Term Paper, 2010
13 Pages, Grade: 1,15
2 Choosing “Room on the Broom”
2.1 The storyline and the main character
2.2 Expressed Values and Universal Life Experience
2.3 Culture Specific Content
2.4 The Language
2.5 The Illustrations and their Coexistence with the Text
3 Teaching “Room on the Broom”
3.1 Outline of the Unit
3.2 Detailed Lesson Plan
“Then out rose … A TRULY MAGNIFICENT BROOM!
With seats for the witch and the cat and the dog, A nest for the bird and a shower for the frog.
“Yes!” cried the witch, and they all clambered on.
The witch tapped the broomstick and whoosh! they were gone.”
(DONALDSON, SCHEFFLER, 2002)
At the end of “Room on the broom”, the characters can finally enjoy the magic night. Before, they have to go through scavenger hunt-like and nerve-wrecking adventures.
The book, which was written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler, has been translated into 21 different languages so far. The author and the illustrator have already worked together on several successful children’s books. “The Gruffalo” is their most known piece and was probably the breakthrough for the two artists. (DONALDSON, a, b)
Julia Donaldson, born in 1948, already invented stories as a child. She studied Drama and French and began her carrier as a writer for songs for children’s television. When her song “A squash and a squeeze” was turned into a book, illustrated by Axel Scheffler, she decided to write professionally plays and books for children. Up to now, she has written 154 books, partly for retail sales and partly for school purposes. (DONALDSON, a) The German Axel Scheffler, now living in London, was born in 1957 and studied Arts History as well as Graphic Arts. At the beginning of his career as illustrator, he worked for magazines and advertising agencies. Today, he mainly illustrates children’s books. (SPRECKELSEN, 2008)
This book report provides first some aspects which have to be taken into consideration when choosing “Room on the Broom” for the classroom, such as the storyline, the values expressed in the book, its culture specific content, the language and an analysis of the illustrations. Sec- ondly, some ideas for integrating the book into the English foreign language education are given. As the language applied in this book is rather challenging these considerations and impli- cations on teaching refer to the proficiency level of a fourth grade in a German primary school.
In “Room on the Broom”, Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler created a world of witches, lost wands, magnificent brooms, hungry dragons and four headed monsters. The reader gets to know the witch with her cat and her broom as main character. As she flies through the windy air, she loses some of her belongings which finally all are retrieved with the help of some animals. A dog discovers the witch’s tall hat, a bird brings back the bow and at last, a frog finds her magic wand. Every animal asks for “room on the broom” and wants to come along. However, the more animals attend the group, the heavier the whole company on the broom becomes. When the frog is a bit too rollicking jumping up and down, the broom eventually breaks into two. The cat, the dog, the bird and the frog fall down and the witch cannot help flying into a big cloud where a huge fire spitting dragon awaits her. As this creature is about to eat the poor witch up, a horrible mud covered monster with four heads, wings, feathers, fur and a terrible voice rises from the ground and calls the witch as its own feast. Consequently, the frightful dragon flees and the four headed monster reveals itself to be created from the bodies of the witch’s friends themselves. At the end, the witch creates a new and magnificent broom which suits all needs of its passen- gers and which will probably not break down again. (DONALDSON, SCHEFFLER, 2002)
The witch as main character and as a kind representative of her species is, on the one hand, quite scatterbrained as she constantly loses her belongings. However, she is also very ambi- tious to retrieve them and esteems the help that the animals offer her. In this regard, the witch knows how to react to these cooperative actions and includes the animals as members of her group. Also the very end of the plot shows that the witch and all the animals have grown into a fellowship. The witch keeps everyone of the group in mind while creating the new broom. Every animal with its own characteristics and its individual needs is taken into consideration.
Below the surface of the exciting adventures of the witch and her encounter with a dangerous dragon, the main theme of “Room on the Broom” can be considered to be “friends” in the sense of making friends and helping friends. The reader learns that the dog, the bird and the frog do the witch a favour by retrieving her lost belongings. Their help is appreciated and consequently they can join the group. So, a very heterogenic but harmonious group of characters flies through the air. When the witch finds herself in danger, one can see that the animals have indeed be- come real friends. They oppose the dangerous dragon by masking themselves as a big monster and want to free the witch. In addition, the motif of “together as friends we are strong” can be identified in this part of the plot.
