Monday, January 30, 2012

A Collection of Little Red Stories

Every year, in my English class, I have the students re-write the Little Red Riding Hood fable (called あかずの扉  in Japanese, or simply Akazukin for short). I usually begin by showing a short two minute animated video of the Little Red Riding Hood story done by the British Council (the United Kingdoms organization for cultural relations and English learning). The video is very cute and, I find, is perfectly suited for Japanese elementary school students.

The great thing is, most of the students are already familiar with the story. The one in the video also uses British English which is a good change of pace (since I speak in the bland American accent). I ask them if they can catch the words. Inevitably their eyes grow big as they strain to listen to the words. I show them the video a second time to give them a fighting chance.

Next, I give them the basic plot points of the Little Red Riding Hood storie, which I have simplified for their ESL level, narrowing the key plot points to six.

1. Little Red goes to her grandma's house.
2. Little Red meets a big scary wolf.
3. Little Red arrives at grandmothers.
4. Wolf pretends to be grandma.
5. Wolf eats Little Red and Grandma.
6. Hunter saves Little Red and her grandma.

After this I usually give them a template I made with six boxes for them to fill in. The challenge is that they have to rewrite the story. I tell them they can change the whole thing or just one box--it is mainly up to them.

After a bit of excitement the class calms down, and they get busy writing (I allow them to write in Japanese to begin with--they are only elementary school kids, after all. I later translate them--another reason I try to keep the structure of the plot simple. Also, by making it five or six points, as shown above, the students can follow the pattern and create their own version much more easily than if I were to simply ask them to rewrite the story without highlighting the plot points first).

Usually the brainstorming and writing takes up the rest of the class time. Before the bell, I collect the papers and translate for them.

In next weeks lesson I will have them rewrite the English neatly, draw pictures to accompany their stories, color them, and then present them before the class. The H1 (Homeroom Teacher 1) and I always try to work together to help them read and pronounce the words correctly. Often times they get into their parts and do the voices and gestures of the characters. It is always a blast!

Here is one example of a student's take on Little Red Riding Hood. (Of course I helped translate and get the grammar just so.)

One day, Little Red was picking rare fruits for her mother. Suddenly, she met a big scary Wolf. Unfortunately, her gun wouldn't work. The Wolf snatched up Little Red in his teeth and gobbled her up! Putting on her clothes, the Wolf pretended to be Little Red. Then he went to Little Red's grandmother's house. Fooling the grandma, he ate her too. The End.

I absolutely love it! Another story went like this:

One day, Little Red's mother wanted her to take some mackerel fish to grandmas. While walking to grandma's house Little Red met a wolf. But he was a nice wolf. The wolf had an idea.
"Let's eat this fish together!" he said. 
 "Okay," said Little Red Riding Hood. 
So the two of them sat down and ate all of the fish! After their stomachs were full and all the fish were gone, they worried about what to do. 
"I know," said Red. "We can go fishing and catch more fish!"
So they went fishing and were happy when their very first catch was a giant tuna fish! It was one of the largest tunas they had ever seen. They carried the heavy fish all the way up the mountain to grandma's house. Finally, they reached grandma's house but they were exhausted and hungry from the long walk and having carried such a heavy prize.

Grandma cooked the giant tuna and made dinner and together they ate it all up! It was a happy time. 

The End.  

Many of the stories crack me up. In the past, one girl's morbidly erotic version had Little Red fall in love with the Wolf. When the woodsman/hunter arrives to slay the Wolf and save the grandma, Little Red intervenes, explaining that the Wolf was only hungry. Besides, grandma was old anyway. At least that was the gist. The hunter notices Red is showing (i.e., she is pregnant) and asks Red what the meaning of all this is. Rubbing her belly with a maternal love, Red explains that she is carrying the Wolf's baby. The story ends with a wedding. Naturally.

My students always tell the best Little Red Riding Hood stories. Which is probably why I have so much fun making them do it. They seem to enjoy it too.

[Note 1: As an ESL instructor in Japan, I am required by the Japanese government to teach from the Eigo Noto (Eigo Note) textbook. However, some of the lessons are too insufficient, pathetic, or horrible to teach effective English, and so I supplement them with my own lesson plan. I use this lesson instead of the Giant Turnip section of lesson 8 in book two.]

[Note 2: This accomplishes the objective of the English Note lesson 8. Strangely enough, the origianl lesson plan does not accomplish the objective set forth by the book. In other words, chapter 8 of book two fails to teach the kids how to create their own fable and then write it in English. If you are familiar with the Eigo Note textbook, you will likely be familiar with the horrible Giant Radish story--and the three days of repeating the same stupid chant only to find on the last day they students are expected to meet the impossible task of writing a full fable in a different language. Yeah, pretty impossible, since we haven't covered how to write a fable let alone how to form coherent English sentences. If you are an ESL instructor, or English teacher, please feel free to use this lesson plan. You can adapt it to your own classroom setting and alter it for your own purposes and needs. Good luck!]

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