How To Teach English As A Foreign Language To Five-Year-Olds How Can You Teach a Classic? Get a Discussion Started With Don Quixote!

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How Can You Teach a Classic? Get a Discussion Started With Don Quixote!

Imagine picking up a novel, hoping for a fun read. Open it, read the first paragraph, and realize that the main character is…

… did you !

What do you feel?

This could be a good discussion starter for your students. After all, children are likely to notice that strange things happen today. It could appear on someone’s blog, in a viral video, or even on TV out of nowhere, often in the most unpleasant way.

The discussion could also feature two of the most emblematic figures in world literature: Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, the protagonists of the 17th century novel Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. They went through exactly this experience.

At the beginning of Part 2 of Don Quixote, the deluded “Knight of the sad figure” and his earthly squire learn that they are the heroes of Part 1 of the novel, and must live with the consequences of fame. Later in Part 2, he discovers (as does Cervantes, to his dismay) that a fake second part has already been published by an anonymous hacker who is trying to cash in on the success of Part 1. Through the reactions of his characters to this spurious work. , Cervantes masterfully ridicules the version of his unknown rival. Don Quixote and Sancho become much more alive than contemplating their own presence in works of fiction.

As for poor Cervantes, he discovered that fame wasn’t all he was cracked up to be. He wrote Don Quixote largely because he was broke and hoped it would be a bestseller. Once it was in print, it “went viral” (as we can say today), appearing in all kinds of pirated editions. Cervantes wrote a real blockbuster, all right, and his name was known internationally, but he was out of money. At least his fame lasted much longer than the 15 minutes allotted to most of us!

“A classic is something that everybody wants to read and nobody wants to read,” as Mark Twain once observed. Now, I have read Walter Starkie’s 1000+ page translation twice. But I admit that this massive tome is not for everyone, let alone for children from six to ten grades. Even so, how can one go through life without some familiarity with Don Quixote and Sancho Panza? They have been depicted in drawings, paintings, sculptures, plays, films, songs, symphonies, operas and a Broadway musical. Cervantes’ book enriched the language itself with words and phrases like “quixote” and “tilting at windmills.”

So how can you introduce your students to Don Quixote and Sancho in one class? You could let them write a story or improvise a scene to show what it would be like if they suddenly found themselves the main character in a story. You could let them act out that experience, or even make a video. I was pleased to address this issue for READ magazine in 2006. My answer is, do it dramatically.

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