This story is a translated version of the Russian original by Anton Chekov. The story comes with some prompts and questions along the margin to guide students in responding to the story development and characters when they read. The lesson focuses on character study and illustrates how grammar can be taught and practiced in context.
A goldsmith has got his dog bitten by a dog. He wants compensation and asks the police superintendent to do him justice. The superintendent’s way of doing justice is as versatile as a chameleon.
Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) wrote about the Russian period of depression. He often took a moment in the life of some men and showed the man’s character and soul in a few pages. But although he knew the weaknesses and faults of Russia, he did not find a way out of the troubles. The Chameleon is a good and characteristic example of his short stories.
To identify details that support the gist or main ideas
To develop a response to characters and issue in narrative text
To understand how the English language works in literary texts and to recognise recurrent patterns in language structure.
Generic Skills and Attitudes
Students are able
To read interactively (Teacher demonstrates the reading process in class).
To learn and practise grammar in context
The use of present participle or bare infinitive after verbs like ‘see’, ‘hear’, ‘let’ and ‘make’
Show the picture of a chameleon and introduce its name. Ask students what kind of person can be described as a chameleon.
3. Ask students to discuss among themselves if it is a good or bad quality if someone behaves like a chameleon.
4. Introduce the story title and author.
Understanding the story
The setting, main characters and initiating event
5. Introduce the setting, main characters and initiating event of the story
Where: a quiet market place in a Russian small town
When: some time in the 19th century
N.B. The exact place and time are not mentioned in the story. Ask students to infer and justify the time from the life history of the author.)
Ochumyelof (the police superintendent)
Khriukin (the goldsmith)
Write the names on the board and drill the pronunciation. Explain that the Russian names are to be pronounced in the English way for convenience sake.
Initiating event (What happened at the beginning of the story)
People were taking a nap. Suddenly they were awakened by a man’s shouting and a dog’s yelping--- a goldsmith had got his finger bitten by a small dog.
With more able classes
With less able classes
Assign the class to read the text on their own, highlighting the following key questions:
(a) Will the goldsmith get his compensation?
(b) Who is the chameleon and why does the author call him that?
Draw their attention to the questions and instructions along the margin of the text and encourage them to interact with the text and note down their responses along the text or in a logbook while they read.
6. If students are not ready to read the text and respond on their own, read aloud the story paragraphs 1 – 5 in class. Use questions and instructions along the margin to demonstrate the reading process and to lead them in predicting the story development.
7. Highlight the complication of the story --- Ochumyelof was faced with a problem to find out the owner of the dog in order to punish him and compensate Khriukin.
8. Ask students for the gist of the story.
8. Invite students to join you in reading aloud the rest of the story, using Worksheet 1 to guide them to trace the changing attitudes of Ochumyelof during the reading.
A. Picture sequencing and caption writing activity
9. Put students into groups of four and give one set of picture cards to each group. Instruct them to rearrange the pictures in the sequence of the events in the plot.
Assign students to write a caption for each of the pictures. Draw their attention to the illustration within the speech bubbles for details.
B. Understanding the characters
11. Monitor students’ feedback on the following questions at the end of the story:
Who is the chameleon? Why does the author call him that?
12. Guide students to trace the changing attitude of Ochumyelof and complete the grid in the students’ book (Activity 1).
N.B. The answer can be directly quoted from the text or presented in the reported speech, depending on the language ability and readiness of the students. Citing story content in the reported speech is a good way to practice grammar in context. When reported speech is used, reporting verbs could be introduced. (Some reported verbs are suggested and underlined in the Key.)
13. Invite students to respond to the following questions:
Do you think Ochumyelof is a good detective?
He is not a good police superintendent because he simply listens to people and draws conclusion without careful thinking. He does not work or think according to evidence and changes his attitude too frequently.
What would you do if you were a good police superintendent?
Hold a proper investigation by interrogating Khriukin and recording what he had said.
Collect evidence to find out the truth
~ Get some eyewitness report by asking the people living around the timber yard if they have heard or seen anything.
~ Go around the place to confirm the owner of the dog,
~ Send Khriukin as well as the dog for check-up to see if the dog has been burnt by a cigarette and what causes the wound in the goldsmith’s finger.
When Ochemyelof talks, he sometimes puts on his cloak and sometimes takes it off. Why does he do so?
He is stalling for time when he does not know what to do or say.
What do you think of Ochemyelof’s character?
Refer students to Activity 2 in the Student’s Book. Instruct them to put a tick against those that they agree and write a character profile about him and what they think of him, giving evidence/ explanation to support their opinion.
Kevenia please refer to Activity 2 and refine the worksheet.
Do you think it is good to behave like a chameleon? Why / why not?
What do you think of the way Ochumyelof treats Khriukin?
Ochumyelof has no real concern for Khriukin or other people around him. He only uses them to show off his power. So he has taken no real measures to look for the owner or compensate Ochumyelof. His changing attitude towards Khriukin shows that he is uncaring and not to be trusted
Do you think that Khriukin had suffered and should be compensated?
Invite students to respond freely after the following prompting questions:
Is Ochumyelof really the victim? Refer to para 5 to see his condition when he was bitten.
(He was half-drunk)
What kind of dog is the culprit? Refer to paragraphs 3 and 5 and read aloud the description of the dog.
