Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Dancing with Dialecticals: Tweens, Teens, & Satire

Dorothy Sayers described the dialectical age of children (roughly tweens, some children are precocious in this regard) as the "Pert" stage: ... children who thrived on "contradicting, answering back, liking to "catch people out" (especially one's elders); and by the propounding of conundrums." Sayers added, "Its nuisance-value is extremely high."

Middle school children are solidly in their dialectical years, that may be why conventional rote methods of instruction are likely to induce apathy, and intrinsic motivation in general, declines.

Hmm...very familiar. One answer to middle school malaise is...satire! Many tweens and tweens gravitate toward satirical humor, and it can provide good cognitive skill-building besides (besides humor, think critique and analysis and analogy). You do have to use your brain a lot to "get" the satire or sarcasm (see below).

Some classic resources for satirical lessons - Merrill's Pushcart War (we're now reading), Gulliver's Travels, P.G. Wodehouse, Gilbert and Sullivan, political cartoons, and groups like Capitol Steps. Our kids also like Asterix and Obelix. Quite by accident, we stumbled upon the Stuwwelpeter Parodies and then Stuwwelpeter verses themselves. Many English children grew up with these.

From "The Story of Johnny Look-in-the-Air"

Once, with head as high as ever, Johnny walked beside the river.
Johnny watch'd the swallows trying Which was cleverest at flying.
Oh! what fun! Johnny watch'd the bright round sun
Going in and coming out; This was all he thought about.
So he strode on, only think! To the river's very brink,
Where the bank was high and steep, And the water very deep;
And the fishes, in a row, Stared to see him coming so.

One step more! Oh! sad to tell!Headlong in poor Johnny fell.The three little fishes, in dismay,Wagged their tails and swam away
One step more! Oh! sad to tell!
Headlong in poor Johnny fell.

The three little fishes, in dismay,
Wagged their tails and swam away.
There lay Johnny on his face;
With his nice red writing-case;
But, as they were passing by,,
Two strong men had heard him cry;
And, with sticks, these two strong men
Hook'd poor Johnny out again.

Oh! you should have seen him shiver
When they pull'd him from the river
He was in a sorry plight,
Dripping wet, and such a fright!
Wet all over, everywhere,
Clothes, and arms, and face, and hair
Johnny never will forget
What it is to be so wet.

And the fishes, one, two, three,
Are come back again, you see;
Up they came the moment after,
To enjoy the fun and laughter.
Each popp'd out his little head,
And, to tease poor Johnny, said,
"Silly little Johnny, look,
You have lost your writing-book!"
Look at them laughing and do you see?
His satchel is drifting, far out to sea!

An easy target for parody/ Other titles include The Story of Fidgety Phillip...

BTW, apparently another big storm is headed our way. We may miss a blog post or two if we lose our electricity / cable...but regardless, we'll be baaack....

Pushcart War Lesson Plan
Stuwwelpeter Menu
Social Satire in the Stuwwelpeter Parodies
Satire at Wikipedia
Eide Neurolearning Blog: Motivation & Memory
Brain Biology of Sarcasm

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