Fairy Tale Lesson #1

Grimm’s Fairy Tales: One Eye, Two Eyes, Three Eyes

Here is a lesson from the Brother’s Grimm collection that I wrote. I have included a teachers lesson plan as well as student worksheets and links to necessary material. The lesson can be adapted for grades 6-12. Enjoy!

Summary from BookRags.com

A woman has three daughters—one with one eye, one with two eyes, and one with three eyes. She hates the daughter with two eyes. The mother and other sisters are mean to the two-eyed girl. Through the help of an old woman, the two-eyed girl buries a goat’s entrails out of which a sliver tree with gold fruit grows. Because she is the only one who can pull a branch from the tree, the girl is married to a knight. The one-eyed and three-eyed sisters eventually wind up at the home of their two-eyed sister, who takes them in and cares for them.

CLICK OR FREE LESSON

 

 

 

 

The picture book from Aaron Shepard

Shut your mouth and your mind

“An open mind is really a mark of foolishness, like an open mouth. Mouths and minds were made to shut; they were made to open only in order to shut.” G.K. Chesterton

In the first year of University I recall one of my professors starting his class with a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s essay The Crack-Up“Let me make a general observation — the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” 

I remember feeling unsure about the statement. Being a Christian in a secular university, I wasn’t sure if this was truth or just propaganda from the pagan left  (at least that’s how I felt back in my zealot days). Years later, and with a little more maturity, I can say that I agree with the statement but disagree with the outcome.

I’ve learned the importance of looking at both sides of an argument and examining an opposing point of view with honesty and respect. Yet, like Chesterton, I have come to believe that “mouths and minds were made to be shut.” It sounds very progressive to approach all thoughts with an open-mind, but like a car at an intersection, a decision must be made for progress to continue.

In reality, all our actions are based on conclusions–conscious and subconscious. We all have conclusions by which we order our lives. And while we may function, as Mr. Fitzgerald suggests, by being able to hold two opposing ideas, I  sincerely doubt that we are being truthful when we say that open-minds are actually “open.”

Recently, I was listening to a sermon series on the Gospel of John from Tim Keller, the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York. Keller spent the majority of the sermon explaining the concept of Logos, and then giving it a modern context. There were a number of gems in the sermon–all of which I can’t expound on here–but I appreciated his explanation of Logos.

chi rhoLogos = Meaning for life

Keller acknowledged that the Greek term does not mean pure logic  as much as it means logic to give order and meaning to our lives. Logos was the central point for the Greeks by which they get their sense of worth, their sense of accomplishment, and their belonging. It answered questions like: “What is my purpose?” and “What is life all about?” As you might imagine, people back then had a few disagreements about the answers to those questions, but Logos was most heavily debated by two major Greek schools of thought: the Epicureans and the Stoics.

Now wait! Don’t zone out, skip out, or close out…

Although these are Greek concepts, I think you might recognize some similarities in our modern thinking.

Epicureans: Pleasure is the greatest good. Enjoy life!  Live modestly, gain knowledge of how the world works, and understand your own personal limitations. God either doesn’t exist or is greatly limited by our own free will…akin to  modern day spirituality.

Stoicism: Science is the greatest good. Logic, self-control and fortitude provide a clear understanding of the world. Emotions are destructive to reason.  God is dead. Virtue is a matter of will power…akin to the new atheism.

Epicureans argued that there was no greater good than our own emotions. Take one day at a time. Enjoy your walk to the car. Sing along to the radio. Smile. Fall in love again and again. Feel good about life and help other people feel good about their lives. This is all we have, so don’t squander a single moment.

On the other side, the Stoics believed that our own emotions were detrimental to understanding the logical and scientific order of the world. We belong to Nature. Everything has an order and place in the universe. Beauty and happiness come from finding that order and fitting into its creases. We are rational beings, capable of great thoughts and great influence. We can be known and remembered.

