Animal Farm is a book that I could teach half asleep. (Not that I would. I enjoy the content, and love it too much). I feel that I’m passionate while teaching it. I’ve taught it probably close to two dozen times. Easily, it’s in my top five favorite books to teach and create accompanying activities.
I created my Animal Farm unit after borrowing and mismatching ideas and never having complete cohesiveness. One weekend I took my notes, scraps of ideas, and mental images and turned it into a large bundle. I was satisfied, and proud of this now tangible thing.
Then, a customer said that while my unit was sound, it was missing some ‘oomph.’ She wanted “activities to get the students “feeling” the pressure of Animal Farm.”
I pondered that feedback for awhile. Eventually, I understood – I should have provided the extras that I have completed while teaching Animal Farm. I don’t use all of these ideas at once, but I have used them all at least once.
Here are free ideas to add to any Animal Farm unit.
- Relate brainwashing to their lives. Part of successful brainwashing is the repetition of ideas – the changing of ideas. Students encounter subtle brainwashing in their lives. During my first teaching job, I worked next to an incredibly bright lady. The easiest way to teach this (she taught me) was to show advertisements. Open up any magazine, preferably a fat one with gobs of ads. Start flipping through. What do you see? Repeats – brainwashing of products. Lipsticks, mascaras, baseballs, video games – no matter what topic, you can show students that repetition is a major part of advertising. And why? Because marketing executives know repetition works! The pigs were marketing themselves and their beliefs to the other animals. Show students this quick read that states, “Repetition is fundamental to the success of any advertising program.” The pigs knew that too.
- Understand the hen-confession-scene. The most difficult section of the book for students is when hens confess to crimes they didn’t commit. Understanding these scenes requires a psychological explanation. Why would people confess to something they didn’t do?! On the simplest of scales, bullied victims will align themselves with their bullies to end the teasing. Victims will go along with odd requests to be liked, to be left alone.Here, the hens were under stress to please Napoleon. This video from History can help students understand the situation.
- Add the Seven Commandments to a wall. This takes planning, but I wrote out the Seven Commandments one year, and my students talked about it for the next two years. I used a poster board and wrote the commandments. As I assigned chapters, I replaced one poster board with another, modifying the commandments as the pigs did. We would discuss the additions/ subtractions during review. I never told students about switching the poster boards; I waited for them to notice.And- what! Students don’t notice the changes immediately? Even better. Now they can see how easy it is to overlook something staring you in the face.
- Map how the pigs are never the other animals’ equals. Before the pigs took over the farm, they had taught themselves to read – automatically making themselves advanced. The increments of learning and regard from the pigs make equality long gone before the other animals catch on. Have students find the examples of how the pigs “better” themselves.Plus, this opens the door to a writing assignment concerning ‘equality’ and their society today. It’s beautiful when the unit and lessons align, right?
Hopefully, these ideas or a variation of one or two will give your Animal Farm lessons a little extra, something for your students to remember – a little oomph to add for your Animal Farm unit.
These ideas can be used with any Animal Farm unit. If you are interested in mine, you can find it here.