More Disney in the Classroom!

This lesson was inspired by a recent trip the see the incredible theatre production of Lion King in Manchester. After chatting to John Murray, he told me about a lesson he has done based on the Lion King.

I have previously blogged about using Disney in the classroom, you can read it here.

The following is what we did with his lesson. John Murray visited our school last year and delivered some reading training. I was extremely impressed and immediately brought him on board with the Literacy Shed. I would not advise schools to invest in training with someone I didn't highly recommend myself. John is the author of the fantastic "Reading Explorers" book series, which is having a BIG impact in our school. His training is practical, accessible, engaging and his ideas work in the classroom. As you will see from the following lesson we did today!

Show this picture of Mufassa and Scar.



 Who do they think the King is and who is the villain? Why do they think this? What attributes might each character have? Tell them one lion is called ‘Scar’ and one ‘Mufassa’. How do you think they got their names? Why does Mufassa not have a name we recognise? (An African name for an African lion)
Introduce the picture of Simba -


Who do they think he is? What is his place in terms of royal lineage? What would need to happen for Scar to become King? What do you think Scar will do to become King? Why would he need to make this look like an accident?

Share this clip -



 Use this as a stimulus to develop Emotional Literacy. How does each character feel at certain points in this scene? How do their actions show this? Would we feel and act in the same way? Why? Why not?

Share the speech Scar makes to the rest of the pride - 

Mufasa's death was a terrible tragedy; but to lose Simba, who had barely begun to live... For me it is a deep personal loss. So it is with a heavy heart that I assume the throne. Yet, out of the ashes of this tragedy, we shall rise to greet the dawning of a new era... in which lion and hyena come together, in a great and glorious future! 

Use the questions to explore the speech -

1. Highlight the word ‘tragedy’. What do you think this word means? On a scale of 1-5, how strong do you think this word is? Why?

2. Can you think of a real life tragedy in the news recently? What was it? Why was this event tragic?

3. Why do you think Scar uses this word twice?

4. Scar uses alliteration several times in this speech. Can you remember what ‘alliteration’ is? There are four examples of alliteration in this speech. Can you spot them?

5. What do you think the phrase ‘heavy heart’ means? Is it positive or negative? Why do you think this?

6. This speech can be split into two parts. The first part is sad and sombre, the other is more optimistic. Where are the two different parts of this speech? Colour them in two different colours.

7. How would you speak the first part? Think about how fast you speak: does your voice rise or fall? How might you act out your sadness when speaking these words?

8. Why do you think the writer has included an ellipses in this section? What might Scar do when he gets to this part? Why?

9. What word begins the second half of this speech?

10. How might your voice change when reading this part? Why?

11. Scar uses a very strong image of the breaking of a dawn to show the start of ‘a new era’. What do you the word ‘era’ means? Is it a short or long time period?

12. Why do you think he describes this new era as coming ‘out of the ashes’? What do you think this phrase means?

13. Why do you think Scar uses an ellipses in this part of his speech? Is it for the same or a different reason than previously? Why do you think this?

14. Throughout the speech there are several words that need to be stressed so that they help deliver a punch to the listener and will be remembered. Circle some words and phrases that you think you will need to stress when you deliver this speech. Compare your ideas with a partner. Did they choose the same words as you? Why might this be?

15. Why do you think Scar ends his speech with an exclamation mark?

Why is Scar’s first speech to the pride so important? Why must he lie about how he feels?

Read the speech out to the class in a monotone, without any tone or stressing any words or pausing for emphasis.  Ask them if this was well read. Why not?

How could we improve it? Look at commas and underline particular words and phrases you’d like to stress and emphasise. Let them take ownership of which words and phrases these are. Talk about: pitch, power, pace and volume.

Tell the children they are going to be Scar and take them into the Hall to practice in pairs and small groups reading out loud to each other. Put a ‘scar’ on them like Scar to help get in character. How can we use our voice, body actions and eye contact to bring this speech alive?

How might we learn this speech so that we don’t have to hold our speech? Should we write notes on our speech to help us when we are reading out loud? Why is this a good idea?

Once the drama session is over, show them Scar’s speech clip. Compare their speech with that of Jeremy Irons (which is a little rushed). Use this as a stimulus to write own speech.


I used these ideas with the two classes I worked with today. Year 5 looked at all the Authorial Intent Questions using Explain Everything. I created a presentation with the speech and all the questions and asked children to orally record themselves discussing the text using the prompts. Here are some of their efforts - 


With the Year 4 class we looked at improving the speech. The children edited and wrote their own versions - 








They then practised performing their speeches and bring it to life using their voices and adding actions. They were encouraged to really think about how to gain the trust of the rest of the pride and win them round. Here are some of their efforts recorded on iMovie, played alongside the original clip -


The lessons were fantastic and the children were so engaged using a stimulus they were familiar and confident with. The range of literacy skills developed during the sessions were amazing and tick so many boxes! And this is just one lesson idea from the fantastic John Murray, so please look at his website and consider getting some top drawer reading and spelling training from him!

We also discussed how the Lion King is very similar to Hamlet. Again this can be explored further -

Hamlion - Common Narratives in Hamlet and the Lion King
by Wildyles.

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