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Fifth Grade - Literature - Overview - January

There are six lessons in January's unit. Three lessons are on poetry. Two are on sayings and phrases. And one lesson is on a tale. The poems are "A Wise Old Owl" by Edward Hersey Richards, "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost, and "A Bird Came Down the Walk" by Emily Dickinson. The sayings are, The grass is greener on the other side of the fence, and Make a mountain out of a molehill. The tale is titled "The Samurai's Daughter" and is also known as "A Tale From the Oki Islands." It is a folktale from Japan. Feudal Japan is the subject of lessons in Geography and World Civilization this month.

Alliteration and onomatopoeia, two literary devices, and the figures of speech, metaphor and personification, all introduced in prior lessons in Fifth Grade Literature, are reviewed in this unit. Simile is introduced.

The theme of the outdoors runs through the works in this month's unit. From the owl in Hersey's poem through the road in Frost's, and the bird in Dickinson's, the three poems portray the beauty and simplicity of rural life. Both sayings refer to aspects of outdoor living. And the folktale from Japan does as well.

Start the unit by teaching "A Wise Old Owl" by Edward Hersey Richards, which should be followed by "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost. From then on, the sayings Make a mountain out of a molehill, The grass is greener on the other side of the fence, the poem "A Bird Came Down the Walk" by Emily Dickinson, and "The Samurai's Daughter" also known as "A Tale From the Oki Islands" can be taught in any order.

There are journal prompts on the lessons on "A Wise Old Owl," "The Road Not Taken," Make a mountain out of a molehill, and The Grass is always greener on the other side. This unit also includes group work and other activities related to "The Samurai's Daughter."
 

Fifth Grade - Literature - Poetry - A Wise Old Owl
 

Objectives

Restate descriptions of the owl contained in the poem.

Enjoy the poem.

Analyze poetic language: personification, alliteration, and symbol.

Recall some literary terms: personification, alliteration, and symbol.
 

Materials

Text of "A Wise Old Owl" for transparency, on chart paper, or on the board

Picture of an owl
 

Suggested Books

Teacher Reference

Hirsch, E. D. Jr., ed. What Your 5th Grader Needs to Know. New York: Doubleday, 1993.

________. What Your 4th Grader Needs to Know. New York: Dell, 1992.

________. What Your 1st Grader Needs to Know. New York: Dell, 1993.

Kuiper, Kathleen, ed. Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature. Springfield: Merriam- Webster, 1995.

Pickering, David. Cassell Dictionary of Proverbs. London: Cassell, 1997.
 

Teacher Background

Students are familiar with "Why the Owl has Big Eyes" an Iroquois (Native American Indian) tale that is part of the First Grade Literature curriculum and with Athena, the ancient Greek goddess of wisdom and war who is often portrayed with an owl on her shoulder. Athena was presented in Literature (Mythology: gods and goddesses) in the Second Grade.
 

A Wise Old Owl

Edward Hersey Richards

A wise old owl sat on an oak,

The more he saw the less he spoke;

The less he spoke the more he heard;

Why aren't we like that wise old bird?

Procedure

First, ask students for an example of a wise person in history (Socrates, the Greek philo-sopher who often asked "why?", Martin Luther King, Jr. who preached nonviolence during the Civil Rights era, etc.). Present the poem "A Wise Old Owl" to the students on transparency, on chart paper, or on the board. Ask students to read the poem silently to themselves, thereby preparing to read it aloud to the class. Next, call on volunteers to read the poem aloud to the class, offering as many as possible the chance to do so.

Ask: What does it mean to be wise? (ability to judge what is true or right) Explain that being wise involves making choices, especially choices between wrong and right, such as whether to report on a fellow student who is cheating on a test, or to be quiet about it. Ask: What choices between wrong and right do you have to make most often? (Answer may vary.)

Tell students that in the first line of the poem, the poet states that the owl is wise. Ask: Why does the poet state that the owl is wise? (quiet, large eyes, speaks very little) Ask the students to recall what it means to be wise (to be able to judge wrong from right). Ask: Can an owl be wise? (no) Ask: Why can't an owl be wise? (because it is an animal and only humans can judge wrong from right) Ask: If only humans can be wise, what figure of speech is in use when the poet calls the owl wise? (personification)

Tell students that the poet states that the owl is old. Ask: Can the poet tell the age of the owl? (probably not) Ask: Why does the poet claim the owl is old? (does not move a lot, looks hunched like an elderly person) Tell students that wisdom and age often go together, for elderly persons are often wise from all their experiences.

Tell students that the poet suggests that the owl sees a lot. Ask: Why does the poet believe that the owl sees a lot? (He has large eyes.) Tell students that the poet states that the owl speaks. Ask: Why is it an example of personification when the poet states that the owl speaks? (only humans speak) Tell students that the poet imagines that it is because the owl sees so much that it speaks so little. Ask: Might someone hear more if he or she spoke less? (yes) Ask: Why? (by speaking less one may listen more) Tell students that in the last line the poet wishes we humans were more like the owl in some ways. Ask: In what ways does the poet wish humans were more like the owl? (saw more, spoke less, heard or listened more)

Present the picture of the owl (attached). Ask students to recall the poem while they observe the picture of the owl and to comment on anything they find striking and relevant to the class. If students fail to come up with pertinent observations about the accuracy of the poem (eyes, hunched appearance, shut beak), direct their attention to these features.

Tell the students that though the owl is often silent, it does make a sound, or hoot. Ask if any student knows what the sound of an owl is like and invite that student to demonstrate it to the class (hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo). Remind students that in a prior lesson in Fifth Grade, they were introduced to alliteration. Ask: What is alliteration? (starting several words in a row with the same letter or the same sound) Ask students to find an example of alliteration in the poem. Tell them that alliteration in this poem seeks to reproduce the sound of the owl and that only the first letters or sounds may form alliteration. Point out to students that four words in line one of the poem start with the letter 'o.' Tell the students that this constitutes alliteration.

Tell students that the last line of the poem "Why aren't we like that wise old bird?" reveals one reason why poets are interested in animals; they are a source of comparison with humans. Tell students that even before the poet made it obvious he was comparing humans and animals by writing "Why aren't we like that wise old bird?" there was evidence that the poet was speaking of the owl but thinking of humans. Ask: What evidence is there in the poem that the poet was speaking of animals but thinking of humans? (Explain that by personifying the owl the poet had already showed that he was thinking of humans and possibly comparing humans with the owl.)

Tell students that the owl is only a symbol of wisdom. Remind students that in a prior lesson in Fifth Grade Literature, they learned that a symbol stood for something other than itself. Ask: What is the symbol of the United States? (the eagle) Ask: Does that mean that the eagle is the United States? (no) Tell students that to the poet, the owl is a symbol of wisdom. Ask: Does that mean that the owl is wise? (Answers may vary.) Explain that the owl shows qualities (sees a lot, listens attentively, quiet) that human beings who are wise may also show. Explain that these qualities (sees a lot, listens attentively, quiet) are not the same as being wise. Emphasize that humans may be wise without showing some or all of these qualities.