Keller refers to these two ways of thinking as “New Ageistic” (look inside yourself to find order) and “Scientistic” (look to the facts to find order– facts but no truth). Although these two ways of thinking seem opposed to one another, they are in fact preaching the same message: There is no authority and no truth outside of what we feel or know…We are our own masters!

To be master denotes having authority over. To rule. To dominate and determine. If we are answering the same questions about life as the Epicureans and the Stoics, then we must understand that these are questions of authority (who or what is ruling you? What is your Logos?)

Being closed-minded and dogmatic are derogatory terms in our culture; people like this are painted as arrogant, rude ignoramuses. But in my experience, it is the “open-minded” person who is less courteous to objections. The truth is, we are all closed-minded. We all have a Logos in our lives, but only some of us know it. Coming to a decisive conclusion allows a person to order his or her life from those conclusions.

I think our culture promotes open-mindedness because it is ultimately is a rejection of authority. Evasiveness to difficult questions affords a false sense of autonomy, and it allows a person to avoid being nailed down to any particular set of standards. I may disagree with the Epicureans and the Stoics, but at least they were courageous enough to define their beliefs.

I think Chesterton sums it all up well:

“The modern world is filled with men who hold dogmas so strongly that they do not even know that they are dogmas. It may be said even that the modern world, as a corporate body, holds certain dogmas so strongly that it does not know that they are dogmas. It may be thought ‘dogmatic,’ for instance, in some circles accounted progressive, to assume the perfection or improvement of man in another world. But it is not thought “dogmatic” to assume the perfection or improvement of man in this world; though that idea of progress is quite as unproved as the idea of immortality, and from a rationalistic point of view quite as improbable. Progress happens to be one of our dogmas, and a dogma means a thing which is not thought dogmatic.”

What is our Logos? What are we driven by and what do we hope to accomplish in this life? These are some of the questions in the vast expanse of what it means to live. Regardless of whether we admit it or not, we all have answers to these questions by which we order our lives. Explore, question, search and research, and then let your mind clamp down on something. This isn’t to say that it will always and forever remain closed on the matter, but at least there will be solid ground under your feet for the time being.

May our minds be closed on truth and our hearts be open to those who seek it.

 

Imagine That

Educators, parents, grandparents and grandfriends alike have something to offer children–sweets. I know that children are supposed to be intrinsically motivated to learn, but really a sugary incentive can be a useful tool on a Friday afternoon in class. I don’t recall much about my first years at school, but I do remember Mrs. Crow in Grade 1 treating us to Popsicles after a particularly good behavior week, and in Grade 2 putting a penny in the a jar every time I was “caught” doing something good. When the jar was full–class party!

As adults I think we can miss an important step while teaching the children in our lives. We can expect intrinsic behavior without really explaining the extrinsic rewards. In other words, we want them to buy into a system without explaining the incentives. I’m not advocating for teaching children by rewarding with gifts or candy; instead, I believe we should teach children to do what is right by showing them a picture of goodness–by showing them the benefits of doing what is right–and this takes imagination.

In his book Education of Character, the philosopher Martin Buber recalls an interesting development in some of his classes.

“[I tried] to explain that lying destroys life, and something frightening happen[ed]: the worst habitual liar of the class produce[d] a brilliant essay on the destructive power of lying.”

Buber offers an alternative to “explaining” or “teaching” good character through a sermonizing or didactic manner:

“Instead, a compelling vision of the goodness of goodness itself needs to be presented in a way that is attractive and stirs the imagination. 

One of the greatest attractions of art is that it has the ability to stir the imagination without being heavy-handed (this isn’t to say that some art isn’t heavy-handed and preachy). This is one of the reasons that I believe that stories are such a magnificent tool in teaching children moral strength.

“For a story to truly hold the child’s attention it must entertain him and arouse his curiosity.  But to enrich his life, it must stimulate the imagination,” writes the child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim.

If imagination is the faculty by which we form our understanding of the world, then Story is one vehicle by which that information is delivered. This is supported by taking a closer look at a few foundation components of Story found in the Christian faith.

