If fifth graders have been studying S/V/C patterns
since fourth grade, the language in this fable ("thee," "first estate,"
"barleycorn") will probably give them more trouble than the S/V/C patterns
will. Still, the ellipsed finite verb (for "I") will probably be new. If
they are using this for clauses, students will run into the question of
the end of the "exclaimed" clause. That is a question that I do not remember
ever seeing discussed in a grammar textbook.
Translated by Rev. George Fyler Townsend
Illustrated by Harrison Weir. London: George Routledge and Sons, 1871.
This fable might be a good prompt for an essay
-- What is the most important thing in life?
Townsend's translation of "The Fox and the
Crane" uses several words that may be new to many third graders, but I
decided to use it for the basic exercise for two reasons. The first is
to show that KISS enables the analysis of real texts -- that means that
I cannot change the texts. The second reason is that my experience has
been that students are too often taught that they must understand every
word in a text. Not only is that nonsense, but it is also dangerous. Far
too many of my college Freshmen, when asked to read a relatively difficult
text, simply quit because they do not understand some of the words. In
the case of this fable, for example, third graders probably will not know
what "pulse" is. (I had to look it up myself.) But if one thinks, instead
of simply absorbing like a sponge, it doesn't take much imagination to
figure out that it is something that soup can be made from. And that is
all that one needs to know in order to understand the fable. Thus, for
the purpose of teaching reading skills, Townsend's translation is the better
There are a number of verbals (gerundives and
infinitives) that may confuse fourth graders in this text, but they will
have to learn to isolate finitive verbs from verbals. If the students are
having problems with this, you might want to use this text twice. Give
them the text for the sentence-combining exercise as an identification
exercise first. After they have done and reviewed it, give them the
original text and review with them why the verbals are not finite. Thus,
for example, "having stolen" is not finite because (as they know) "A crow
having stolen a piece of meat" is not an acceptable sentence. Another way
to approach the same problem is to use the original text as a decombining
exercise. (In doing this, they will have to change most of the verbals
into finite verbs.)
As always, I have included analysis keys for
each KISS Level to the point where every word in the text has been explained.
These are primarily reference material for teachers and parents, but this
text can also be used in the upper grades for an exercise at any KISS level.
Some teachers may want to use the sentence-combining
version of the text as the analysis exercise. Making meaning is more difficult
than is grasping it, so in the SC version of the exercise I have replaced
many of the strange words with more common ones. The SC version has fewer
prepositional phrases, and it might be useful to have students analyze
both versions and then discuss how some prepositional phrases in the Townsend
translation become S/V/C patterns in the simpler version.
The literary aspects of this fable are, of
course, centered on its moral. What is its moral? Is it reinforcing the
Golden Rule -- that we should treat others as we ourselves want to be treated?
Or is it suggesting that, when we are mistreated, we should seek an appropriate
revenge? Is revenge ever appropriate? Before having students write about
this fable, you might want to have the class discuss these questions, and
perhaps you might even ask for some of their own tales of revenge -- or
lack of it. Then you can ask the students to either write their own tale,
or to write about the appropriateness of revenge, using some of the tales
told in class as examples.
If students have studied adjectives, nouns,
and verbs, one of the things that they (or you) might note is that the
Fox and the Crane are not characterized -- there are no adjectives ("selfish,"
"mean," etc.) used to describe either the Fox or the Crane. Everything
is centered on what they do (the verbs), not on who they are.
Is it the lack of any such characterization that leaves the moral of the
fable so ambiguous? Who is the "bad guy" -- the Fox, or the Crane?
What is the moral of this fable? Which of
the characters is "the bad guy"? Or are they both bad?
There are numerous prepositional phrases in this
passage, including two ("On meeting him" and "On Seeing him") that will
present a minor challenge.
I added this fable as an exercise simply because
I thought that it presents an idea that would interest primary school children,
many of whom feel isolated and either fear classmates or have trouble making
friends. After the students do the exercise, they might enjoy writing a
short paper on how they got to know someone.
Townsend used lots of gerundives in his translations
of Aesop's fables. Other translations use simpler sentences and more subordinate
clauses in place of the gerundives, but Townsend's work can provide fourth
graders with some good exercise at distinguishing finite from non-finite
verbs. It also provides excellent material for sentence decombining and
combining exercises. The research suggests, by the way, that few if any
fourth graders will use gerundives in doing the sentence combining exercise.
They are much more likely to compound verbs and use some subordinate clauses.
Don't expect them to get near the style of Townsend's gerundives.
The sentence-combining exercise gives you two
options. If your students are just beginning, or having trouble, identifying
S/V/C patterns, you can use the SC exercise as an identification exercise.
Then have the students do the combining exercise. On the other hand, if
your students are doing well with S/V/C patterns, the gerundives and infinitives
in Townsend's translation will give them an interesting challenge.
The moral of this fable, is, of course, close
to that of the Biblical parable about serving two masters. You might want
to have students discuss what other works they have read that might involve
the same question.
The moral of this fable is, of course, the often
referred to idea that a person cannot usually serve two masters. It is
an interesting topic for students to discuss, especially if "masters" is
expanded to include activities. Can most people serve both academics and
sports? Academics (or sports) and a job? Class discussion of this could
be good preparation for a writing assignment.
It was interesting to note that Caldecott,
in his 1883 Some of Aesop's Fables with Modern Instances, translates
this fable as "The Man and His Two Wives." Perhaps I noted this because
yesterday I was listening to Diane Ravitch, on BookNotes, explain
how pressure groups are, in effect, censoring the literature that students
can read in our classrooms. If I understood her correctly, this fable,
for example, could not appear in any major literature textbook because
of its presentation of women. The various translations of the fables --
and how they reflect the cultural attitudes of their times -- would be
an excellent topic for an eleventh grade research paper. Michael Hearn's
"Introduction" to The Caldecott Aesop (NY: Doubleday, 1978) provides
some interesting initial information about how the translations and illustrations
reflect the cultural periods in which they were created.)
With four gerundives and an infinitive in a 114-word
text, this would make an excellent assessment quiz for the end of ninth
grade. I would ignore errors on the "than . . . imitate . . . ." construction.
In an ideal KISS curriculum, if ninth graders can get the four gerundives
and the other infinitive, they are doing extremely well. (They will still
have two -- or three -- years to work out such things as the "than" construction.)
The idea of feathers as friends went right over
my head the first time I read this. As a result, I couldn't figure out
how the story fit the moral. This might be an interesting thing to discuss
with your students after they do the exercise.
The clauses in the first sentence will present
a challenge, perhaps even for most students who have been studying clauses
since seventh grade.They are, however, analytical problems -- rarely, if
ever, does a student have problems in using this clause structure. I would
suggest using this passage as an in-class review exercise, on an overhead,
and not as a homework or Assessment assignment.
I was tempted to change some of the words in this
passage since my guess is that the vocabulary will challenge some students.
Then I remembered all the talk about dumbing down the curriculum and decided
to keep the original just as it is. It won't hurt students to work with
some new words.