Remind students that even if the owl is just a symbol of wisdom and may not be wise, the poet does have reasons for claiming that the owl is wise. Ask students to recall the reason why the poet claimed the owl was wise (sees a lot, listens a lot, is quiet).

Tell students that over the years humans have been compared to animals for the qualities or defects of character they share. Tell students that during the Crusades (religious wars fought between the Muslims and the Christians during the Dark Ages), one historical figure was called Richard the Lion-Hearted. Ask: What does it mean that someone is lion-hearted? (brave, fierce) Tell the students that Richard was indeed brave and that he won many battles against the Mus-lims. Then, invite students to submit examples of animals that are usually used as symbols of humans and to discuss the qualities or defects of character that they point to (hawks, aggressive; doves, peaceful; snakes, unfeeling; cat, graceful, etc.). Tell students that by using animals for nicknames, sports teams are also trying to send a message about their qualities. Invite students to submit to the class sports teams with animal names for nicknames (Baltimore Orioles, Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bulls, etc.).

Finally, remind students that in Second Grade Literature, they learned that the owl was the emblem or symbol of ancient Athens, Greece, and that the Greek goddess of war and wisdom, Athena was often pictured with an owl on her shoulder. Ask students to recall, however that a tale of the Iroquois Indians of North America, which they listened to in the First Grade, did not portray the owl as quite so wise at all. Remind them that in "Why the Owl Has Big Eyes," an Iroquois tale, the owl was disobedient to Raweno, the spirit who makes everything. Ask the students to recall that even after he was asked to, the owl refused to look away while Raweno was creating other animals. Tell the students that the owl so enraged Raweno by his disobedience that for punishment, Raweno swung the owl about so that his eyes became huge with fright.
 

Activities

Ask your students to do the one of the following.

1. Observe an animal, bird or fish that has a character trait (quality [brave]) or weakness [fierce]) that you share and write a paragraph about it, stating how it makes you feel to share this trait with this animal, fish or bird.

2. Do you know a person who is as wise as an owl? Write a paragraph explaining why you think that person is wise. Start by writing, ....is as wise as an owl.
 

Additional Activities

You may assign the following activity to an individual or a group of students. This activity may be of special interest to a student who has interest in or knowledge of owls or animals.

1. Research the science that has led the poet to believe that the owl is wise, and report it orally to the class.
 

Journal

You may ask your students to respond to these journal prompts.

1. "A Wise Old Owl" is the second poem about a bird that you have studied. The first was "The Eagle." Why do you think poets in particular and human beings in general like birds?

2. What is your favorite animal, fish, or bird, domestic or wild? Why is it your favorite?

3. What do you think your life would be like without animals for company?
 

Fifth Grade - Literature - Poetry - The Road Not Taken
 

Objectives

Read the poem.

Interpret the meaning of the poem.

Enjoy the poem.

Recall the literary term: symbol.
 

Materials

Text of the poem, "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost for transparency (attached)
 

Suggested Books

Teacher References

Frost, Robert. Complete Poems of Robert Frost. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1958.

Kuiper, Kathleen, ed. Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature. Springfield: Merriam- Webster, 1995.

Untermeyer, Louis, ed. Robert Frost: The Road Not Taken. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1962.
 

Teacher Background

Robert Frost was born in 1874 in San Francisco, California, USA. He is best known for his use of colloquial language, familiar rhythms, and symbols taken from common life, which he uses to express the simple values of the farms and fields of New England. He was a naturalist and botanist who observed the details of rural life and gave them meaning. Robert Frost died in 1963.

Robert Frost's poem, "The Pasture" was taught in First Grade Literature. The themes of choice and individuality are important ones in "The Road Not Taken." Because of these themes, this poem is an appropriate follow-up to the poem "A Wise Old Owl."

In this lesson, students will read the poem silently to themselves. Then, they will be called upon to respond to questions about the poem. Students will be asked to visualize themselves in the role of the first person narrator, "I" of the poem. In keeping with its private mood and the theme of individuality developed in the poem, the questions asked in this lesson are predominantly open questions with no absolutely correct answer. Accept all reasonable answers.
 

Procedure

Tell students that they are about to read a poem that, like "A Wise Old Owl" takes place in the outdoors. Explain that in this poem, author and reader are in the countryside. Then, present the poem on transparency, and ask students to read it silently to themselves.

Ask for volunteers to offer the meaning of the word "diverged" (to branch off). Write the word and its meaning on the board or on chart paper and inform the students that the voice speaking in the poem is the first person singular, "I." Explain that the first person singular is a very private and personal voice and invite the students to claim that voice as theirs. Ask them to become the "I" of the poem and to imagine themselves in the experience of "The Road Not Taken." Ask the students to read the poem again silently.

After allowing several minutes for the silent reading, tell the students that you will call on them, one by one, to respond to a line of the poem. Explain to students that they should respond to the questions in the first person singular, "I."

Call on each student by name and assign him or her a line of the poem. Tell the students that they must not read the poem aloud. Limit students in their attempts to respond to a question assigned to other students or to correct or otherwise influence their classmates' responses. Justify this decision to limit classroom discussion on the poem by telling the students there may not be any one correct way to interpret the poem. Inform students that at the end of the lesson, they will be allowed to discuss the poem. Then, call on students to respond to the questions that relate to each line.

Once the students have responded to every line in the poem, invite them to discuss any aspect of the poem they feel strongly about, then remind the entire class that in a prior lesson in Fifth Grade Literature, they learned what a symbol was. Ask the students: What is a symbol? (image or object that stands for something other than itself) Ask: What symbols are there in this poem and what do these symbols represent? (roads, life; two roads, opportunities; two roads, choices; undergrowth, unforeseeable; road less traveled, independent thought or action;)

Inform students that the poem "The Road Not Taken" is on the surface a poem about the outdoors but on a deeper level, it is a very private and personal poem. (You may explain that this was the reason why they were not invited to read it aloud.) Suggest to students that "The Road Not Taken" may be read as a poem about life and the choices we make in life, and that in so far as "The Road Not Taken" is about choices, it should remind them of the poem "A Wise Old Owl." Ask students to recall what it means to be wise? (able to judge wrong from right) Remind students that the voice or narrator (one telling the story) of "The Road Not Taken" chose the less traveled road and explain that although the less traveled road may be risky or scary, what is important is that the narrator chose to travel one road and not the other.

Tell students human beings are able to make choices and that the ability to make choices differentiates human beings from animals. Explain to students that even by not choosing one is making a choice: in that case, one is choosing not to make a choice. Exhort students to make conscious and clear choices, emphasizing that it's one of the messages in "The Road Not Taken."

Write the name "Robert Frost" on the board or on chart paper, and tell the students that Robert Frost is the author of "The Road Not Taken." Describe Frost as a poet from the New England region of the United States who observed nature (the weather, vegetation) and rural life very closely. Point out that as in "The Road Not Taken," Frost's language is simple and his images come from everyday life, and recommend that students read other poems by the author, suggesting that if they do they may enjoy them.
 

