Lesson Plan: Animal Farm

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1 StudySync Lesson Plan Animal Farm Objectives Time 1. Engage students in the ideas and language of Animal Farm, George Orwell s classic allegorical novel, so that they are prepared to discuss and write in-depth responses about the excerpt in question. 2. Practice and reinforce the following Grades 9 10 ELA Common Core Standards for reading literature, writing, and speaking and listening: READING: LITERATURE RL , 10 WRITING - W SPEAKING AND LISTENING SL minutes (with up to an additional 250 minutes of extension possibilities) Materials SyncTV Premium Lesson on George Orwell s Animal Farm Overview In his 1946 essay Why I Write, George Orwell declared in no uncertain terms that his intentions as a writer were to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole. This goal is perhaps most evident in Animal Farm, a thinly-veiled retelling of events that transpired in Russia from 1917 to 1945 (when the book was written), from the Bolshevik Revolution to Joseph Stalin s infamous reign as dictator. Orwell s Animal Farm is one of the most famous literary examples of allegory, as he re-envisions the history of Soviet Russia on a farm in the English countryside, where the animals of Manor Farm rebel against their human owners and struggle for direction and leadership in the years that follow. Close examination of this excerpt will offer students the opportunity to read a classic work of artistic and political purpose, to explore how Orwell uses allegory to convey meaning, and to write thoughtful and textually-rooted responses consistent with the ELA Common Core Standards for grades Page 1

2 Background (10 minutes) 1. Watch the Preview (SL ). As a group, watch the video preview of the premium lesson. After viewing, use the following questions to spur a discussion: a. What does utopia mean? Based on the preview, what do you think Old Major s vision of utopia entails? How might a utopian vision be connected to political revolution or upheaval? b. The contradiction of the two credos all animals are created equal and some animals are more equal than others is a crucial element of Animal Farm. Discuss this contradiction between the two statements. What might Orwell be trying to say about politics and society using this contradiction? c. The preview introduces us to two terms that are essential to the understanding of Animal Farm: satire and allegory. What do these terms mean? Extension (additional 75 minutes) d. Context (W and SL ). Before reading this excerpt from Animal Farm, students might find it helpful to read about the life of Leon Trotsky, since one of the primary characters in this excerpt, Snowball, is an allegorical representation of this famous Bolshevik leader. Have students read the short essay at and discuss, as a class, Trotsky s relevance as a historical figure. e. Watch and Discuss (SL ). For further contextual information, watch this short video about the power struggle between Trotsky and Stalin that followed Lenin s death: Once finished, bring the class together and discuss: How did Trotsky and Stalin differ? How might the history of the Soviet Union have been different if Trotsky had assumed power, as Lenin wished? f. Research (RL and W , 9). If students need or desire extra context and familiarity, have them go to and read author Christopher Hitchens foreword to Animal Farm. This should give them a better understanding of the plot events that led up to this excerpt from Chapter 5, and a better sense of the novel s intent. g. Discuss (SL ). As practice for the discussion to come, speculate on the following issues: Can any society s utopian dreams ever truly be realized? What stands in the way of utopia? Are the obstacles to utopia a part of human nature, or are they a product of certain kinds of societies and governments? Engaging the Text (130 minutes) 1. Read the Text (30 minutes) a. Read and Annotate (RL ). Have students read and annotate the excerpt, writing comments and responses to the action in the excerpt. If your classroom has a projector, consider modeling annotating skills to the class using the first paragraph. Have them write at least ten comments on the excerpt using the annotation tool these comments will be visible to you after the students submit Page 2

