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Jabberwocky Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

As this lesson plan shows, literature doesn't always have to address the more serious aspects of life. In fact, there is an entire genre of literature focused on what some scholars consider to be complete nonsense.

Lesson Objectives

Students will be able to do the following after this lesson:

  • define key terms
  • discuss Lewis Carroll's poem, Jabberwocky
  • analyze how Carroll's writing style is a representation of the literary nonsense genre

Length

  • 45 minutes plus 45 minutes for the activity

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.4

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.5

Analyze how an author's choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise.

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.10

By the end of grade 9, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, in the grades 9-10 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.

By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of the grades 9-10 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

Materials

  • An assortment of songs that include nonsense words, such as Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious by Julie Andrews, MMMbop by Hanson, and/or Bad Romance by Lady Gaga

Key Terms

  • Genre
  • Literary nonsense
  • Lewis Carroll
  • Jabberwocky
  • Semantics
  • Syntax

Instructions

  • Start the class off by playing excerpts from the songs, each of which contains the nonsense words.
  • Ask students what all of the songs have in common. Discuss with the class how nonsense words function in music. How do they make them feel? Are the effective in getting their attention?
  • Explain that music is not the only place where nonsense can be found. Read the following lessons:
  • Discuss the following questions:
    • What childish kind of poetry is a good example of nonsense poetry?
    • What kind of hidden meaning can be found in nonsense poems?
    • How did Lewis Carroll come up with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass?
    • How does Jabberwocky follow the rules of syntax?

Activity

  • Divide students into small groups.
  • Have each group select a topic on which they will write an original poem or rap using literary nonsense guidelines. Circulate the room to support learning and answer questions.
  • At the end of the assignment, the groups will perform the rap or poem for the class.

Extensions

  • What examples of the literary nonsense genre can be found in recent works?
  • What world events were occurring at the time Lewis Carroll wrote Jabberwocky?

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