Journal

You may ask your students to respond to this journal prompt.

1. Assume that life is road. How would you describe the road you have taken so far? What does the road ahead look like? Answer in one written paragraph.

Fifth Grade - Literature - Poetry - The Road Not Taken

Stanza 1

Line 1. Ask: Where do you stand in relation to the two roads that diverge?

Lines 2/3. Ask: Why can't you travel both roads and be one traveler?

Line 3. Ask: Why did you stand long?

Line 4. Ask: Is the road that you looked down to be found on your left or right?

Line 5. Ask: Do you suspect anything lurking in undergrowth that the road bends into?
 

Stanza 2

Line 6. Ask: Are you certain that the other road is just as fair as the first?

Line 7. Ask: Are you sure that this road is better than the first?

Line 8. Ask: How did the appearance of a grassy road make you feel?

Line 9. Ask: Have travelers gone down this road before you?

Line 10. Ask: What were the signs that travelers had gone down this road before you?
 

Stanza 3

Line 11. Ask: How do you compare the roads at this point in your journey?

Line 12. Ask: What is the condition of the roads?

Line 13. Ask: Why will you take the other road another day?

Line 14. Ask: What does line 14 mean?

Line 15. Ask: Do you want to come back that other way some day in the future?
 

Stanza 4.

Line 16. Ask: Why will you be telling this with a sigh in the future?

Line 17. Ask: Where will you be ages and ages hence and speaking to whom?

Line 18. Ask the student to mime wordlessly the sense he or she gets from this line.

Line 19. Ask: Why did you choose the road less traveled?

Line 20. Tell the student: You said, taking the road less traveled has made all the difference. Ask: All the difference to what?
 

Fifth Grade - Literature - Poetry - The Road Not Taken
 

The Road Not Taken

Robert Frost
 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth; 5
 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same, 10
 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back. 15
 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference. 20
 
 
 
 

Fifth Grade - Literature - Poetry - A Bird Came Down the Walk
 

Objectives

Interpret the meaning of the poem.

Enjoy the poem.

Analyze poetic language: personification.

Recall a literary term: personification.

Analyze the use of simile in poetry.
 

Materials

Text of "A Bird Came Down the Walk" for transparency (attached)
 

Suggested Books

Teacher Reference

Hirsch, E. D. What Your 5th Grader Needs to Know. New York: Doubleday, 1993.

Johnson, Thomas, H., ed. The Poems of Emily Dickinson Vol I. Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1965

Kuiper, Kathleen, ed. Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature. Springfield: Merriam- Webster, 1995.
 

Teacher Background

Emily Dickinson was born on in 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts, USA. She wrote concise and simple poetry and collected her poems in handsewn booklets. Only seven of her more than 1,775 poems surfaced in her lifetime. She did not title her poems. Emily Dickinson died in 1886.

Emily Dickinson's poem "Bee, I'm Expecting You" was taught in the Second Grade. Simile, metaphor, personification were introduced earlier in Fifth Grade Literature. Another of Dickinson's poem "I Like to See it Lap the Miles (The Locomotive)" is introduced in May.
 

Procedure

First present the poem "A Bird Came Down the Walk" on a transparency (without a title attached). You may read the poem aloud to the students if you think they need to have a model of the reading. Then, ask students to read the poem silently to themselves. Next, ask students to form pairs and read the poem to each other, each student reading alternating stanzas, or alternating lines. Students may also read chorally as a pair, or one after the other. Then, call on students to read the poem aloud, line by line, one line per student. After each line is read, do the following:
 

Stanza 1

Line 1. Ask: How do you picture that bird coming down the walk? Does it hop, strut, run, or stroll? (Answers may vary.) Ask: What is a walk? (sidewalk, place set aside for walking, enclosed place where animals are fed)

Line 2. Ask: Who is the "I" mentioned in this line? (narrator (one telling the story), poet) Ask: Why is the narrator so certain that the bird did not know that he or she saw him? (He went on his way undisturbed.) Ask: Did the narrator wish not to be seen by the bird? (Answers may vary.) Ask: Why? (Answers may vary.)

Line 3. Ask: What is an angleworm? (earthworm used for bait by anglers) Ask: Do birds "bite?" (no) Ask: What do birds do with their beaks while feeding? (crack, tear, cut, peck) Ask: How does a bird reach for a worm? Does the bird lift the worm into the air? Or does the bird peck at the worm on the ground? (Answers may vary)

Line 4. Ask: Is the bird truly a "fellow?" (no) Ask: What is a fellow? (man, boy) Ask students to describe the use of language involved in calling a bird a "fellow" (treating a thing as if it were a person), then remind students that earlier in Fifth Grade, they learned the term that meant a writer was treating a thing as if it were a person. Ask students to recall the word that means a writer is treating an animal as if it were a person (personification). Tell students the narrator says that the bird ate the worm "raw." Ask: Is there any other way that birds eat worms? (Answers may vary.)
 

Stanza 2

Line 5. Ask: What is dew? (moisture condensed from the atmosphere especially at nights and forming drops on any cool surface) Ask: What time of day would it be, if there is still dew on the ground? (early morning) Ask: What is the narrator doing up this early in the morning? (He or she may be a habitual birdwatcher or farm worker.)

Line 6. Ask: What makes the grass in question convenient? (easy to reach, there when the bird needed it)

Line 7. Ask: Did you picture him hopping? (Answers may vary.) Ask: How does the author's describing the bird hopping make you feel? (Answers may vary.)

Line 8. Ask: Did you picture the beetle? (Answers may vary.) Ask: What color did you picture the beetle to be? (Answers may vary.) Ask: Did you foresee a beetle in the poem or did the mention of the beetle surprise you? (Answers may vary.) Ask: Why did the bird avoid the beetle? (Answers may vary.) Ask: Did the bird foresee the beetle or was it surprised by the passing of the beetle? (Answers may vary.)
 

Stanza 3

Line 9. Ask: How do you picture the bird's rapid eyes? (Answers may vary.)

Line 10. Ask: What does the line "That hurried all abroad" mean? (The bird looked all around.)

Line 11. Ask: What looked like frightened beads? (bird's eyes) Ask: What do frightened beads look like? (Answers may vary; rolling.) Ask: Can beads be frightened? (no) Ask: Why? (not alive) Ask: What figure of speech is the expression "frightened beads"? (personification)

Tell students a comparison such as "They [eyes] looked like frightened beads" using the word "like" as is done in this case, is called a simile. Emphasize that a simile (SIM-uh-lee) is a figure of speech in which two unlike things are compared and the comparison is made obvious by using the word "like" or "as."