3 their writing assignments or beforehand if you use the Mimic function to access the students accounts. b. Discuss (SL , 3-4). Have students get into small groups or pairs and briefly discuss the questions and inferences they had while reading. As a class, discuss the following: As discussed in the preview, George Orwell s Animal Farm is a satirical and allegorical novel. Having now read the excerpt, what do you think is being satirized? What is being signified in the allegory here? What might all of these animals and situations in the excerpt represent? Extension (additional 20 minutes) c. Listen and Discuss (SL ). As a class, listen to the audio reading of the text. Ask students to share how their understanding of the text changed after listening. What additional images came to mind? What words did the author use to develop the setting? d. Comprehend (RL ). Have students complete the multiple-choice questions. Collect papers or discuss answers as a class. 2. Watch SyncTV (40 minutes) a. Watch. Either watch the SyncTV discussion as a class or ask students to watch it on their individual computers. b. Focus (SL and RL ). Have students pay close attention to the portion of the episode from 1:10 2:15 as the SyncTV students discuss the concept of allegory, and why Orwell chooses allegory as a framework for telling his story. c. Focus (SL and RL ). From 3:49 5:11, model how the SyncTV students compare and contrast Snowball and Napoleon and their respective virtues, and how these students support their points by using direct quotes from the text. d. Focus (SL and RL ). Finally, have students consider the discussion from 6:58 8:05, as the SyncTV students use what they ve discussed so far to extrapolate the deeper meaning of the text, including what Orwell s message to the reader might be. e. Discuss (SL and RL , 10). After watching the model discussion, have a conversation with the class about the ideas discussed in the SyncTV episode. What new thoughts do they have after hearing the students' discussion? Next, divide students into small groups (3-4 students). Move around the room monitoring groups as students follow the SyncTV episode as a model to discuss some of the following questions: i. How are Snowball and Napoleon characterized in the excerpt? Think of words and phrases that would describe these two leaders. Which one is more likable? Which one is more intelligent? Why? ii. How does Orwell characterize the animals in attendance? What are some of the differences that distinguish the different kinds of animals in the room? What are some of their similarities? Think about how Orwell characterizes the animals sometimes as individuals and other times as a group. Page 3

4 iii. Based on these characterizations, what do you think Orwell might be saying about the nature of leaders? What might he be saying about the nature of the common people and their willingness to be led? iv. Come up with a list of different reasons why Orwell might have chosen to tell Animal Farm as a fairy story rather than a realistic, real-life account of Soviet history. (Don t forget to consider the time period in which the story was written!) v. In your opinion, what is the role and significance of Squealer in this excerpt? In allegorical terms, what might he represent? What does he exemplify about both leadership and those being led? vi. In this excerpt we are presented with an allegorical society containing a range of different characters, complete with different values and characteristics. Which of the animals in this excerpt do you empathize with the most? Whose role do you find most representative of your own? Extension (additional 75 minutes) f. Write Creatively (W , 9 and SL ). In small groups, have students turn this excerpt from Animal Farm into a play, assigning a different section of the excerpt to each group. When finished, combine the sections into one complete script. g. Activity (SL ). Hold auditions for each of the roles in the play and choose actors to perform the different parts, including Snowball, Napoleon, Boxer, Benjamin, Squealer and other animals in the excerpt. Once cast, have students perform the play! Allow students to dress up and get into character as best as possible. Film the performance and post the video to a social networking site for everyone to view (e.g. YouTube, a class Facebook page) or, if preferable, share it privately. 3. Think (10 minutes) a. Respond (W , 4). Ask students to read the Think questions, watch the corresponding video clips, and respond to the questions, either in class or for homework. 4. Write (50 minutes) a. Discuss (SL ). Read the prompt you have chosen for students, and then solicit questions regarding the prompt or the assignment expectations. Whichever prompt you have chosen, make sure you are clear about the assignment expectations and the rubric by which you and the other students will be evaluating them. b. Organize (RL , 10 and W , 5). Ask students to go back and annotate the text with the prompt in mind. They should be organizing their thoughts and the points they ll address in their writing as they make annotations. If you ve worked on outlining or other organizational tools for writing, this is a good place to apply them. Page 4

5 c. Write (W , 4-6, 8-10). Have students go through the writing process of planning, revising, editing, and publishing their writing responses. d. Review (W ). Use the StudySync Review feature to have students complete one to two evaluations of their peers work based on your chosen review rubric. Have the students look at and reflect upon the peer evaluations of their own writing: What might you do differently in a revision? How might you strengthen the writing and the ideas? Extension (additional 80 minutes) e. Write (W , 4-6, 8-10). For homework, have students write an essay using one of the prompts you did not choose to do in class. Students should publish their responses online. f. Write Argumentatively (W , 4, 9). In a persuasive written response containing a clear thesis statement and citing supporting examples from the excerpt, ask students to respond to one of the following questions in an essay of at least 300 words: i. Are the ideas and messages we take away from Animal Farm universal, or are they only specific to certain countries and certain situations? ii. Based on your understanding of this excerpt from Animal Farm, do you think George Orwell s world view is cynical, or true-to-life? Page 5