Logos

The term logos is a Greek word that originally meant the foundation of an opinion, but later came to be a term used by the Greeks to mean the principle of order and knowledge. One of the derivatives of logos is word, which comes from the root of legō, which means “to say, speak, or tell.” We get our word myth from two Greek words: muthos and logos. Muthos was the telling of truth through the account of a story (used to communicate emotions and feelings of a moment), while logos was the telling of truth through the use of reason or facts. To the Greeks, the two words were interchangeable, and even when muthos came to mean “fictionalized,” it was still used as a trusted form of communicating.

vwtwitter

Imagination plays an important role in talking about logos. One of the easiest ways to make the connection between the two is to think of the word logo which has obvious connections to logos. A logo is generally a symbol or sign that doesn’t contain words yet carries with it symbolic meaning. Thus, pictures come to represent words or phrases in our minds which then combine with our personal experiences to give meaning through our imaginations.

One of the reasons the imagination and logos are so important to the Christian faith is because Jesus claims to be the Logos of the whole world–the principal order and knowledge of ALL things.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it.”(John 1:1-5) 

Here Word is translated from the word logos. This means that John is claiming that Jesus is the symbol of God! That is quite the claim. The theologian Frank Stagg writes,  “The Logos is God active in creation, revelation, and redemption.”

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

So what does this have to do with imagination?

If  John’s claim is true, and Jesus is the incarnate symbol of God, then Jesus is the embodiment of Story. In essence, God is telling His people that they don’t have to imagine what He is like–they just have to look at Jesus. This is one of the reasons why the Ten Commandments is deadly clear in communicating that “you shall not make any graven images” or have “any other gods before me.” Really, the only symbol that can completely embody God is one that God creates Himself. And if the incarnate Son of God chooses to be described as the Logos–the embodiment of the Great Story–then I’m ready to hitch my bandwagon to that art form.

Instead of only having prophets and angels tell of God’s greatness, God sends Jesus–the embodiment of God in flesh –in order for humanity to see goodness and just hear about it.

Parables

In all of the gospels, there are a combined total of 32 parables of Jesus (interestingly, there are no parables in the Gospel of John). In fact, the writing of Psalms prophecies that Jesus will use parables to communicate with people.

Psalm 78:1-3 

 3 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
    incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
I will open my mouth in a parable;
    I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known,
    that our fathers have told us.

The Bible scholar Madeline Boucher writes this about Jesus and his parables: 

The importance of the parables can hardly be overestimated. They comprise a substantial part of the recorded preaching of Jesus. The parables are generally regarded by scholars as among the sayings which we can confidently ascribe to the historical Jesus; they are, for the most part, authentic words of Jesus. Moreover, all of the great themes of Jesus’ preaching are struck in the parables. 

Likewise, the author Mary Ann Getty-Sullivan writes that Jesus was the master of teaching in parables. His parables often have an unexpected twist or surprise ending that catches the reader’s attention. They are also cleverly designed to draw listeners into new ways of thinking, new attitudes and new ways of acting. 

It really should be no surprise that the great Word himself should use stories to communicate his greatest truths. Imagination is so important in understanding parables because these stories are highly symbolic and invite readers to imagine these scenes so they can “experience” their meanings. In essence, parables are stories that guide the imagination through certain situations, for a particular outcome, without needing to be heavy-handed. 

Gospel

There is such a rich history of story in the Bible as well as the Jewish and Christian traditions, but I believe that this history culminates in the Gospel. The word Gospel is in and of itself very simple yet incredible complex. Tim Keller defines the gospel as:

The good news that through Christ the power of God’s kingdom has entered history to renew the whole world. When we believe and rely on Jesus’ work and record (rather than ours) for our relationship to God, that kingdom power comes upon us and begins to work through us.”

“Through the person and work of Jesus Christ, God fully accomplishes salvation for us, rescuing us from judgment for sin into fellowship with him, and then restores the creation in which we can enjoy our new life together with him forever.” from Christianity Today

 Trevor Wax, a writer on the Gospel Coalition website, rightly identifies the multifaceted nature of such a dynamic word, yet he sees a consistent theme:  Jesus enters humanities story in order to help people imagine a life that is greater than themselves. In other words, Jesus broke into the story of humanity to remind us that we are part of a bigger story.

