12.23.2008

Sibling Assignment #86: December Character Analysis With a Guy Named Scrooge

Silver Valley Girl gave the sibling assignment this week. "Choose a book or story with a Christmas theme, and share about why it is special to you, and how it helped or helps make your Christmas more meaningful."
You will find another post about A Christmas Carol by Raymond Pert here and Silver Valley Girl's will follow.


"It is required of every man," the ghost returned, "that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide; and, if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death."
- A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

I have taught the play A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens ten times to seventh graders. It is featured in the literature book I have used as a resource both places I have taught. When I first began to prepare for the teaching the play I dreaded it. My only memory of Scrooge was watching Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. Mr. Magoo bugged me. Why didn't he just put on glasses instead of putting money in his eyes? Didn't he realize he would be able to see? The simple cartoon did make the plot easy to understand and I remember the three ghosts with clarity. I actually remember being scared. I don't know if I understood the message.

As I prepared to teach the play I then realized how many movie versions had been done of the story. When teaching this story the focus for student learning is on the changing character of Scrooge. The following things have happened when I have taught this Christmas classic:
My students were also bugged by Mr. Magoo.
They created a critical eye to the character by watching scenes played by different actors.
They understood the changes that happened to Mr. Bah Humbug as he met with the ghost of his partner Marley and the three other ghosts that visited him on Christmas Eve.
They began to understand redemption.

Funny things happened also:
As they begin to read the play aloud (all fighting over who gets to play Scrooge) they remembered they had seen this play. A memory of Mickey's Christmas Carol hit them and the plot starts making sense.
Some also got excited about The Flintstone's Christmas Carol which I have not yet seen. (I guess there is actually a Barbie version that none of us have seen!!)
"Bah Humbug" becomes a part of their day-to-day vocabulary.

After reading the play the students still don't quite get it. Their energy is focused on playing parts and the stage direction. Watching scenes from versions of the movie helps it to hit home. For teaching purposes I think George C. Scott does the best job depicting Scrooge. I also show scenes played by Patrick Stewert and Albert Finney. The students beg to see Donald Duck as Mr. McScrooge. I don't show Scrooged, but seventh graders that have viewed it were entertained by Bill Murray in the lead role.

When did I change my opinion of the story? It began when I observed students begin to have deeper understanding of the role of three ghosts in the life of a miserable man named Scrooge. Students have different opinions of which ghost made the biggest impact on Scrooge. Most choose The Ghost of Christmas Future. The turning point is when a student makes a life connection and realized that he/she walks every day with Scrooges. Empathy sets in. They understood redemption.

I also love this story because it reminds us of the giving spirit of Christmas which needs to be carried each and every day of the year. Seeing mean old Mr. Scrooge change from the man that wouldn't even heat his office to the man that became like a grandfather to Tiny Tim is heartwarming. Student voices reading Scrooge could be heard changing as they neared the end of the play. The mood of the room was a bit lighter.

In 1993 my teaching of A Christmas Carol changed. The Muppets Christmas Carol came out in VHS and was added to my unit of study. This version is my favorite hands down. I now end my teaching time before break with this movie. This version has the strongest depiction of good vs. evil. Line up Michael Caine and Kermit the Frog and who wouldn't love Bob Cratchet from the first scene of the movie? With the combination of real people and muppets it creates a mood that only Brian Henson and Frank Oz could create. Who could put Scrooge in his place any better than Miss Piggy as Mrs. Cratchet?

"I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!"

I think my students remember more than the actors or cartoon characters when they have finished the study of A Christmas Carol. It is easier to understand how the events of someone's life cause them to be the person they are and how lessons learned from three ghosts can change a person forever.

5 comments:

  1. If I haven't said it before - I should have.
    Your students are so blessed to have you.

    I wish I was in that class (:

    ReplyDelete
  2. Have a Great Christmas!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Your students will always remember getting to read and participate in this unforgettable story. It will stick with them, I think, forever. I thought a lot about making A Christmas Carol a part of a course while reading it, but I don't teach any courses right now where it would fit.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks so much Pamela. I love what I do!
    Go Figure... Merry Christmas to you also!
    RP... I think students do always remember this story. Have you seen the Muppets version? Very clever, yet the message is as strong.

    ReplyDelete
  5. It may be irreverent, but I think my favorite version of A Christmas Carol is "Scrooged". I just love the part where he takes over the movie studio at the end...I even cry, which is not something I can usually say about Bill Murray movies.

    ReplyDelete

I always enjoy reading comments!