Buchbesprechung von Irena Köstenbauer und Kerri Yost.
Publiziert in ELGazette July 1999, London.


Classics for kids using reader fun and games

Cideb READING AND TRAINING series is an excellent tip for teachers who want their pupils to read with pleasure and beg for more. The books are beautifully illustrated, and they all provide the information about the author and his world. Here are some tips how to use them:


*Ask your students to imagine that they are going to interview the ghosts of some famous people, for example William Shakespeare, Cleopatra, Napoleon or Cleopatra. What questions would your students ask? What information would they like to get?

* Here is an idea to practise letter writing. Students should write a short letter to the box office of the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stradford-Upon-Avon and ask for information about the next production of "Hamlet", the ticket prices, ticket reservation and the best way to arrive at Stradford from London.

* Ask your students to play detectives at Elsinor Castle and solve the murder. They know that Polonius was killed in the Queen's bedroom and that his body is missing.They should decide who they want to interview and what questions they want to ask.

* My favourite is writing The New Hamlet - students have to decide how they can change the ending of the play. For example:

:: Claudius stops Gertrude from drinking the poison

:: Claudius is the murderer

:: Claudius confesses and is taken away by the guards

:: Hamlet becomes the new king

King Arthur and his Knights

I have used this book at our summer camps with a group of 50 students for two-day projects.

First students wrote a scroll in medieval English, which was the invitation to King Arthur's banquet.

Then they made shields and banners to decorate the banquet hall, and they had to undergo various quests and tasks. If completed successfully they were made a Knight/Lady of The Round Table.

We also organized the Holy Grail Quest - we hid the Holy Grail loaded with sweets in a secret place and handed out task sheets for the students to do, such as writing a poem, drawing a coat of arms and finding a dragon artefact. Once the tasks were completed sucesfully the students were given directions to Holy Grail via anagrams.

In the evening we had the feast to the sound of medieval music, accompanied by minstrels,acrobats, jesters, comedians and jugglers and crowned by the knighting ceremony. After the knighting ceremony we performed medieval dances. It was great fun.

"The Jumping Frog" by Mark Twain.

You can use this book for a class project on the California Gold Rush. Make your students acquainted with the life in the mining camps, let them find out what The Jumping Frog Jubilee is and when and where the expression "panning for gold" comes from. Your students will be glad to hear the story of Levi Strauss and his blue jeans.

You can teach them old western ballads (i.e. Clementine) and explain all the new words and expressions.

Treasure Island

Except for regular classroom activities, like reading and listening comprehension, you can use this book to expand students' knowledge on pirates; they can make their own treasure hunt, draw maps and invent clues that would lead them to find the treasure.

You can explain why British people call their flag Union Jack and why the pirates' flag was called the Jolly Roger.

Along with this, you can have the students think of a new country, and invent a flag of their own. Their flag could include symbols, particular colours or patterns. Then the students could take turns explaining what their flags represent.

The students could study the idea of laws and rules, of which the pirates break. Then they could brainstorm their own laws and rules for their perfect land, and what would happen to pirates who break them.

The Last of the Mohicans

* Rituals. You can compare what Indian life was like before the settlers came, and what it is like today. Then the students can plan a Powwow, creating dances, make costumes, and Indian jewelry. They could also cook traditional recipes, such as cornbread, that could be eaten at the Powwow.

* Medicine men. Discuss the important position of medicine men in Indian society. Ask the students to design remedies and potions acting as medicine and then discuss what their medicine would be used for

* Indian names. Indians were usually given names based on their personality This can lead to a fun speaking activity in class. The students choose someone in the class and think of an appropriate name for him or her. This person should be kept a secret. Then they think of several reasons of why they got this name. The rest of the class must guess who the name belongs to. If the Powwow is also done as a class project, they could keep the names throughout the Powwow.

* Fables. The art of storytelling is valued in Indian culture. I have used this as the basis for a group writing activity. First, I give them a short fable or old Indian legend to read.Then I ask them what the moral of the story was, and if they can think of a popular idiom that could mean the same thing. A list of popular idioms (the grass is always greener on the other side, rolling stone gathers no moss, too many cooks spoil the broth, etc) should be provided,. After they had fully understood the idioms, they were asked to choose an idiom, and write a short Indian legend based it.. At the end of the class, they read their Indian legends, and the other students had to guess the idiom that it represented. I have used this exerices in class many times, and not only is it a great writing and speaking activity that uses recent vocabulary, I am also amazed at how entertaining and imaginative the stories are themselves.