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

How to motivate the pupils for reading the text

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3.3 How to motivate the pupils for reading the text.

Whenever starting a longer text, motivation is a crucial in order to accomplish successfully.

The following idea of how to motivate the children for The Secret Garden was invented by Kristin Holt, teacher in primary school.

“I wanted to make a motivating start, so I decided to play the role as Mrs Medlock. I entered the classroom wearing a big, old-fashioned hat with a scarf tied around it, and an umbrella in my hand. I introduced myself to the pupils saying: “Good morning, my name is Mrs Medlock. I work for Mr Archibald Craven in a very big house called Misselthwaite Manor up in Yorkshire. This is where the ship from India comes in, isn’t it? The pupils - who knew nothing about this, said “Yes”(!)..”I am here to meet a little girl called Mary Lennox – you didn’t see her, did you? Oh, that poor little thing – she’s lost both her parents, and now she is coming to live with Mr Craven, who is her uncle. I have heard that she is the most sour-faced and stubborn child that you have ever heard of – oh, I can’t say I look forward to this”! (Then I took off my hat and started to introduce the children to chapter one, which they got as a copy.)

3.4 How to start reading the text

For this you need the Ladybird Classics book of the Secret Garden and CD pack. , ISBN 1-9043-5184-0

1. Listening first

You may want to give the pupils the vocabulary for chapter 1.

If you have the text on a CD you should make the pupils listen to the first chapter before you give them the actual text. The Ladybird edition comes with beautiful illustrations, and if you show these illustrations on the overhead projector (preferably in colour) while listening to the story, it facilitates the understanding.

2. Reading second

Tell the pupils to read the first chapter of the book. If time, they should start at school. If not, this should be given them as homework.

If you don’t have the story on a CD, you may choose to read it yourself to them first either with them reading the text or just listening to you reading it. You may want to show them the illustrations before starting the story to ask them what they think happens in the story. If you

can handle both reading and showing illustrations, you may also want to show the illustrations as you go along. Be careful not to interrupt the reading too much.

3.5 How to continue reading the text; tasks chapter by chapter

Chapter 1

A note to the teacher: Sing the song “Nobody likes me” with the children. The song can be downloaded from the collection of songs and rhymes on the following Internet address:,(p 37). There is also a a CD-rom with this song and many other songs on, for information on the CD see page 1 in the collection. The rhymes related to the weather and seasons on p. 57 can successfully be integrated into the lessons as you read the story.
Questions to chapter 1 (Mary Lennox)

  1. What is Mary like?

  2. Why is she so rude and unpleasant?

  3. What happens when Mary is nine years old?

  4. Where does Mary have to go after her parents have died?

  5. Describe Mary’s uncle, Mr Craven?

  6. How do you think Mary feels when she arrives Misseltwaite Manor?

Tasks for chapter 2 (The Gardens)

A.Write true or false after each of the following sentences.

  1. The house servant Martha is very unfriendly.

  2. Martha has ten brothers and sisters.

  3. Martha has a brother named Dickon who is good with animals.

  4. The grounds at Misseltwaite Manor have been shut up for many years.

  5. Mary sees a robin in the garden that wants to be her friend.

  6. Mary makes friends with the Ben Weatherstaff, the gardener.

B. The first dialogue between Mary Lennox and Martha.

Below you find the first dialogue between Mary Lennox and Martha in the original version of The Secret Garden such as it was written by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

(editon Puffin classics, 1951, ISBN 0 14 036666 0, pp 26-29). Some changes to Martha’s language have been made as she speaks Yorkshire dialect which pupils in Norwegian primary schools presumably would find difficult to understand.

A note to the teacher.
Ask the pupils to read the dialogue below in pairs. Discuss unfamiliar words.

Make them answer the questions after the dialogue. They may use Norwegian when answering. Translate parts of their answers to help them characterize Mary and Martha in English. This dialogue is quite dramatic and can very well be dramatized. You may want the pupils to work on it seeing only one side of the dialogue (Martha’s side or Mary’s side). See ideas under chapter 7 to see how you can make it into a one-sided dialogue.

1. Read the dialogue below in pairs.
Mary: Are you going to be my servant?

Martha: I’m Mrs Medlock’s servant. And she’s Mr Craven’s – but I’m to do the housemaid’s work up here and wait on you a bit. But you won’t need much waiting on.

Mary: Who is going to dress me?

Martha: Can’t you dress yourself?

Mary: What do you mean? I don’t understand your language.

Martha: I mean can’t you put on your own clothes?

Mary: NO! I never did in my life. My Ayah dressed me of course.

Martha: Well. It’s time you should learn. It’ll do you good to wait on yourself a bit.My mother always said she couldn’t see why grand people’s children didn’t turn out fair fools – with nurses and being washed and dressed and taken out to walk as if they were puppies!

Mary: It is DIFFERENT in India.

