences beyond their immediate community. Therefore, as an opening to my first lesson and an introduction to our film friend, “The Secret Garden,” Friday Funtastic will help the children locate our country and state on the globe. From here we will locate England and the surrounding countryside of Yorkshire. Distance and geographical changes become even more difficult for first graders to grasp. In order to give them a clearer picture, Friday Funtastic will present a book from his magical bag entitled England. Carol Greene presents a beautiful book of colored pictures and script that describes the Yorkshire moor. We will discuss and contrast the city with the flat grasslands of the moor that surrounded the mansion of Mary’s uncle.
Frances Hodgson Burnett has written a young readers edition of The Secret Garden that will be used for a guided reading lesson in my first lesson. The pictures are bright and beautiful and parallel very closely to the story in the film. They will be used extensively throughout the story as we stop and discuss parts of the story. For example, there is a beautiful picture of an English garden. As we look at the picture, we will draw attention to the paths that separate the different parts of the garden.
As we close our discussion we will discuss Mary’s plight as an orphan and how that affected her happiness. The children will be asked questions such as: What changed Mary’s attitude towards people (e.g. her uncle, the cousin, Dickson, the servants, etc.)? Did her surroundings change or did she change her surroundings?
During a class discussion contrasting the city and country, we will chart similarities and differences. Impressions will be illustrated by the children using magic markers and water color.
(Day 2 & 3—“Friday and Monday”)
The children have been prepared the day before (i.e., Thursday) for the story in the film. Now it is time for Friday Funtastic’s magic to come into play as the story comes to life and the children view the film, “The Secret Garden.” Friday Funtastic will ask the children to listen and watch closely so that they can discover how Mary and Master Collins unlock their doors to happiness. Does their happiness just happen? Does interaction with others play an important part in generating good feelings?
Following the film, the discussion will center on the relationship between Mary and Collins and how they changed amidst their surroundings. Friday Funtastic interjects and begins to complain about her surroundings. She may say something to the effect: “It’s dark in my surrounding community. The sun never shines unless I find a way to get out of my bag. Then my magic turns on and my happiness begins. However, very soon it’s time to get back in my musty old bag. That’s when I begin to feel unhappy again.” The class will discover ways in which Friday Funtastic will be able to overcome her feelings of despair and unhappiness. We will use Mary’s plight and discuss how she used her inner strength to overcome her situation and then reach out to Collins. For example, the children will be asked questions such as: Did Mary’s discovery of the garden help to change her attitudes and relationships with others? Does Collins’ selfish demands on Mary almost turn the relationship sour? Did Dickson play a part in helping Mary and Collins find their inner strength? The children will be guided in their discussion by helping Friday Funtastic to discover that she can take those good feelings that she feels when she is with the children back into her bag. In other words, those good feelings must be used to overcome some of the circumstances and surroundings that one cannot change. A short discussion will follow whereby the children will be given opportunity to discuss their own feelings with emphasis upon the positive and how they can generate strength from within.
The children will discuss similarities and differences between the story and the film. They will also work in pairs reporting back to their classmates about their feelings for or against the film. What parts did you like best about the film? What parts didn’t you like? Why or why not?
Journal writing will be incorporated with each film viewed in class. The children will be asked to choose a scene from the film and write about it. They will be encouraged to write about their own feelings while watching the scenes. One example will be while Mary was in her room she heard crying and again as she was exploring the halls and rooms of the old mansion. Although Mary heard the crying, she did not see nor did the viewer see who was making the sound. The children will write about these scenes telling about Mary’s expression as she listened to the crying and then again when she was caught by Mrs. Medlock in dark hallway. They will write how they felt about the crying sound. Was Mary fearful? Was she brave? Should she have gone snooping in the old mansion?
