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What do you do to teach allusion?
Last Post 26 Jun 2012 09:08 PM by Melissa Smith. 13 Replies.
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Debra SquiresUser is Offline Senior Member Senior Member Posts:1004
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15 Nov 2011 12:51 PM
    As a 9th grade pre-AP teacher, I asked an AP lit teacher on my campus what things I could best do to prepare students for his course. His response was that I could never do too much when it came to teaching kids to understand allusions. I began with the 9th grade LTF "Allusion Notebook" lesson with To Kill a Mockingbird, but I found that many students were not only missing the purpose and effect of the allusions, but that they were just missing the references entirely. I love the idea of assigning each student a single allusion to research, but in a novel like that one I felt that doing so only scratched the surface. What are some ways you've found to teach this important and often difficult skill to students?


    Deb Squires
    NMSI English Online Forum Facilitator
    Andrew HollingerUser is Offline Basic Member Basic Member Posts:292
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    15 Nov 2011 04:32 PM
    Oh man, this one is so tough -- and equally aggravating.

    One thing I do is tell them that an allusion is like an inside joke. Not getting the reference isn't going to destroy the story (unless you're reading Animal Farm or an other allegorical work...), but understanding the reference brings a whole new depth and layer to the narrative arc.

    Here are some things I'm working on:
    1. Changing the summer reading list. The Bible and Edith Hamilton's Greek Mythology have kind of dropped off our summer reading. Maybe it's the times or something. But, something like 90% of allusions are to the Bible--students need to have at least an academic knowledge of Bible stories. (So I'm working on getting them to read the source material so they more clearly see the allusion.)
    2. I give them a writing assignment that requires them to make allusions. It's rough and difficult. But what I want them to see is how not understanding the reference made the story just blah instead of interesting, and how irritating it is when someone doesn't get YOUR reference.

    I like to work a lot of pop culture references into my delivery. I'm convinced that it's not the concept of allusion they have trouble with. It's the reference. So, at least until I can think up something better, I'm trying to help them understand the importance of allusions (and looking them up when you recognize this is probably a reference to something but I just don't understand what), and I'm trying to get them to know the source material.


    ANDREW HOLLINGER

    University of Texas-Pan American
    Department of English
    ashollinger@utpa.edu

    co-founder/co-editor of crosspol: a discursive journal for high school and college writing teachers
    www.crosspol-journal.com
    facebook.com/crosspol
    twitter: @crosspol_ed
    Endi VargasUser is Offline New Member New Member Posts:14
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    14 Dec 2011 10:53 AM
    I have the students think about allusions that they use in their conversations with friends. They, at first, say they do not use them but they soon find out that they do use them. They are usually allusions past on by parents and grandparents which brings them to talk to the adults in asking why or how this allusion became a part of the family lingo. This has actually helped the students a great deal to understand allusions and more importantly to understand the effect of an allusion in a passage.


    Sheila CurlinUser is Offline Senior Member Senior Member Posts:117
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    15 Dec 2011 06:40 AM
    There is a warm-up activity on allusions on the LTF website. It can be found under Lessons and Overviews/Close Reading/Literary Techniques/Warm Up: Allusions. This was an activity used in year 4 synthesis training that many people don't get, so it's a great resource that many don't know about. The activity asks students to identify the type of allusion, explain the reference, explain the connotation of the reference and use the allusion in an original sentence. You might want to check it out.


    Becky HamiltonUser is Offline New Member New Member Posts:22
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    08 Jan 2012 04:11 PM
    I'm currently working on an allusions project with my 9th graders. It's based on the Allusions Notebook from LTF, and is one my school has been doing for years. I start out slowly, and show the students lots of different examples of allusions from commercials, TV shows, political ads, movie titles, and song lyrics. Then we learn how to research the origins of an allusion, and finally how to explain its effect.

    Modules 13-16 have been incredibly helpful to me as I set this unit up, with short, easy scaffolded commentary paragraphs for students to write, and lots of examples.