Line 12. Ask: Is referring to the bird as "he" an example of personification? (yes) Ask: What does the adjective "velvet" in the expression "velvet head" mean? (smooth) Ask: Which of the five senses can experience velvet? (touch, sight)
 

Stanza 4

Line 13. Ask: Who or what was cautious? (narrator) Ask: Was there any real danger? (no) Ask: What figure of speech is used in this line? (simile)

Line 14. Ask: What is a crumb? (tiny piece of food) Ask: Is that crumb likely to be raw? (no)

Ask: Why? (Answers may vary.) Ask: What figure of speech is used in this line? (personification ("him")

Line 15. Ask: What does it mean he unrolled his feathers? (spread his wings)

Line 16. Ask: What does it mean he "rowed"? (swam, flew) Ask: What does one normally use to row? (oars) Ask: What does one row with oars? (boat) Ask: Is the bird a boat? (no) Ask: In what ways is a bird like a boat? (movement of oars and wings are similar; Accept reasonable answers.) Tell students that this line compared a boat and a bird, two unlike things in many ways. Ask: In the comparison of the bird and the boat did the narrator use the words "like" or "as?" (no) Ask: What is the name of a figure of speech in which two unlike things are compared without the use of "like" or "as"? (metaphor) Ask: What does it mean that the bird went "softer home?" (Answers may vary; nest; family, etc.) Ask: Who or what has homes? (humans) Tell students that stating that a bird has a home is personifying the bird.
 

Stanza 5

Line 17. Ask: Can you imagine oars dividing the ocean? (Answers may vary.)

Line 18. Ask: What is silver? (precious, smooth, like quicksilver) Ask: What is a seam? (ridge where two edges meet)

Line 19: Ask: What are banks of noon? (Answers may vary.)

Line 20: Ask: What is a plash? (gentle splash) Ask: What does "plashless" mean? (soundless)
 

Tell students that for the most part the poem uses simple language. Ask: Did the poem end as simply as it began? (no) Ask: At which point in the poem did it become more difficult? (Answers may vary.) Ask: What is this poem about? (Answers may vary.) Tell students that some poems are very personal, meaning one thing to the author and something quite different to every reader and that this poem may be one such personal poem. Then, call on students to share their understanding of what the poem is about orally in the classroom. Ask the students to start by saying, "I think the poem is about ..." or "To me, the poem is about..."

Tell students that the bird is a symbol of freedom as in the saying as free as a bird and that the poem may be a portrait (picture) of the beauty and freedom of birds. Inform the students that Emily Dickinson, the author of this poem did not title her poetry and only a fraction (7 of nearly 1800 poems) were published in her lifetime. Ask: How would you title this poem? (Accept reasonable answers.) Ask students to justify their choice of a title (theme, subject, etc.), offer the title "A Bird Came Down A Walk" selected by the editors of What Your 5th Grader Needs to Know (See Suggested Books.) Finally, inform the students that another poem by Emily Dickinson will be introduced later in the Fifth Grade.
 

Activities

You may ask your students to complete the following exercise.

1. Paint the bird mentioned in this poem the way you pictured it in a particular line. Then, copy that line of the poem and place it on your painting as a caption. Include the author's name on a second line.

2. In one paragraph, describe the feeding of an animal, fish or bird that you have observed for a week.

Journal

You may ask your students to respond to this journal prompt.

1. Should poetry be difficult to understand? Why?
 

Fifth Grade - Literature - Poetry - A Bird Came Down the Walk
 

Untitled

by Emily Dickinson

A bird came down the walk:

He did not know I saw;

He bit an angle-worm in halves

And ate the fellow, raw.
 

And then he drank a dew 5

From a convenient grass,

And then hopped sideways to the wall

To let a beetle pass.
 

He glanced with rapid eyes

That hurried all abroad-- 10

They looked like frightened beads, I thought;

He stirred his velvet head.
 

Like one in danger; cautious,

I offered him a crumb,

And he unrolled his feathers 15

And rowed him softer home
 

Than oars divide the ocean,

Too silver for a seam,

Or butterflies, off banks of noon,

Leap, plashless, as they swim. 20

Fifth Grade - Literature - The Samurai's Daughter (A Tale From the Oki Islands)
 

Objectives

Listen to or read the Japanese legend "The Samurai's Daughter."

Select and describe actions of the main character which reveal her values/virtues.

Relate real-life experiences that demonstrate the same values.

Describe and categorize the different types of conflict the main character faced.

Design a book jacket for the legend (optional).

Analyze the main character's major choices and hypothesize the effects another selection would have made (optional).
 

Materials

A copy of the legend "The Samurai's Daughter" from one of the books below (if possible)

A classroom-size map of the world or of Japan

Construction paper in various colors (optional)

For pairs or small groups of students to share:

Crayons or markers

Scissors

Ruler

Glue

A copy of the Values Chart (attached)

For each student:

A copy of the Conflict Kite (attached)

One piece of manila or other heavy paper

One piece of yarn, approximately one foot long

A copy of the attached legend "The Samurai's Daughter"

A copy of the attached choices worksheet (optional)
 

Suggested Books

Davis, F. Hadland. Myths and Legends of Japan. London: George G. Harrap and Co., 1912. In this book, the tale is titled "The Slaughter of the Sea Serpent;" note that although it can be used as a resource for the tale, the book cannot be checked out of the Baltimore City Public Library System because it is a reference book.

Hirsch, E.D. What Your Fifth Grader Needs to Know. New York: Doubleday, 1993. This text contains background information on samurai and Japan's feudal period.

San Souci, Robert D., retold by. The Samurai's Daughter. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 1992. The use of Japanese words to highlight the text and the gorgeous pastel illustrations make this an ideal source for the legend.
 

Teacher Background

This lesson is centered around the Japanese legend of "The Samurai's Daughter." The study of this legend coincides with the study in World Civilization of Feudal Japan. Especially pertinent to this lesson, the World Civilization curriculum includes information on the samurai and on the values present in the prominent religions of Japan.

If it is not possible to get one of the copies of the legend, it has been briefly retold here. You may wish to either tell it to the students in your own words, or to copy this version of the tale and allow students to read it on their own and progress through the activities individually.
 

Regardless of the choice you make, it would be advantageous for each student to have their own copy of the story to refer to when completing the activities.
 

Procedure

Begin today's lesson by telling students that they are about to hear (or read) a legend from Japan called "The Samurai's Daughter." (Write the title on the board.) Go on to tell them that another name for this legend is "A Tale from the Oki Islands," and indeed an important part of the story takes place on the Oki Islands. Display the world map or map of Japan and show students the Sea of Japan. Tell them that the Oki Islands are located in the Sea of Japan, off the southwestern coast of the largest of Japan's four major islands, Honshu. Point out this location to students as well.

Ask if students know what a samurai is. If so, have them describe one in their own words. (a professional swordsman and fighter who followed a strict code of honor in conduct, similar to a knight) If students have not yet covered this information in World Civilization, explain to them what a samurai is. Ask: What do they think the daughter of a samurai would be like? Why? How might the daughter of a samurai be different than the son of a samurai?