(Day 4 & 5—“Tuesday and Wednesday”)
The great formal English gardens of the 1600’s were very elaborate. They sometimes covered as much as thirty acres of ground. Often times they had terraces with covered walks of trees where hanging branches draped the tiled walks. Clipped hedges and formal flower beds were found in many of the gardens. We will refer to our picture in Burnett’s book illustrating the secret garden for our third lesson. Following our discussion, the children will plant seeds in their own garden. As the plants grow, they will keep a log depicting a graph that shows the growth of their plants.
At eight years of age, Heidi is an orphan and sent to live with her cynical old grandfather. Heidi falls in love with the Swiss Alps affording lush meadows, clean fresh air, an abundance of wild flowers, not to mention Peter’s goats and their warm fresh milk. To the amazement of the village folk, Heidi’s tender heart and childlike faith win grandfather’s love and affection. All too soon that bond is broken when the aunt kidnaps Heidi and sells her to a wealthy family in a distant city. Clara, an invalid begins an amazing recovery by finding amusement with Heidi’s ungraceful mannerisms. Happiness fills everyone’s heart when Clara recovers completely by accepting Heidi’s encouragement and love for the Alps and its surroundings.
The book Switzerland by Gibbon and Smart will be used to introduce the setting for the story of Heidi. The country of Switzerland will be located on the map. The children will discover that Switzerland is about the size of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Road Island together. Gibbon and Smart have prepared a beautiful book of colored pictures and text related to the country of Switzerland. After the children have had an opportunity to view the pictures related to various traditional customs and the geography of Switzerland, (e.g., traditional costumes, colorful villages, goat farming, the Swiss Alps, etc.,) Friday Funtastic emerges from her bag and begins to sprinkle her magical dust. She tells the children that she and Mrs. Martin are going to tell the children a story entitled, “Heidi.” The very first thing that she wants the children to do is close their eyes and picture a little girl about their age climbing a steep hill that looks like the pictures they saw in the book about Switzerland. After they open their eyes, Friday Funtastic and I will tell the story together.
Following our story, Friday Funtastic will reach into her magical bag and produce a block of Swiss cheese. Cheese making is an interesting process, especially the part about the cheese forming curds and how this must be separated by bacteria. Friday Funtastic will use pictures to give a simple explanation for cheese making and then ask the children if they would like to guess how the holes developed in the Swiss cheese. The puppet tells the children that she will not reveal the secret of the holes until they go to their seats and write a tall tale about “Cheese and Its Holes.” While the tall tales are shared, the children will sample the swiss cheese and hot chocolate, another product that Friday Funtastic tells the class is popular in Switzerland.
Friday Funtastic reveals her secret about the holes in swiss cheese. A special culture that is grown in laboratories causes a gas bubble to form in the cheese. When the bubble disappears, the indent remains in the cheese. History reveals that the holes developed naturally or one could say by accident during the early days of cheese making. Today not only is the culture developed to form the holes, but the indents have become a trademark of swiss cheese.
(Day 7 & 8—“Friday and Monday”)
It is Friday and the children are prepared to watch the film “Heidi.” Suddenly Friday Funtastic emerges from her bag holding a carton of goat’s milk. She dares the children to sample a few sips while they prepare to watch their film friend. The puppet wonders what goat’s milk has to do with the story, “Heidi?” She elicits the children’s explanations and tells them that they are to think about the significance of the goats in the film. Friday Funtastic has not forgotten the goats after the children have viewed the film. After a brief discussion, I will intervene and guide the class in a discussion between the similarities and differences between the story of “Heidi” and “The Secret Garden.” Questions such as: How were the girl’s backgrounds the same? Were their surroundings the same? Certainly their socioeconomic standards were quite different and will be compared. We will compare how the two girls gained inner strength from their surroundings and how those surroundings were alike and different. Interesting comparisons can be made between Clara’s home and the mansion in Yorkshire, including the servants and their relationships with the girls.