    Laura ArrazoloUser is Offline Senior Member Senior Member Posts:111
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    19 Jan 2012 10:07 PM
    This is so basic, but I think that just teaching kids to pay attention to allusions, know what they are, and know that, just as Andrew and Endi have indicated, it's important to be able to figure out where they're coming from, is more than half of the battle. I have sometimes been organized enough to have a list of allusions ahead of time for a work, ready to divy up for kids to research as Debra mentioned - but I've also often had an allusion come up in a close reading discussion and either pulled up a website, had kids research it on the side and report back to the class, or asked a student to look it up in a classroom reference and then share back - then talked to the kids about why it was in there. In other words, I'm just pointing out the obvious - that we need to teach kids that good readers pay attention to allusions as much as new words and take the time to figure them out and try to solve the puzzle of why they're in the story. As Andrew says, it is like a game - one many kids can quickly master - and it can be fun for teacher or student to try to stay up with pop culture/ current events enough to toss an allusion out in class, or to point out a timely allusion in the lyrics of a popular song (again, thanks to LTF Year 4 training for that idea). One creative idea (not mine): I know a middle school teacher who regularly has his kids study the comics, which are full of allusions, as are newspaper headlines. How about a bulletin board which you start and invite the kids to add to (extra credit, anyone?) based on allusions? The LTF template would work well for helping kids break them down.


    Myrna MoserUser is Offline Senior Member Senior Member Posts:35
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    23 Jan 2012 12:19 PM
    I have used allusion lists for years, and by that, I mean lists found in the literature students read. We would examine the allusions in context and discuss the effect of the specific allusion; in doing this, the students came up with some great analysis, including discussion of author's style. They discovered authors who relied greatly on allusions and others who had only a few well placed ones. I'm attaching an example from an allusion packed Middle School text, The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt. (One note--if you look at the model assignment attached, know that the chapters of the text are titled by names of the months.)

    Allusions_in_The_Wednesday_Wars_by_Gary_D.doc

    Barbara AbbeUser is Offline New Member New Member Posts:76
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    30 Jan 2012 09:19 PM
    Even though my experience is mainlyj 8th grade, I introduced allusion when I focused on poetry. I began with cartoons by Gary Larson. He uses allusions constantly and the connection to meaning can be illustrated quite well. If you don't understand the allusion, then you don't know why the cartoon is funny. His cartoons are wonderful to illustrate irony, too. At the end of our poetry focus and students were producing their own poems, allusions had to be made. Amazing what the students produced!

    Another piece that has great historical and cultural allusions is the song, "Long Road out of Eden" by the Eagles. Wonderful lessons can be developed with this song. Again, I used it with 8th graders, but I think it is appropriate for any high school class.


    Laura ArrazoloUser is Offline Senior Member Senior Member Posts:111
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    13 Apr 2012 07:39 AM
    I just stumbled across a terrific resource for allusions, Bookdrum.com. I was looking for the context of the sentence in To Kill a Mockingbird in the LTF syntax lesson - the one about the window covered with cheesecloth in the summer to keep out the varmints - and came across a page from bookdrum. Click on books, pick a book you know, and be ready to be amazed. This is apparently a labor of love project - numerous people contribute to their favorite works - and such an incredible resource for teachers and students of high school and college literature. I will be using and sharing this regularly from now on!

    Here's the link straight to TKaM: www.bookdrum.com/books/to-kill-a-mo...index.html


    Debra SquiresUser is Offline Senior Member Senior Member Posts:1004
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    16 Apr 2012 01:51 PM
    Laura--wow! What a cool site. I can certainly see having this on hand in the classroom while reading this novel (or a different one), and also for using it as a jumping off place for an analytical assignment on allusions. This gives kids the nuts and bolts of the meaning, and from there we could ask them to consider the effect of the allusion. Thanks for sharing.


    Deb Squires
    NMSI English Online Forum Facilitator
    John EoffUser is Offline New Member New Member Posts:1
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    26 Jun 2012 04:43 PM
    I was wondering what other teachers did to teach allusion. I have never taught allusion to great lengths.


    Lois MooreUser is Offline New Member New Member Posts:1
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    26 Jun 2012 06:55 PM
    Teaching allusion has been an easy task, compared to some of the other devices. Once they understand the
    definition and have identified some examples, they can usually identify an allusion, even if they are not
    familiar with the subject, character, etc.


    Debra SquiresUser is Offline Senior Member Senior Member Posts:1004
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    26 Jun 2012 07:57 PM
    In the 9th grade section labeled "literary elements" in the close reading part of our website, there are several allusion activities, including an allusion notebook and a lesson on advertising allusions in ads. Check them out!


    Deb Squires
    NMSI English Online Forum Facilitator
    Melissa SmithUser is Offline New Member New Member Posts:1
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    26 Jun 2012 09:08 PM
    Laura, you're right; this is an amazing resource. I've taught TKAM for years, and I've noticed that the students (and me at times!) get easily bogged down in all of the allusion, especially in chapter one. Thanks for the suggestion!


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