The Lives of Animals: Lesson Set 1 – Making Comparisons
Information to Teachers
It is assumed that students will have read the text prior to undertaking the suggested learning activities. Differentiated ways to approach reading are as follows:
In this lesson, students will identify and investigate how comparative language techniques are used throughout the text and consider both the writer’s purpose and how these may influence the reader’s perception of animals. Students will also discuss perspectives – both personal and fictional and have opportunities to demonstrate their understanding within analytical and reflective tasks.
- Students read the text independently.
Small Reading Groups
- In groups of 3-4, students are given ample time in class to read aloud to one another. Advise students to stop and make notes when required or to highlight unfamiliar words.
- Students dot point key moments or make a timeline of events.
Whole Class Reading
- Read as a class – modelling reading and annotating skills. Students may like to volunteer to read.
- Compose a basic summary together.
50-100 minutes or 1-2 lessons.
- Coetzee, J.M. The Lives of Animals. Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1999.
- Comparative Techniques – Student Worksheet
- Glossary (selected words appear in bold)
- Haslam, Nick. ‘Why it’s so offensive when we call people animals’ The Conversation, 2017. www.theconversation.com/au.
- Hirshfield, Jane. ‘The Art of the Metaphor’, Ed.Ted.Com.
- What are comparative techniques and why do writers use them?
- How might using animals symbolically impact how we view them?
- How, and to what effect, does the language used in The Lives of Animals influence the reader’s perceptions of animals?
Suggested Learning Activities
1. PRE-TEST / STARTER
a) Lead a general discussion about comparative techniques. Ask students which they are familiar with and make a list on the board.
b) These could include the following:
c) Show the class the following clip:
The Art of the Metaphor – Jane Hirshfield
d) What is an analogy and how does this differ from a metaphor?
Terms and definitions of the words above can be found on the Glossary.
Students to complete the Comparative Techniques Worksheet.
The worksheet asks students to locate evidence, identify comparative techniques, and to explain the intended effect.
a) Ask students to think of other common expressions which use animals, and to share metaphors and similes they know.
b) Collate and clarify the responses on a whiteboard (or another shared device). Aim to collate approximately 10-15 examples.
c) Some suggestions could be:
- The classroom was a zoo;
- Watch out, he is a sly fox;
- He was as filthy as a pig;
- She was as lazy as a dog;
- Early bird catches the worm;
- I smell a rat/ a dirty rat;
- The children were monkeys at the park;
- Don’t be such a chicken.
d) Do you agree or disagree with these metaphors – why/why not?
e) What do these suggest about the animal? How has each different species been represented symbolically or stereotypically?
f) Consider the connotations of the words i.e. Filthy = disgusting or unclean. Does this reflect what we actually know about pigs, considering they are one of the most intelligent animals on earth?
g) How do positive or negative comparisons impact how we view different animals?
On page 49, Elizabeth Costello receives a letter from the poet, Abraham Stern – who does not attend the dinner the previous evening. Stern is affronted by Costello’s comparison and challenges her by not attending the dinner and penning her a letter to explain his reasoning. However, Costello does not reply to his criticisms and the matter is not discussed between the two again.
- In pairs, students re-read the letter on page 49.
- Ask students to discuss the comparison with their partner and to share their own views about the matter with one another.
- What does this interaction between Costello and Stern reveal about perspectives?
- What are the benefits/consequences of discussing such a serious subject?
Students to write an extended response on the following question: How, and to what effect, does the language used in The Lives of Animals influence the reader’s perceptions of animals?
Encourage students to use specific examples/quotations from the text and to include literary analysis of these.
Using an organisational structure such as PEEL (Point/Example/Explanation/Link up) would be helpful.
Ask students to read the article ‘Why it’s so offensive when we call people animals?’ by Nick Haslam, and to develop their extended response by using evidence cited from the article.
The Conversation: Why it’s so offensive when we call people animals
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