Martha: Eh! I can see it’s different. I dare say it’s because there’s such a lot of blacks there instead of respectable white people. When I heard you was comin’ from India I thought you were black too.

Mary: (angry) What! What! You thought I was a native. You – daughter of a pig!

Martha: Who are you calling names? You needen’t be so vexed. That’s not the way for a young lady to talk. I have nothing against blacks. When you read about them they are always very religious. You always read as a black’s a man and a brother. I have never seen a black and I was fair pleased to think I was going to see one close. When I come in to light your fire this morning I crept up to your bed and pulled the cover back carefully to look at you. And there you were, disappointedly no more black than me – .

Mary: (very angry) You thought I was a native! You dared! You don’t know anything about natives! They are not people – they’re servants who must salaam to you. You know nothing about India. You know nothing about anything! (cries)

Martha: Eh! You mustn’t cry like that. I didn’t know you would be vexed. I don’t know anything about anything – just like you said. I beg you pardon miss. Do stop crying.
(a little later Martha has persuaded Mary to get up)

Martha: It’s time for you to get up now. Mrs Medlock said I was to carry the breakfast and tea and dinner into the room next to this. It’s been made into a nursery for thee. I’ll help thee on with your clothes if you get out of bed. If the buttons are at the back you cannot button them up yourself.

Mary. These clothes are not mine. Mine are black! Those are nicer than mine.

Martha: These are the ones you must put on. Mr Craven ordered Mrs Medlock to get them in London. He said, “I won’t have a child dressed in black wandering about like a lost soul. It will make the place sadder than it is. Put colour on her”.

Mary: I hate black things.

Martha: Why don’t you put on your own shoes?

Mary. My Ayah did it. It was the custom.

Questions to the dialogue.
What do you think about Mary now after reading this?

Do you think Mary should dress herself?

What does Martha think about black people?

Do you like Martha? Why?/Why not?

How were servants treated in India?

Do you think it is right to have servants?

Tasks for chapter 3 (Robin shows the way)
Fill in suitable words in the blanks from the frame below.
Mary …….. most of her days out of doors. In the evening she liked to sit …..the fire and talk to Martha. She told …… that Mr Craven’s wife fell from a branch and died. Mary had never felt ………… for anyone before but now she understood how ……….. Mr Craven must be.

Through the wuthering wind Mary thought she heard a child ………. The next day it rained, and Mary decided to…………. the house. In the stillness she heard again the faint ………. of someone crying. Mrs Medlock told her to go back to her room at ……… “Noone likes me”, Mary sad………..”Maybe that’s because you don’t like other people”, Martha said smiling.

Mary went out into the garden, and there she saw the robin showing her a rusty …… the soil. After supper Martha brought out a present from her mother. It was a …………. that Mary loved to use all the time.

Explore, key, unhappy, by, once, sorry, crying, her, spent, skipping rope, sound, sadly

To the teacher: Introduce the children to the song game “Skip to my Lou”. It can be downloaded from Annie Hughes, Songs & Rhymes, Scholastic Inc, 2002, ISBN 1-900702-66-5, is an excellent resource book on how to exploit songs and rhymes with pre-school and primary school children. Contains ideas for “Skip to my Lou” as well as a CD-rom with all the songs on.
Tasks for chapter 4 (Dickon)
Answer the following questions.

  1. How does Mary find the secret garden?

  2. What does the secret garden look like?

  3. What animals are with Dickon the first time she sees him?

  4. How does Mary’s first meeting with Mr Craven go, and what does she ask for?

To the teacher: Teach the pupils the songs “Red, red is the rose” p. 28 and “I like the daffodils” on p. 81 of

Tasks for chapter 5 (Colin)
A) Dramatise the scene where Mary meets Colin for the first time.

Act it out as a dialogue.

B) Make tableaus from the scene. In a tableau you freeze a dramatic situation and stand still in your positions.

To the teacher: Approach the various groups/couples in tableau and ask them questions in role. For example “How do you feel now Mary having met Colin?” or to Colin ”What do you think about your cousin Mary?”.
Tasks for chapter 6 (Rainy Days)

Look at the following sentences and explain what the words in italics (uthevet skrift) mean.

  1. When Mary told Martha that she had spoken to Colin, Martha was very upset.

  2. She feared she might lose her job for allowing Mary to find the young master of the house.

  3. Mary told her she didn’t need to worry, as he was pleased to see her.

  4. Martha said that she must have bewitched him.

  5. A famous doctor had said that if less fuss was made about Colin he would be all right.

  6. But he was spoiled and given his own way.

  7. Once when Colin was taken into the garden, he had a bad tantrum because he thought one of the gardeners was looking at him.

To the teacher: teach the pupils the song “Sing a rainbow” on p. 29 of
Tasks for chapter 7 (The Secret is Told)
Work in pairs of two. Read and dramatise the dialogues.

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