Proceed to read or tell students the legend of "The Samurai's Daughter." If you are unable to get a book with a version of the legend in it, you may wish to tell it in your own words based on the attached synopsis, or you may wish to copy the attached version and have students read it independently or in pairs.
 

Activities
 

Values Examination

Tell students that Tokoyo's father taught her values that were important to every samurai. Ask: What were these values? (courage, discipline, endurance and the samurai's duty to protect the weak) (Write these values on the board.) Tell students that they may know, through their study of World Civilization, an additional value important to samurai that certainly was present in Tokoyo and her father. This value is one which is seen when people remain true to one another. Ask: What value is this? (loyalty) (Write this value on the board as well.) Tell students that one can see these values in Tokoyo's actions. They need to select four values and, working with a partner, complete the Values Chart, noting for each value a specific example of the behavior that makes it apparent. For example, one could say that Tokoyo's courage was evident when she dove with the amas in the presence of sharks. Before students begin, make sure they have a common understanding of the meaning of discipline in this context. (In this context, discipline means self-control.) You may also wish to discuss the meaning of the word endurance

(the ability to last in the face of hardship).

When students have completed the chart, discuss each of the values with them and ask them to share their examples of Tokoyo's actions which make the values apparent. Ask: Which value do they think most important to Tokoyo's character? Why? Are there any other unnamed values they see in Tokoyo? What action(s) reveal these values? Which of all of these values are important in a good friend? In a soldier? In a political leader? Collect the chart for grading purposes, first reminding pairs to put their names on it.

Values Relation

Tell students that they now need to consider the presence of these values in their own lives. They need to think about a time when they showed, through their actions, that they have one of these values, or about a time when they saw someone else show one of these values through his or her actions. Students will write a brief paragraph that describes the instance. The paragraph should begin: During my life, I witnessed/displayed (the value of their choice) when ...

The paragraph should then describe the incident or action. An example is given below.

During my life, I displayed discipline the last time we had a test. I really wanted to watch my favorite TV show, but I knew that if I didn't spend more time studying, I would earn a poor grade. I stayed in my room to study and told my brother to go ahead and watch the show without me. It was hard not to do what I really wanted to do and it did take a lot of self control.

Those students who finish the paragraph first may wish to draw a picture to go with it. When all students have completed the writing, ask for volunteers to share, and compliment them on their ability to recognize these values in real life. Collect the paragraphs and drawings to grade and/or display.
 

Conflict Kite

Tell students that the conflict in a story is the struggle that occurs. There can be one conflict or many conflicts in any story, and conflicts can be categorized in different ways. For "The Samurai's Daughter," they will be considering four types of conflict, and in doing so will create a "Conflict Kite." Pass out the kite outline, and give students a moment to look at it. Ask: Who is the main character in "The Samurai's Daughter?" (Tokoyo) Tell students that each part of the kite will reflect a different type of conflict Tokoyo experienced. What type of conflict will be noted in the upper right corner of the kite? (Her struggles with other characters.) Tell students that the names of the other characters that Tokoyo struggled with should be written around the words "other characters" in this portion of the kite. Ask: Can you think of an example of a character that would go in this section? (the ruler, the evil sea serpent, the haunted ship of ghosts, the villagers who wouldn't take her to the Oki Islands, etc.)

Now have students look to the lower right corner of the kite. Ask: Did Tokoyo struggle with any forces of nature in this story? If so, which ones? (Allow students to discuss the answers to these questions. Tokoyo did struggle with the rough water on the sea en route to the Oki Islands, and this could be counted as a struggle with nature, as could her struggle to stay under water for an extended period of time, without breathing, while diving.)

Third, direct students to look at the lower left corner of the kite. Tell students that another type of conflict occurs when a character struggles with his or her feelings. Tell students that in this section, they will write the names of the feelings that Tokoyo struggles with in the story. Ask: What does it mean to say that someone struggles with a feeling? (Answers will vary. Make sure that students understand that someone struggles with a feeling if he or she has a feeling that causes discomfort or unease. Frequently the struggle results in some type of action to deal with the feeling.) Can students think of an example of a feeling Tokoyo struggled with? (grief and loneliness over her father's absence, anger over not being able to participate in activities because of her gender, etc.)

Finally, have students look at the upper left corner of the kite. Tell students that in this corner, they should write in words or phrases that document any conflict that Tokoyo has with rules, laws or customs that she is expected to obey. (You may want to write "society--rules, laws and customs" on the board.) Instruct students that they need to think about what is expected of

her because of who (a samurai's daughter) or what (a girl) she is. Some of these expectations are difficult for Tokoyo to accept, and these are what need to be noted in this corner.

Tell students that after they have written words or phrases in each of the four corners of the kite, they need to cut out the kite. They should then trace the kite on a sheet of manila paper and cut out the mirror image that the tracing will make. Next, they should use a ruler to divide the manila kite into fourths, exactly the same way that the original kite is divided. In each of the fourths of the manila kite, they will draw one example from the story of that type of conflict. For example, in the section designated for conflict with self/feelings, students may wish to draw Tokoyo crying because she misses her father. Tell students that the back of the manila kite will be glued to the back of the original kite, so that the work on both sides shows, and the four sections match. In other words, the picture of the example should be exactly on the reverse of the words and phrases noting that type of conflict within the story. Emphasize to students that they need to remember that the manila kite will be a mirror image, and may want to place the manila kite back to back or side to side with the original kite so that they are sure they are drawing the example in the right place. (See the diagram below showing the fronts of both kite panels.)
 

Once you are sure that students understand what to do, distribute scissors, manila paper, rulers and markers or crayons. Students should first complete the writing on the conflict kite, then trace, cut out and decorate its reverse side as directed, then glue the two sides together. A piece of yarn may be sandwiched between the two sides before they are glued together, or students could glue or staple the yarn to the bottom of the kite. Finally, students should discretely write their names somewhere on the kite. (You may wish to specify a place.) Collect the kites to hang from the classroom ceiling.
 

Book Jacket (optional)

Tell students to use their imagination to create a book jacket for the story. Inform them that although the most common title for the tale is "The Samurai's Daughter," other titles include "A Tale from the Oki Islands" and "The Slaughter of the Sea Serpent." If they would like, students may make up their own title for the story, but should be able to explain why it is appropriate. In addition to the title, the book jacket should have an illustration. Discuss with students what makes an enticing and appealing cover, and have them design one that would prompt others to pull the book off the shelf and read it. Finally, instruct them to credit themselves on their created covers by listing themselves as illustrator and reteller of the tale.

You may even wish to bring in a collection of book jackets and have students examine them in groups and identify their common components. If this is done, students should note that frequently on the front inside fold is a brief summary of the story that does not give away the ending, but makes the reader want to know what happens. On the back inside fold there may be reviews of the book, listings of other books by the author and illustrator, and/or a short biography of the author and illustrator with his or her picture. If students examine other book jackets, they should also then fold their jacket as if they were going to be put around a book, and include noted elements on the front and back inside folds.
 