Again journal writing will be introduced where the children write their own feelings from a scene in the film. One sample will be the kidnapping by the aunt from the grandfathers cottage. This scene shows Heidi quite concerned about telling grandfather where she is going before departing with the aunt. However, the aunt is determined to take Heidi away during the absence of the grandfather. However, after several protests from Heidi about leaving, the aunt allows Heidi to place a pair of shoes made by her grandfather by the fireplace. She comments that this gesture will surely tell her grandfather that she will soon return. The shoes are filmed close up and depict a strong bond between the grandfather and Heidi. There is a strong religious tie throughout the film. In fact, the opening scene shows a crucifix in the foreground. The crucifix is then moved across the screen to the lower left hand corner with Heidi coming from behind the crucifix and moving into center screen. In the Bible, Jesus’ love for his disciples shows his willingness to wash their feet. The shoes show this love and affection that had developed between Heidi and her grandfather. Heidi didn’t take the shoes with her. Didn’t she need them? Why did Heidi place the shoes by the fireplace rather than on her bed or under her chair? What would you have done to show the grandfather you would be back soon? How would you have felt about leaving Grandfather? These are some of the questions that the children will address in their journal writing.
(Day 9 & 10—“Tuesday and Wednesday”)
The following day Friday Funtastic will bring her Heidi puppet to class. She tells the children that they are going to make a puppet and write their own Heidi story. I would anticipate that this lesson would last two days so that the children could confer with me in editing their stories and sharing them in class with their puppet. A paper bag will be used as a base to place the hand. The children will use their own imaginations and create their puppet from construction paper.
Dumbo is a baby elephant who is bom with oversized ears. All of the other circus entertainers, including the elephants snub and make fun of Dumbo except a mouse called Timothy. When Dumbo and Timothy awaken one morning in a treetop, they know something magical has taken place. However, Dumbo does not believe he can fly until a friendly crow gives him a “magic” feather. Timothy helps Dumbo regain his confidence in himself when the feather slips from his trunk and begins to fall. The delightful story ends with Dumbo soaring as high as the flying stars of the circus.
(Day 11 —“Thursday”)
Unlike the other two films where we read the story before viewing the film, I will show the film, “Dumbo” first. Basically the film will be used as a comparison between the use of live characters in a film and animated characters. The children will be able to identify with the animated characters because of the many cartoons that most of them watch on television. Friday Funtastic will introduce the film. She will tell the children that this is one of her favorite film friends because the characters in the film remind her of herself. She will tell them that the characters are animated, meaning that they appear real because they move and talk, but actually they are drawings that were filmed in succession or made to move by a computer.
(Day 12 & 13—“Friday and Monday”)
Friday Funtastic will ask one of her puppet friends, Tuesday’s Cup of Sugar to help tell the story from the book Dumbo. The story along with Tuesday’s Cup of Sugar will be videotaped and used as a discussion to compare the story in the film with the story in the book.
The children in my classes enjoy writing about stories that are read in class. There’s usually some competitiveness in trying to see who can remember and write the most about the story. As a follow-up to our animated film, we will make our own animated film in class. However, rather than making the project an individual product, the children will be paired and asked to write and illustrate various parts of the story. They will be responsible for making a background scene for their particular part in the story. The characters will be cut out separately along with tabs attached to them so the children can slide their characters across their paper through a slit in the background scene. One child will slide the characters while the other child reads their part in the story. Each sequence will be videotaped until the whole story is recorded and then viewed in class.
Ann McGovern’s book
will be used as a comparison between the animated circus acts in the film “Dumbo” and the live acts that are pictured in the book. After a discussion about the make-believe acts versus the live acts each child will write a story about a make-believe character in the circus who has a problem fitting into the circus family. For example, a circus clown named “Charlie” has feet so big that he always falls before he is able to do his act and as a result the whole clown act is ruined. The other clowns get together and decide to tell their boss man that they want Charlie fired. However, Shorty the Clown comes up with an idea whereby Charlie’s feet become part of a stunt and Charlie is a hero. In other words, “Dumbo” will be used as a model for writing and illustrating a story in class.