Sunday, October 10, 2010

Literature assignment using poetry

One of the short stories Lesley-Anne learnt last term as part of her literature class was Anita Desai's Circus Cat Alley Cat. Most literature assignments involve critical analysis of the chosen text but this had an added dimension - the kids had to write a poem on the story from the perspective of the child (narrator). I think this assignment played to Lesley-Anne's advantage because she loves poetry. In her p6 class, she had earned the reputation among her classmates of being the resident poet.

The poem was to be in free verse, ie rhyming is optional. Here's what she came up with (for the poem to make sense, I think it's necessary to read the original story first).

She was the new nanny, who had a large build
With hefty shoulders and wiry hair - unlike silk
Her lady-like ways forever gone

When Anna walked in, everything changed
My imagination fired, slightly deranged
My own room and self did transform

When dusk came and the lights were switched on
The brightness of Anna's eyes really shone
Like that of a performer under bright circus lights

Her white uniform, all neat and pressed
Was that of a nanny who is very well-dressed
But it changed to become a pair of pretty pink tights

Breakfast time! Anna's freshly cut bread
Became a hunk of flesh, a deep crimson red
Our stomachs stopped growling

We gnawed our bread, but our appetites were suppressed
However, our imagination continued to digress
The cats are prepared and are prowling

For the pink stucco house was the Big Top, a new thing in this story
Our lawn was a stage, basking in the glory
Of the audiences' loud cheers

The chirps of a mynah and barks of a dog, both out of sight
Became the gibbering of apes and tiger's roar with much might
They were our fellow circus peers

For now, we spring, not skip
We no longer hop, but we leap
Just like a circus cat would

Then, wooden chair in hand, Shakti arrived later
Also holding a whip, it was obvious she was our trainer
For around cats, Shakti ruled

Oh! The thrills of the circus acts
Involving many circus cats
With Shakti as our queen

We take away the audiences' breath
As we defy gravity and death
The most terrifying act you have ever seen


A cry in the distance made me realise
That all this was not real and before my own eyes
Things changed back to the way it was before

A tricycle and skipping rope where the wooden chair had been
A neem switch where the whistling whip was seen
The locked cage door was a shut window, no more
And Shakti was Anna weeping on the garden floor

Anna was weeping for her lost baby
Some other time, I shall tell you the full story
But, most importantly, Anna there, seemed to be tame!

However, it did not last, for several years soon passed
And Anna returned to the circus at last
Anna "the circus cat" lives up to her name!

Lesley-Anne scored 17/20 (Content: 9/10, Language: 8/10) for this assignment. Her teacher wrote, "Very clever!" with a smiley face. I think it's quite apparent that was an assignment Lesley-Anne really enjoyed.


Anonymous said...

i am impressed. how did u train her or she must be a voracious reader when she was younger? just curious, at what age does she start reading and writing independently?

monlim said...

Anon: No training, L-A has always been pretty independent in learning, I've only helped her in maths in pri school as she's weaker in that subject. She started reading at age 5 but was mostly into non-fiction till about p5. I would say her writing skills really took off only in p6 though. If you have time, feel free to browse my older posts, you'll be able to see her progress over the past 3 years.

Anonymous said...

thank you monlim. may i ask you, the kindergarten that we choose for our kids, does it make a difference? whether patschool house or PCF? and how will this impact on their entering to P1? I mean there are so much debate on which presch they should go to and how this will affect their P1? thank you for your advice.

monlim said...

Umm... both my kids went to nearby no-brand kindergartens! L-A went to a Montessori for a couple of months and hated it so we stopped. I'm not sure if I'm a good advisor on this topic cos I consider preschool to be good only for socialisation. I think a lot of the other stuff is hype and branding, it's more important to have a nurturing teacher but that's just my opinion.

With L-A, I just let her play most of her preschool years and she learnt to read on her own, yet she did well in pri school. Andre had more help from me cos I found that he took longer to understand concepts. Even today, he faces more problems academically than L-A so I think to a large part, you need to tailor according to each child's ability. But if you ask me, I certainly don't believe that you need to go to any specific preschool in order to do well in pri school. There may be some difference in p1 (where some kids have already learnt some topics at kindergarten) but it certainly doesn't follow through thereafter. Hope that helps!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your thoughts. I agree with you too... Have a good nite n am still v impressed with L-A writing skills.

Lilian said...

Wow! Impressive as always. I think, like mother like daughter?

It's really obvious how much she enjoyed the assignment. It really comes through in the poem she wrote. What's 'stucco'? :)

monlim said...

Thanks Lilian! She's really enjoying the lang arts classes, quite obvious where her inclination lies! 'Stucco' I think describes a type of decorative wall, mostly in ang moh houses. But she got the word from the story itself lah, haha.

Benjamin Chua said...

Hi Monica (JIE) indeed is very impressive work of art in language, like the saying goes “like mother like daughter” ha ha, she really inherited your skills in creativity writing. Nowadays language is still consider a major hurdle for most students and workers, to understand and write in words is not as simple as most people think, what you think and what you write is totally different when you start express your feelings in words, is totally a different world.

monlim said...

Thanks Ben! Yup, agree language skills are very important in today's context. I guess L-A is very much right-brained while Andre is left-brained. Total opposites!

Benjamin Chua said...

Each of us has our own strength and weakness, is how we cultivate our strength and overcome the weakness. Well they complement each other left – brain works with the right brain vice – versa, just like it take two hands to clap, same logic ha ha.

monlim said...

Ben: You're right, they complement each other. If only I could just get them to work together!!

Benjamin Chua said...

ha ha, well maybe you and Kenneth can kick off some activities to let them work together with the left brain and right brain.

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