This is not just a story we hear–we are enveloped by this story and live it out each and every day.

Although the Christian debate over magic and Harry Potter has come and gone, one of the most ironic twists of the whole ordeal is found in the traditional meaning of the word Gospel.

Gospel: Middle English, from Old English gōdspel (translation of Late Latin evangelium), from gōd good                    + spell tale

The traditional meaning tale (spell) was meant to evoke images of the spoken word having power to hold people in a magically state of enchantment–the story was so attractive that it would strongly influence people as if they were under someone else’s power. This is the power of the Gospel.

All in all, children (and adults for that matter) need to have their imaginations stimulated in such a way that they are shown what is right by being drawn into a story that encourages them to imagine what is right–to be engulfed by eudaimonism. This isn’t some relativistic cease pool; instead, like the parables of Jesus, we are given images in a story and then lead to experience what is right instead of just being told what is right.

I believe this is the elevated faculty that George MacDonald was talking about. This is the intrinsic motivation: when our imagination is baptized with goodness, and then we are lead to that goodness by the images in our minds.

 

Imagine This

Reading Anthony Esolen’s book about children and imagination reminds me of a story that happened during my first year of my Master’s degree program. I was just starting to get over my “deer in the headlights” feeling of being a student in a Master’s program, and I was really enjoying my new class on some fantasy author named George MacDonald. At the time I didn’t know who he was, but I heard something about how he wrote fantasy (which I liked) and was admired by C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien (whom I also liked). So, I thought I would give him a shot. Little did I know that three years later I would be putting the finishing touches on my Major Essay on George MacDonald’s writing–but that’s a story for another time.

When I started the class, I was one of two Master’s students in a class full of undergraduates. The class read many wonderful and enchanting stories by MacDonald; none that I liked more than his fairy tales and The Princess and the Goblin. The class assignments were pretty straight forward: one presentation and one essay. Now there is one thing that is for certain when it comes to undergraduates and presentations: they will be over-the-top to the point of silly in their performances (wear costumes, turn off the lights and light candles, play dramatic music, etc), and they will bring snacks for the class. Of course, I never minded the later distinction, but walking into a dark candle-lit room to watch a group of 4 undergrads fumble through an 20 minute explanation of Lilith (in costume of course), grew old. Now, this may sound fine and well–and indeed, the groups obviously spent a good amount of time organizing lines and gathering costumes–but there was nothing that was terribly imaginative about how the students interacted with the text.

I don’t want to sound pompous. I could insert a story here about how I totally botched my first presentation about Owen Barfield, especially after I rambled on for 5 minutes trying to answer another student’s question only to later have to stop and say, “actually, I don’t really know.” Trust me, I really wanted candles and cookies at that moment.

What I started to understand during those candle-lit moments on the second floor of classroom 233, is what I would later hear my advising professor tell me: “one of the worse things you can do as a teacher is teach a creative novel without any creativity.” In essence, it wasn’t good enough to be creative in how I taught, I needed to be creative in what I taught. This would require a good amount of imagination on my part, which of course leads me to the second thing I learned in that class:

It’s important to define terms: in this case the word “imagination.”

My presentation to the George MacDonald class went well enough. Although, truth be told, I’m not sure they understood what I was saying because I had the lights on and I wasn’t wearing a cape. Plus, I didn’t bring any cookies (academia can sometimes make teachers stingy with their pastries).

After my presentation I cornered the professor on her way back to her office and politely asked her if I could do my essay for the class on “imagination.”

“What do you mean?” she responded.

“You know–imagination. Like, the way George MacDonald uses imagination,” I nervously answered.

After a long pause, she gently and politely told me that the topic was a little too big for a 20 page paper. It didn’t take me long to figure out how right she was.

After completing my George MacDonald class, I was thoroughly entrenched in uncovering the meaning of imagination. Here is what I found…

Imagination

 

In other words–it’s complicated.