It was a dog ‘limping on three legs’ (para 3)
It was ‘trembling from head to foot’ … In his watery eyes ther was an expression of misery and terror’ (para 5)
So Chekhov’s description of the dog shows that it is unlikely to be vicious or aggressive and attack Khriukin.
What is the attitude of Chekhov towards Ochumyelof? Does he detest him, despise him, pity him or just jest at him?
Chekhov has used facts to illustrate that Ochumyelof is an incapable superintendent and an opportunist, but he does not criticize or attack him directly. He uses a light-hearted manner to jest at him and leaves the reader to make judgement of him
C. Language study
Grammar in context -- Bare-infinitive clauses after verbs of senses
1. Draw the class’s attention to the following sentences in the story text to illustrate the grammatical meaning of the sentence pattern:
Paragraph 2, first sentence
Suddenly Ochumyelof heard someone shouting.
Paragraph 3, second paragraph
Ochumyelof looked in the direction … and saw a dog … run out of the timber yard.
2. Focus on the tense of ‘heard’ and ‘saw’, contrasting the tense with that of the second verb that follows. Then explain the mandatory use of bare infinitive and present participial clauses after the verbs of senses like ‘hear, see, feel’.
3. Instruct students to read paragraphs 2 and 3 carefully and identify what else Ochumyelof heard and saw in the market place.
Explain the rule of using the present participial clauses for on-going actions and the bare infinitive clause (not past tense) for short actions. Draw particular attention to the use of bare infinitive instead of participial phrases if the action is short and finishes within an instant.
5. Ask students to imagine themselves as villagers living around the timber-yard, and they either saw or heard something when the biting incident happened. Refer them to Activity 3 in the students Book, going over, if necessary, any vocabulary that they do not know. Instruct them to make the sentence using the target pattern.
B. Bare-infinitive clauses after ‘let’ and ‘make’
6. Explain to students that other than the verb of senses, the same principle of bare-infinitive clauses also follow the verbs ‘let’ and ‘make’.
7. Quote a couple of examples from the story and conduct a scanning competition for students to locate other examples as fast as possible.
Paragraph 5 I will make you pay for this.
Paragraph 6 I will teach you people not to let your dogs run about loose!
Activity 1 While Ochumyelof tried to find out the owner of the dog, the people around him said a lot of things, and he reacted differently to what he heard.
Read the grid below to see what different people said. Then trace the changing attitude of Ochumyelof towards Khriukin and the dog. Put down the number of the paragraph where you find the answer. The first one has been done for you.
Who said it
What he said
Khriukin, the gold smith
“Somebody will have to pay me, for I won’t be able to use this finger maybe for a week!”
He favoured Khriukin
He announced that he would teach the people not to let their dogs run about loose. He threatened to punish the owner.
Someone in the crowd
“He (the dog) looks like the General’s dog.”
He favoured the dog
He doubted if the dog, being so small, could really hurt Khriukin. He suspected that Khriukin was trying to get money.
Yeldrin, the policeman
“No, the general does not have dogs like that. His dogs are different.”
He criticized the dog, saying that it is ugly. He showed sympathy to Khriukin again and promised to teach the owner a lesson.
“But perhaps it is the general’s dog after all. The other day I saw a dog like that in the general’s yard.”
He sided with the dog
He showed pity to the dog, fearing that it would be ruined. He scolded Khriukin.
Prokhar, the General’s chef
“What dog? … We never had such a dog in our lives!”
He was on the side of Khriukin
He declared that the dog was a tramp and would be killed
“My master doesn’t like this kind of dog, but his brother does.”
He was on the side of the dog
He praised the dog for being quick and nice. He threatened to catch Khriukin one day.
What kind of person is Ochumyelof? Put a tick in the box along the statements that you agree with. Then write 80 to 100 words in the space on the next page about him (e.g. his occupation, his personality, the way he worked) and what you think of him. Give evidence from his speech and action to support your opinion.
He is capable and smart.
His is incapable and he does not admit it.
He is incapable, but he admits it and asks others for assistance and advice.
He is incapable. He thinks and acts rashly.
He is flexible and accepts opinions readily.
He shows concern for the people.
He wants people to think that he is clever.
He is a man with principles and fairness.
9. He is clever and able to protect himself. He will survive in any situation.
10. He is clever and able to protect himself. He will survive in any situation.
He is smart and will protect himself at the expense of other people.
He likes to show off his power.
13. He likes to befriend rich and powerful people.
14. He is able to keep law and order in the community.
He is dishonest and allows his staff to take advantage of other people.
He is quick in responding and making the right decision.
He works carefully and often takes time in responding and acting.
He is an opportunist. He uses any chances to gain some advantages for
himself, without considering if it is fair or right.
Activity 3 The pictures below are about the events in the story, but they have been jumbled up.
(a) Arrange them in the correct sequence.
(b) Write a caption for each of the pictures. Pay attention to the illustrations within the speech bubbles for ideas.
Activity 4Imagine that you are one of the villagers living close to the timber yard and you have witnessed what happened when Khriukin was bitten by the dog. The pictures below show what you have heard and seen. Write a short ‘eye-witness’ report to Ochumyelof about the incident.