Character Choices (optional)

Tell students that whenever they read, they find out about the choices that a character makes. In "The Samurai's Daughter," Tokoyo makes many choices that impact her life. Brainstorm with students the major choices that Tokoyo makes during the story, and list them on the board. These choices may include, but should not be limited to, the ones listed below.
 

To dive with the amas

To go to her father in exile

What to bring with her for her journey

To set out by herself across the Sea of Japan

To stand and fight the phantoms on the ghost ship

To take the place of the young girl about to be sacrificed

To fight the sea serpent

To grab the statue of the ruler from the cave at the bottom of the sea
 

Distribute the character choice worksheet and tell students that they need to select one of the choices listed on the board. They will write the selected choice in the first blank. Then, they should think about what else Tokoyo could have done, given the circumstances, instead of the choice they noted. Students should list three other options. Next, students should choose one of the options that they described and think about how the story would have been different if Tokoyo had selected that option instead of the choice that she actually made. On the bottom of the worksheet, they should write, in a paragraph, how the story would be changed if Tokoyo had done so.

It will aid in student understanding if you walk through an example of the procedure with them as a class. Select one of the choices Tokoyo made, for example the choice to dive with the amas. Ask: What else could she have done? (Answers will vary, but may include actions such as dressing up as a boy and trying to become a samurai, or choosing to accept her fate as a girl and learning to like playing the lute, or challenging other boys her age to compete with her in archery or horsemanship.) As a class, select one of the options generated and discuss how the story would have been different had Tokoyo acted on the selected option. Remind students that when they write their paragraph describing how the story would be different, they should use proper paragraph form, including a topic and concluding sentence. An example topic sentence would be: If Tokoyo had chosen to learn to like playing the lute instead of trying to prove her courage by diving with the amas, the story would have been very different. If necessary, students should use the back of the worksheet to finish the paragraph.

Allow students to begin this assignment, and when finished, ask for volunteers to share their paragraphs. Ask: Does anyone think Tokoyo should have chosen their option instead of acting in the way that she actually did? Why? Why do you think Tokoyo chose the action she did, instead of the option you thought of? What conclusions can you draw about Tokoyo's character based on the choices she made? Is there any choice Tokoyo made that you would not have made, had you been in her shoes? Why would you have opted against that choice?

Fifth Grade - Literature - The Samurai's Daughter (A Tale From the Oki Islands)
 
 

VALUES CHART


 
 

_____________________OF___________________________________

(character's name) (story title)
 
 
 
VALUE ACTION SHOWING IT

 
 
 

NAMES____________________________________________________________

THE SAMURAI'S DAUGHTER


 


Long ago on the east coast of Japan there lived a noble samurai and his daughter, whose name was Tokoyo. The samurai loved his daughter very much and though she was a girl, he taught her the samurai virtues of discipline, courage and endurance. Additionally, he taught her the samurai's duty to protect the weak. Because the samurai was a widower, and spent a great deal of time traveling, the daughter had a nurse, Kuma, to care for her.

As Tokoyo grew older, her father decided that she also needed to learn traditional, ladylike skills. He hired instructors to teach her proper dress and manners and how to dance and play the lute. Tokoyo frequently complained to Kuma that she wished she were a boy so that she could compete for honors using the horseback riding and archery skills her father had taught her when she was younger. Unable to do so, Tokoyo looked for opportunities to prove that she was as brave and strong as any samurai. She especially liked to go to the shore and dive with the professional women divers, the amas, who could hold their breath and withstand the cold water better than most men. These women had the job of diving to the sea floor to harvest shellfish who lived there, and used knives to pry them from their rocky homes. Tokoyo found the undersea world to be beautiful and exciting, and because of the presence of sharks, it required bravery.

One day Tokoyo was on the beach, sorting through her catch, when her father approached, a guard on either side of him. She ran to him, excited to see him, but her excitement died quickly when she found out why he was there. He had come to say goodbye to her, as the ruler whom he served had become displeased with him and was banishing him to the Oki Islands, in the Western Sea.

Her father explained, "The ruler has developed a mental disorder, and though I have been a loyal knight, he is sure I am plotting against him. Dear daughter, I might never see you again."

Though she was overwhelmed with grief, Tokoyo struggled not to show it for her father's sake and because she was a samurai's daughter, she was expected to hide her feelings. They embraced one another, then the guards led her father away.

For weeks, Tokoyo did not leave her home, and cried every day because she missed her father so much. Finally, she decided that she could no longer stand to be away from him, and became determined to go to him in his exile. She packed a little money, a bit of dried fish to eat and a dagger that had belonged to her ancestors, and went to say goodbye to Kuma.

She said, "Kuma, loyalty requires me to go to my father, as I am the daughter of a samurai. I am sure that my courage will carry me safely to him. I swear to you that one day I will return with my father and bring honor back to our house."

It was a long journey by foot across the mountains to the shore of the western sea, and along the way, Tokoyo had to be very cautious. Several times she had to hide in the woods from thieves who traveled the roads, looking for people to prey on. Despite her traveling difficulties, Tokoyo remained excited about seeing her father.

Finally she reached the western shore. People there knew of the Oki Islands, but no one would take her there. They told her that the ruler had forbidden anyone to go there without his permission, and that the sea between their shore and the Oki Islands was rough and dangerous. Several people even claimed that a haunted warship full of ghosts prowled the waters she wanted to cross. When they saw she was determined to go anyway, the villagers sold her a small boat, and told her that the island of exiles, where her father had been sent, had the shoreline landmark of a large rock that looked like a skull.

Tokoyo left at dawn the next day. She used the rowing and navigation skills she had been taught by the amas, and she needed these skills as the sea was every bit as rough as the villagers had said it would be. She rowed and rowed! When it became dark, and she lay down to rest, she saw a huge ghostly ship quickly approaching. As it came closer, Tokoyo could see its crew of phantoms, leering.

Knowing it would be useless to try to escape this ship, Tokoyo prepared to fight. She raised an oar and shouted, "I am a samurai's daughter!" As she stood ready to take on the ghastly crew, the ship sailed right over her, like fog, and disappeared into the moonlight.

Tokoyo began to row again, and it was not long before she saw the island with the skull-shaped rock on its shore. She paddled to its beach and began to climb up the shoreline cliff when she heard clapping. Looking up, she saw on the cliff above her a priest, clapping to get the attention of the gods, then praying, as a young girl cried quietly by his side. Tokoyo quickly scaled the cliff, and as she came up behind the pair, saw that the priest was about to throw the girl into the sea. Tokoyo grabbed her and asked the priest why he was about to do such a thing. The priest answered sadly that for a long time, the island had been cursed with an evil demon in the form of a sea serpent. Each year this serpent demanded that the islanders throw to him a sacrifice of a young boy or girl. If they refused to do so, he caused terrible wind and waves that drowned many of the island's fishermen. Though the islanders hated having to sacrifice one of their young people, they saw no better choice. Tokoyo suggested that the priest allow her to take the place of the young girl. Bravely, she walked to the edge of the cliff, put her ancestors' knife between her teeth as she did when diving with the amas, and dove into the sea.