The problem with the word “imagination” is that it has as many different definitions as the number of people that you ask. Imagination is anything from The Last Unicorn to Clockwork Orange–from drawing architectural blueprints to cloud gazing. It’s no wonder we are somewhat skeptical of imagination while whole heartily nodding in agreement with its promotion. A person using his/her imagination can be anything from a “daydreamer” to a “visionary.”

When I ask my students to define imagination they often describe something that sounds like a hidden power in their minds that they can access when they need to write stories or read books. To this I respond, “yes.” Indeed, that is imagination, but how can we reconcile the unicorns of imagination with George MacDonald’s definition that says imagination “is the faculty which gives form to thought.” I would like to present what I think is a practical working definition of “imagination.”

Imagination–from Latin imaginationem, noun of action from imaginari (“to form a mental picture of, to form an image of, to represent”)…Old French imaginer means to “sculpt, carve, paint; decorate, embellish.”

       In other words….

Imagination is the activity of a person creating mental images that her/she then refers back to in order to make sense of or give meaning to a situation.

     Which means….

Imagination isn’t some mystical enchantment that some people have and some people don’t (although, like a muscle, imagination can be built stronger), but it’s a set of images that we recall when we think of someone or something. It is the process of logging images, recalling those imaging, and acting according to those images.

      Why it matters….

When I say the word “tree” you recall some type of tree in your mind. Congratulations, you just used your imagination! The League of Justice for Equal Treatment for Imagined Trees might be the only people who care about what kind of tree that pops into your mind, but what if I say words like “racism, goodness, and evil.” The images that pop into your head suddenly become much more important. A person’s imagination regarding topics like humanity and God are incredibly important if we believe that what we imagine in our minds has great influence over how we act. Thus, if we want to change how we act, we must first change how we imagine something. In essence, a “reimaging” must occur for there to be long-lasting change.

      How does this happen….

“Reimaging” takes place in a variety of ways, but personal experience and emotion are always present in the most powerful memories and images of our minds. Yet, our personal experiences are limited by time and money and ability (among other things). I believe that there is a exceptional tool that can help “re”shape our imaginations, and that is Art.

If the Old French definition imaginer means to “sculpt, carve, paint; decorate, embellish,” then isn’t an artist simply one who shapes our imagination in a way that gives us images about the world?

I believe that one of the most effective tools for guiding or reshaping a person’s imagination is Story. This is why C.S. Lewis claimed in his autobiography Surprised by Joy, that the fantasy of George MacDonald baptized his imagination. Story is powerful. We wield a great sword of imagination when we write, and we submit to the great process when we read.

I don’t miss all of the undergrad presentations, but I do miss engaging in meaning conversation about George MacDonald and the benefits of fantasy. And of course, I miss the cookies too.

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”–1 Corinthians 13:12

 

“Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child” By Anthony Esolen

Up to this point I haven’t done any book reviews. Time and little children have dictated the books that I choose to read, and the books I do read are of two sort: the first are books that are well-vetted and reviewed so I’m not reading too much drivel (a little is okay), and the second is Dr. Seuss, Bernstein Bears, and the like. There are days that I prefer the later.

One of the books that I am currently reading is Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen. Written in the satirical style of C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, Esolen details 10 different ways that our modern culture is effectively destroying the imaginative minds of our children. The book has valuable gems for educators and parents alike, and presents both humorous anecdotes and painful realizations. To perk your interest, here are the ten ways (don’t worry, I didn’t spoil the mystery…the beauty of the book is in the explanation and the light satirical tone of Esolen):

1. Keep your children in doors as much as possible;
2. Never leave children to themselves;
3. Replace the fairy tale with political cliches and fads;
4. Keep children away from machines and machinists;
5. Cast aspersions upon the heroic and the patriotic;
6. Cut all heroes down to size;
7. Reduce all talk of love to narcissism and sex;
8. Level distinctions between men and women;
9. Distract the child with the shallow and the unreal;
10. Deny the transcendent.