6 SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIALS Key Vocabulary 1. procure (v.) To obtain something by action or effort 2. faction (n.) A smaller group within a larger whole that is separated by its members distinct ideas or opinions 3. slogan (n.) A short, memorable phrase that is used repeatedly by a particular group 4. restive (adj.) Feeling restless or impatient while awaiting action or change 5. sordid (adj.) Dirty (literal); dishonest (figurative) 6. maxim (n.) A phrase that expresses a larger-known truth or a statement of purpose 7. articulate (adj.) Able to express ideas clearly and thoughtfully in speaking or writing 8. eloquence (n.) The ability or quality of being articulate 9. marshal (v.) To organize or order something effectively 10. bleating (n.) The sounds made by sheep or goats Reading Comprehension Questions 1. Snowball argues in favor of building the windmill because. a. he wants to stand in direct opposition to whatever Napoleon wants b. he believes it would improve the animals living conditions later on c. the animals want to build the windmill and he wants to earn their support d. all of the above 2. Benjamin is best described as. a. pessimistic b. idealistic c. confused d. intimidating 3. The animals in attendance at the meetings are. a. distrustful of Napoleon b. distrustful of both Snowball and Napoleon c. strongly opposed to working hard to build a windmill d. generally easily persuaded by whomever 4. The high-pitched whimper Napoleon utters at the end of paragraph three is probably. a. a cry of frustration because he lost the debate b. his signal for his dogs to attack c. his way of rallying support from the animals in attendance d. all of the above 5. Napoleon has Snowball chased off the farm because. a. he knows he can t win a debate versus Snowball b. he is afraid of the animals wanting Snowball to be their leader Page 6

7 c. Snowball is a threat to Napoleon s desire for absolute power d. all of the above 6. Napoleon s true reason for ending the Sunday meeting is probably because. a. most of the animals lack the intellect and rhetorical skills of the pigs b. he wants to suppress any thought or dissent among the workers c. the meetings are a waste of time since they are all on the same page d. he doesn t feel that anyone should have to work on Sunday 7. In allegorical terms, Squealer probably represents. a. a revolutionary leader b. an artist c. government-controlled media d. a political commentator 8. The use of the term comrades by Squealer suggests that. a. Orwell as author is alluding to Soviet Russia b. he wants to foster a sense of unity c. he wants the animals to think the government is their friend d. all of the above 9. Boxer probably believes that the most important thing in life is. a. hard work b. the pursuit of truth c. finding love d. fighting persecution 10. The character of Jones mentioned a few times in this excerpt is probably. a. another neighboring farm owner b. the previous human owner of the animal farm c. a pig the workers all disliked d. a nickname given to Snowball Answer Key 1. B 2. A 3. D 4. B 5. D 6. B 7. C 8. D 9. A 10. B Page 7

8 Further Assignments 1. For a longer reading assignment, have students read the complete text of Animal Farm. Expand on the themes and ideas discussed through this excerpt and examine how they play out over the course of the whole work. Taken as a complete statement, ask students to discuss and write about the meaning and purpose of Orwell s classic novel. (RL , 10) 2. As a complement to the study of Animal Farm, assign students the StudySync premium lesson on George Orwell s other-most famous work, Have them complete the activities and write about the excerpt from (RL , 10 and W , 9-10) 3. Ask students to try to think of other leaders whether from something they ve learned or from their own observations/experiences that resemble either Snowball or Napoleon? If the class is comfortable discussing these topics, talk about it as a class. Or have students write a short paragraph discussing whom they are reminded of when reading about Snowball or Napoleon. (SL and W , 9) 4. Have students generate a list of descriptive adjectives for each character in the Animal Farm excerpt. Then encourage them to use their adjectives in complete oral sentences about the characters or other situations or people in their experience. For example, one word for Napoleon might be bossy; the sentence might be My brother is bossy when he tells me to be quiet. (ELL) 5. Screen the animated film version of Animal Farm for the class, once they ve read the entirety of the text. Discuss how watching an animated film version of Orwell s classic story differs from reading the book. What are the different effects of the two mediums? Did the filmmakers do an adequate job in translating Animal Farm from page to screen? (SL and RL ) 6. Have students conduct a mock interview with Snowball, now living in exile after being run off from the farm. Encourage creativity in their questions and responses. How did Snowball respond to his exile? What is he doing now? Is he planning any sort of revenge against Napoleon? (SL and W , 9) Page 8

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