At first, she could see nothing, then as her eyes adjusted to the cloudy depths and as she continued to dive deeper, she caught a glimpse of an underwater cave. Outside of the cave was a small statue of the ruler who had thrown her father into exile and Tokoyo swam closer to get a better look at it. Suddenly, a huge green serpent swam out of the cave, its angry eyes fixed on Tokoyo. Tokoyo froze in place and allowed the serpent to come closer and closer. At the last minute, as its jaws opened to swallow her, she darted slightly out of the way and plunged her knife into the monster's right eye. Tokoyo shot to the surface to gulp some air. She had only a second, though, before she could see the serpent again gaining on her. On and on the chase went, with the serpent dashing towards her, then Tokoyo darting out of the way at the last minute and trying to deliver another stab wound. Finally, just as Tokoyo's strength was leaving her, she was able to jab the knife deep into the monster's underbelly. He shook violently, then died. She swam to the bottom one last time and dragged the beast's body towards the surface. On her way, she picked up the statue from outside the serpent's cave. Slowly, she paddled to shore.

Waiting on shore were the priest and the young girl, astounded as they saw Tokoyo approach with the body of the serpent and the statue. They lay both on the beach and went to the village to tell the other islanders what had happened. There, Tokoyo saw her father, and as she ran to him, he exclaimed his joy over her loyalty and courage.

Tokoyo replied, "Father, I only acted as a samurai's daughter should. I would rather live here with you, in exile, than in our home. I am your daughter and belong with you."

They soon found out, however, that the samurai's exile was over. Apparently a man who was angry over being exiled had thrown the statue of the ruler into the sea and issued a curse on him. The curse not only brought a demon to the island, but also caused mental illness in the ruler. When Tokoyo killed the demon and brought the statue out of the sea, the curse was broken and the ruler regained his senses. When he was told about Tokoyo's deeds, he immediately sent for her and her father, and gave Tokoyo great honors. Afterwards, Tokoyo and her father returned to their home, where they enjoyed a happy life together.
 


CHOICES, CHOICES, CHOICES!


 
 

Name__________________________________________________
 

In the story "The Samurai's Daughter," Tokoyo made many important choices. Select one of the choices and write it one the line below.
 

_________________________________________________________________
 

Now, think about what else Tokoyo could have done, other than the action you wrote above. List three other options on the lines below.
 

1_______________________________________________________________
 

2_______________________________________________________________
 

3_______________________________________________________________
 

Select one of the options you thought of and describe on the lines below how the story would have been different if Tokoyo had chosen that action instead.
 

_________________________________________________________________
 

_________________________________________________________________
 

_________________________________________________________________
 

_________________________________________________________________
 

_________________________________________________________________
 

_________________________________________________________________
 

_________________________________________________________________
 

_________________________________________________________________
 

_________________________________________________________________
 

Fifth Grade - Literature - Sayings and Phrases - The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side
 

Objective

Understand the saying.
 

Materials

Text of the saying, The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence on sentence strip, on chart paper, or on the board
 

Suggested Books

Teacher Reference

Hirsch, E. D., Jr. ed. What Your 5th Grader Needs to Know. New York: Doubleday, 1993.

Pickering, David. Cassell Dictionary of Proverbs. London: Cassell, 1997.

Teacher Background

The saying, The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, means what some-one else has seems better than what you have, or what others have appears more attractive than what you have.

A sixteenth-century English version of the saying is, 'The corne in the other mans ground semeth ever more fertyll and plentifull then doth oure owne.' 'The grass is always greener on the other side of the hill,' and 'The other side of the road always looks cleanest' are English variants of the saying. In the USA, a variant of the saying is 'The grass is always greener in the next man's yard.'

Another version of the saying is 'The apples on the other side of the wall are the sweetest.' There are also the sayings, 'Forbidden fruit tastes sweetest,' which means it is more enjoyable to have something to which one is not entitled than to have what one has a right to, 'Stolen sweets are sweeter,' and 'Stolen kisses much completer.'

The saying deals with the psychology of desire, envy, and prohibition.

It may mean the opposite of the saying, 'A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,' and 'All that glitters is not gold.'
 

Procedure

First, ask students: What would you like to do when you grow older that you can't do now? (Answers may vary.) Ask: Do adults who do the things you would like to do seem to be having a good time doing so? (Answers may vary.) Ask: Is it possible that those adults may not be having such a good time after all? (Answers may vary.)

Ask: Is there anything that you so wished to do or have, that when you finally did or had it you were disappointed? (Answers may vary.) Ask: Is it possible that you were disappointed because you exaggerated the pleasure or satisfaction that would come from doing or having this thing? (Answers may vary.)

Tell students that there is a saying that means what someone else has always looks better than what you have. Ask: What is that saying? Offer such cues as the words "grass" and "green." If students do not recognize the saying, present The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence on sentence strip, on chart paper, or on the board.

Ask: In reference to grass, what does the color green signify? (good quality, health, attractiveness) Tell students that greener grass is healthier, more attractive, of a better quality. Ask: What is the grass on the other side of the fence greener than? (grass on your side, grass within reach)

Ask: What does a fence do? (separate neighbors, keep something beyond reach) Explain that the fence used in this saying expresses something that is forbidden or not available, in this case, the grass. Ask: Is the grass on the other side of the fence actually greener? (no) Ask: Why would the grass on the other side of the fence appear greener? (because you may want it so badly, because you cannot have it, because you don't have it, because it belongs to someone else) Ask: Does the fence have anything to do with the grass appearing greener? (yes) Tell students that humans seem often to want what they can't have.

Explain that humans may want something so badly that they see it differently than it might really be. Explain that the fence might so affect the neighbor that he or she sees the grass as greener on the other side while it may not really be that way.

Tell students that in the 1500s, which is about the time of Shakespeare, an English version of this saying was, 'The corne in the other mans ground semeth ever more fertyll and plentifull then doth oure owne.' Write this and the following variants on the board or on chart paper. Tell the students that 'The grass is always greener on the other side of the hill,' and 'The other side of the road always looks cleanest' are English sayings that mean the same as the saying, The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Tell students that, in the USA, a version of the saying is 'The grass is always greener in the next man's yard.'

Tell students that other versions of the saying include 'The apples on the other side of the wall are the sweetest,' 'Stolen fruits are sweeter,' and 'Forbidden fruit tastes sweetest,' which means it is more enjoyable to have something to which one is not entitled than to have what one has a right to.

Ask: Is it healthy or wise to see the grass on the other side as greener than it really is? (no) Tell students that there is value in seeing things for what they are. Tell students that other sayings advise against the tendency to believe that The grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Tell them the saying, 'A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,' for example, teaches people to appreciate what they do have and the saying 'All that glitters is not gold' warns against appearances that deceive.
 

Journal

You may ask your students to respond to this journal prompt.

