Anna Birketveit, Høgskolen i Bergen: Reading The Secret Garden and The Jungle Book in the classroom

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Anna Birketveit, Høgskolen i Bergen:

Reading The Secret Garden and The Jungle Book in the classroom.

A complete teaching programme for The Secret Garden and

The Jungle Book with lots of tips, ideas and activities.

The programme is directed at pupils aged 10+ and aims at encouraging extensive reading in English

Table of contents

Introduction : The texts and the British Empire

  1. On the author and the novel The Secret Garden

  1. The Secret Garden in English lessons for pupils aged 10+

  1. Reading The Secret Garden in class – step by step.

    1. Planning the reading project

    2. List of vocabulary

    3. How to motivate the pupils for reading the text

    4. How to start reading the text

    5. How to continue reading the text; tasks chapter by chapter.

  1. The Secret Garden: A mixed bag of ideas and tasks for the classroom

    1. Comparison of the original text and the adapted text

    2. Questions for discussion

    3. Telling and writing

    4. Exploiting motifs

    5. Games

    6. Working with passages from the book

    7. Making up the story based on illustrations

    8. Making a movie screenplay

    9. Using the video of the book

  1. The Jungle Book

    1. List of vocabulary

    2. Working with vocabulary

    3. Working with grammar

    4. Cross-curricular activities

Introduction: The texts and the British Empire

The British Empire

At its height the British Empire stretched over several continents.

The following link shows its expansion in 1914.

and this link shows the Commonwealth of Nations at present:

Click on the following link to have a brief history of the British involvement in India.

The Secret Garden (1911) by Frances Hodgson Burnett and the Jungle Book (1894) by Rudyard Kipling were both written at the height of the British Empire. The Jungle Book has the Indian jungle as setting for the story and all the animals in the story belong to the Indian jungle such as the tiger, panther, python snake, and monkeys.

In The Secret Garden the story starts in India where the main character, Mary, lives the first years before she is sent to live with her uncle at Misselthwaite Manor in Yorkshire after her parents die in a cholera epidemic Both stories are proofs of the impact of the Indian colonisation on the imagination of authors and people in general.

India was an exotic place where stories took place much like “Once upon the time in a far away country”

The following link is to the Rudyard Kipling homepage.

He was also famous for his poems, some of which may be used in the classroom. The text used for this reading project is the Ladybird classic edition of The Jungle Book based on the Walt Disney movie of book.

1. On the author and the novel The Secret Garden

Frances Hodgson Burnett 1849-1924

She was a successful adult novelist before she started writing for children, but she is best remembered for her children’s books – Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886), A Little Princess (1905), and The Secret Garden (1911).

Her father had an ironmonger business in Manchester, but died when she was three. The family sold the business and moved to the USA when she was a teenager. Through her writing she helped support her family. Frances Burnett married twice, and eventually settled in England, Kent, where she took a very keen interest in gardening. The novel The Secret Garden reflects this passion and perhaps also Burnett’s longing for a happy family life.

The following link contains more information on the author and raises interesting and relevant discussion questions about the novel:

The novel is considered a classic piece of writing in children’s literature with patterns of myths and literary references. The adult world is mostly portrayed as cold and corrupted. The female element is lacking, and only through entering the Secret Garden of femininity, fertility

and growth can both children and adults find redemption and happiness.

2. The Secret Garden in English lessons for pupils aged 10+

The aim of this collection of ideas for The Secret Garden is to encourage extensive reading in English lessons for pupils aged 10 +. The ideas refer to the Ladybird classics edition of The Secret Garden, ISBN 0 7214 1657 8. As this text is short enough (51 pages) and comes with wonderful illustrations, it should be well suited for young learners of English.

3. Reading The Secret Garden in class – step by step
3.1. Planning the reading project
It is advisable to alternate the reading of the novel between reading at school and reading at home. The Ladybird edition has 9 chapters and can be read in 3 to 5 weeks. The teacher should make sure to plan a good start of the reading. It is my recommendation to set aside a double lesson for the start. The pupils should read one chapter as homework between each session of reading at school.
Suggested plan for the reading:




1 (double lesson)

Chapter 1

Chapter 2


Chapter 3

Chapter 4


Chapter 5

Chapter 6


Chapter 7

Chapter 8


Chapter 9

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