Friends are part of the communicative content of the English foreign language education in the primary school (THÜRINGER KULTUSMINISTERIUM, 2001: 10). An elaborate approach to the topic friends as presented in the interpretation of “Room on the Broom” is probably not possible in the foreign language. The English language skills of a fourth grade are not sufficient to ex- press the sense of how to make friends and that one of the most important aspects of friendship is to help each other. However, a way to deal with this challenge would be to talk about this par- ticular aspect of the book in German or to use the idea of cross-curricular teaching by integrat ing this book also in the German lessons. Beyond the use of the German language in this case, the word pool and the activities related to the topic friends should become the focus on a level which suits the language abilities of the children and which are part of the curriculum.
Witches with cats and magic wands are part of many folk tales. Nevertheless, the Anglo-Saxon tradition of Halloween has probably integrated this character in the most systematic way. Thus, “Room on the Broom” can be used as part of a unit which refers to this topic in the late autumn. It would be possible to either use this book as an opener or as closing part of the unit.
Furthermore, a charming wordplay uttered by the dragon refers to the most known British food. When the dragon sees the witch, he considers having “WITCH AND CHIPS for [his] tea” (DONALDSON, SCHEFFLER, 2002). It is likely that the children in grade four are already famil- iar with the phrase “fish and chips”. Consequently, reading out or telling this part of the story offers the chance to pause and to recapitulate the children’s knowledge about this typical British meal. Moreover, this passage of the text shows them that it is natural to deal with language in a playful and creative way.
The internal rhyme in the book’s title already indicates the formal aspects of the language applied in “Room on the Broom”. The whole text is written in rhymes. Julia Donaldson only used rhyming couplets which is probably the simplest type of rhyme. So, the children can recognise the rhyme scheme very easily. Overall, the rhyming language can work as some kind of support for the pupils to memorise parts of the story and to join the storytelling.
However, the language level is quite advanced for a fourth grade. Although some simple sen- tences are integrated, there are also a few constructions that include relative clauses or inser- tions. Moreover, some words and phrases are used which the pupils are surely not familiar with.
Therefore, I would partly tell the story in a free form, which is adequate to the language skills of fourth graders, and only refer to original text when phrases or sentences are used which are repeated several times. This is the case with the following phrases that also provide some open slots to be adapted to the context: “‘Down!’ cried the witch, and they flew to the ground. They searched for the [object] but no [object] could be found.”, “I am a [animal] as [adjective] can be. Is there room on the broom for a [animal] like me?” and “’Yes!’ cried the witch, so the [animal] [verb] on. The witch tapped the broomstick and whoosh! they were gone.” (DONALDSON, SCHEFFLER, 2002) These repeated formulas offer the chance to integrate the children into the act of storytelling. Having heard them some times, the pupils certainly memorise these phrases and can join the teacher.
Even without the name of Axel Scheffler on the book’s cover it would be quite easy to recognise the illustrator of “Room on the broom” as his cartoon-like style is unmistakable. The characters with their saucer eyes and punchy facial expressions, the emphasised outlines and many different shades of colours, which are used to make the characters come alive, are not the only features of Scheffler’s style. In every picture, the reader can recognise the illustrator’s sense of detail. For instance, on the page which depicts the reunification of the friends, one can still see the fearsome and fleeing dragon far from the cheerful protagonists. Of course, he also did not forget to add seat belts to the newly created and magnificent broom.
If you look through the book, you will probably recognise that the colouring supports the suspense in the plot. The witch and the cat begin their journey through windy air, but through a light blue sky. The more the story proceeds, the darker the sky becomes. The grey sky prefigures that a bad event is approaching. As far as my previous experiences with telling picture based stories to children concern, they pay attention to these kinds of details. I am certain that children will either come up on their own with this or a similar interpretation when they know the whole story or that one can call their attention to it by posing the right questions.
Overall, the book consists partly of full frame illustrations and partly of smaller extracts of the scenes which are accompanied by the text. These small bits are especially used to show the lost hat, bow and wand in detail and are also employed with sequential actions when the new characters are introduced. This supports the children‘s understanding of the role of the dog, the bird and the frog.
Moreover, the first two and the last two pages show the hat, the bow, the wand and the broom flying through the air as the four most important objects of the plot. These pages, which represent some kind of framework, can be used to familiarise the children with the English words for these determining objects as well as during retelling activities.
The front cover depicts the witch with all the important objects and with the cat on her broom. Despite the fact that it is night time, it seems that the two have just started their journey as it is the case on the first double-page spread. However, when you fold apart front and back cover, you will receive a new perspective on this scene because the hungry dragon, hidden in the wood, observes the two. The frightened look of an owl, which passes by, foreshadows that this constellation will end in a dangerous incident.
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