1. Do you recall a time that what someone had seemed overly attractive to you and you wanted it? What was that object? Did you finally get that object? How did it feel to have that thing you desired after all this time? Do you think that you wanted that thing for itself or you wanted because someone else had it and you didn't?
 

Fifth Grade - Literature - Sayings and Phrases - Make a Mountain out of a Molehill
 

Objectives

Understand the saying.

Compare the English language version of the saying with the French and Latin equivalents.

Work in groups to create another version of the saying.
 

Materials

Text of the saying, Make a mountain out of a molehill on sentence strip, on chart paper, or on the board
 

Suggested Books

Teacher Reference

Hirsch, E. D. What Your 5th Grader Needs to Know. New York: Doubleday, 1993.

Pickering, David. Cassell Dictionary of Proverbs. London: Cassell, 1997.

Room, Adrian, revised by. Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. New York: HarperCollins, 1995.

Teacher Background

The saying, Make a mountain out of a molehill means to make a big deal out of something that is not very important. The French equivalent is, 'Make an elephant out of a fly.' The Latin equivalent is 'Make a stronghold out of a sewer.'
 

Procedure

First, ask students: Have you ever heard the saying, Make a mountain out of a molehill? (Answers may vary.) Present the saying, Make a mountain out of a molehill on sentence strip, or write it on the board or on chart paper. Ask: Who was the saying directed at when it was used and what had that person done? (Answers may vary.) Ask: What does the saying, Make a mount-ain out of a molehill mean? (to make a big deal out of something that is not very important, to overreact, to exaggerate)

Next, ask students to select the two most important words in the saying (mountain, molehill). Ask students to explain the relationship between "mountain" and "molehill" in the saying (comparison, small/huge). Underline or otherwise highlight those two words. Students do know what a hill is and may understand the saying based on the comparison between mountain and hill. Ask: What is a mole? (Answers may vary) Explain that a mole is a variety of small insect-eating mammals, about seven inches long from head to rear, (Tell students that this about the length of a new pencil.) that live underground. Tell students that a molehill is a small mound of earth left by a mole or moles burrowing under the ground. Tell students that a molehill is similar to an anthill, since this may be more familiar.

Emphasize that a mountain is so much larger than a molehill and that the saying, Make a mountain out of a molehill means to exaggerate something, or to make a big deal out of something that is not very important. Tell students that of the two items compared, the mountain is more important than the molehill. Ask: Why is a mountain more important than a molehill? (mountain is larger, may contain minerals)

Ask: Does anybody know another saying that means to make a big deal out of something that is not important? (Answers may vary.) Tell students that the French have a different way of expressing this saying. Tell students the French language equivalent of Make a mountain out of a molehill is 'Make an elephant out of a fly.' Write the French equivalent on the board or on chart paper. Tell students that the French equivalent is also based on a comparison of two unlike objects. Ask: In what ways are an elephant and a fly unlike each other? (elephant is larger, more useful; fly is bothersome, a pest, ugly)

Tell students that the Latin language equivalent to the saying, Make a mountain out of a molehill is 'Make a stronghold out of a sewer.' Write the Latin equivalent on the board or on chart paper. Ask: What is a stronghold? (a very secure place, especially because it houses import-ant objects) Ask: In what ways are a stronghold and a sewer unlike each other? (strong-hold is secure, stronghold houses important objects; sewer needs not be secure, sewer houses waste)

Ask: In your opinion, which of the three expressions, the English language version Make a mountain out of a molehill, the French equivalent 'Make an elephant out of a fly,' and the Latin equivalent, 'Make a stronghold out of a sewer' is most easily understood? (Answers may vary.) Ask: In your opinion, which of the three expressions, the English language version, Make a mountain out of a molehill, the French equivalent 'Make an elephant out of a fly,' and the Latin equivalent, 'Make a stronghold out of a sewer' is easiest to remember? (Answers may vary.) Ask: In your opinion, which of the three expressions, the English language version Make a mountain out of a molehill, the French equivalent 'Make an elephant out of a fly,' and the Latin equivalent, 'Make a stronghold out of a sewer' is the most pleasant sounding? (Answers may vary.) Point out that the word "sewer" and "stronghold" begin with the same letter "s" just as "mountain" and "molehill" begin with the letter "m." Explain that the repetition of sounds in a sentence usually produces a melodious or rhythmic effect.

Conclude by emphasizing that sayings have meaning, but they have other qualities too. They tend to be brief. They tend to be melodious. Tell the students that by being brief and sounding melodious, sayings are as pleasing to the ear, and as easy to remember as poetry or song.
 

Activity

Ask students to work in groups of six for ten minutes to create a saying that means 'Make a big deal out of something that is not very important.' Remind students that the saying is based on a comparison of two objects, one they care very little about and another that is very important to them.

Advise the groups that they are to break into two subgroups of three students. One subgroup of three will write down the names of objects of little importance and the other will find objects of great importance. After five minutes, both subgroups will come together to match the best pair of unlike objects in order to create an expression that is an equivalent of, Make a mountain out of a molehill. Each group will also select two representative to present the group's work to the class.

At the end of the ten-minute period, ask that the two student representatives from each group come to the front of the class. One student from each group will read the saying while the other student writes the saying on the board or on chart paper.

Additional Activity

Ask your students to do the following exercise.

1. Do you recall a real situation in the past when the saying, Make a mountain out of a molehill would have been appropriate? Write a paragraph about that incident and end by saying, 'If that's not a case of making a mountain out of a molehill, I don't know what is.'
 

Journal

You may ask your students to respond to this journal prompt.

1. What kind of a person are you? Do you keep things in perspective? Do you make mountains out of molehills or do you minimize the importance of things? Answer this question and give one example of something you did that really shows what kind of person you are. Start by saying, I am the kind of person who makes mountains out of molehills... or, I am the kind of person who minimizes the importance of things...

Bibliography

Student Reference

Davis, F. Hadland. Myths and Legends of Japan. London: George G. Harrap and Co., 1912.

San Souci, Robert D., retold by. The Samurai's Daughter. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 1992. (0-8037-1135-2)
 

Teacher Reference

Frost, Robert. Complete Poems of Robert Frost. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1958.

Hirsch, E. D. What Your 5th Grader Needs to Know. New York: Doubleday, 1993. (0-385-31464-7)

________. What Your 4th Grader Needs to Know. New York: Dell, 1992. (0-385-31260-1)

________. What Your 1st Grader Needs to Know. New York: Dell, 1993. (0-385-31026-9)

Johnson, Thomas, H., ed. The Poems of Emily Dickinson Vol I. Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1965. (0-674-67600-9)

Kuiper, Kathleen, ed. Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature. Springfield: Merriam- Webster, 1995. (0-87779-042-6)

Pickering, David. Cassell Dictionary of Proverbs. London: Cassell, 1997. (0-304-34911-9)

Room, Adrian, Revised by. Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. New York: HarperCollins, 1995. (0-06-270133-9)

Untermeyer, Louis, ed. Robert Frost: The Road Not Taken. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1962.