Snow: Focus Area 5
The Power of Language
- Snow by Ondine Sherman
- Focus Area 5 – Language Techniques Worksheet
- Glossary (selected words appear in bold)
- Eleanor Wilner, Reversing the Spell: New and Selected Poems, ‘Hunting Manual’ (Copper Canyon Press,1998)
- Elizabeth Bishop, North and South, ‘The Fish’, (Houghton Mifflin,1946)
- Gary Snyder, Regarding Wave, ‘Long Hair’, (New Directions Books, 1967), p.65
- We Humans: 20 words that once meant something very different, Ideas Ted, 2014
Suggested Learning Activities
This focus area refers to a range of chapters.
- How and why do writers use poetic devices to explore universal issues?
- Why is it necessary to consider how we use language when referring to animals?
Poems about Hunting
Divide the class into two – and distribute each group ONE of the poems below.
Students read the poem and then in small groups of 3 discuss the following points. Perhaps give students 15-20 minutes to read and discuss. Encourage students to make notes on their copies of the poem.
- What is happening in this poem?
- What are your impressions of the poem?
- Is there a message or lesson in the poem, if so what is it?
- Can you identify any poetic techniques used by the poet? Try to find at least 4-5. Discuss these in groups and annotate your copy of the poem accordingly.
- What do you learn about the nature of hunting in this poem?
- Students to partner up with someone who has discussed the alternative poem.
- Spend 10-15 minutes teaching one another about the poem they have read, annotated and discussed.
Optional Extension Poem
‘Long Hair’ by Gary Snyder.
Using Gendered Pronouns
For this task students are to refer to the conversation between Sky and her father, Adam, after the hunting incident. See the excepts below and read this together with your students.
‘My father takes my other hand in his. ‘I don’t think it’s suffering.’ ‘He’s not an it,’ I retort, looking at my father for the first time. ‘Animals aren’t things … just stuff for us to use. Their lives are …’ I stop to think. ‘They are just as meaningful to them as our lives are to us. Don’t you get it?’ I shake my head. ‘Don’t you believe they have souls?’ A shaft of light appears between the clouds and illuminates the moose’s face. And, just then, like a sign from above, his eyes open. I gasp without meaning to, and my father grips my hand tighter. The sunlight moves and suddenly the moose’s eyes close. ‘Did you look into his eyes?’ I say. ‘There’s a whole world in there. Just like us. I know there is.’
‘…His spirit is gone. Now there’s just a body. This is why it’s wrong. You killed somebody, not something’. (pp. 202-203)
So how should we talk about animals?
The discussion about how we refer to animals is a tricky one. Many would argue that it is acceptable to call a moose an ‘it’. However, it is more complicated than one would imagine.
Ask students to complete the following questions and then have a class discussion on some of the issues raised.
- What is Sky’s point of view in these extracts?
- Ask students to write down a list of things they would consider an ‘it’ or a ‘thing’.
- Is the list made up of non-living entities?
- Is it offensive to refer to a human being as an ‘it’ or ‘thing’ – why/why not?
- How would you personally feel if you were referred to in this way? (Note that some people prefer non-gendered language such as ‘they’, ‘them’ and ‘it’ – this is all a matter of individual choice).
- What do you call your pet? He, she, it?
- Which of the following are you more likely to use and why?
- This is my dog, Heathcliff, he loves to run around at the park.
- This is my dog, Heathcliff, it loves to run around at the park.
- Look at the caribou near the cedar tree, it’s huge.
- Look at the caribou near the cedar tree, she’s huge.
- The female wolf guarded her cubs.
- The female wolf guarded its cubs.
Optional: What about languages other than English, how are animals referred to in French, Spanish or Chinese for example?
Remind students that there is not necessarily a right or wrong answer to the questions above. What is more important here is the nature of the discussion – to provoke critical thinking on how we use language. Point out to your students that language is constantly evolving. What may have been okay to use 100 years ago is sometimes not okay to use now.
Follow up article
Ted Ideas: We Humans – 20 words that once meant something very different.
Essay Writing – Summative Task
Below is a set of options for essay questions:
- How does Ondine Sherman explore the theme of animal protection in her novel Snow?
- Discuss the theme of animal protection in the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop or Eleanor Wilner.
- Compare and contrast the treatment of animals in the poetry of Bishop/Wiler and the novel Snow by Ondine Sherman. (comparative essay – extension)
Reflecting on Language
Students write a 250-word response to the following statement:
Language has the power to affect how we think and talk about important issues.
Students are asked to complete the following questions by reflecting on the unit as a whole.
- What are some of the most interesting discoveries you made whilst reading and studying this novel?
- For you, what was the most important thing you have learnt? Why?
- How will you use what you have learnt moving forward in your life?
- If you were to describe what you have learnt using just ONE word, what would it be?
We hope that you have enjoyed using our teacher and student resources for this Sky Series APE.
If you and your students loved reading and studying Snow, look out for the next book in the series, Star – coming soon.
We are always looking to improve our educational resources, please get in contact with us if you would like to provide some feedback on this APE, including how it was received by your students.
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