By now, we’ve all heard the news of the passing of writer Maurice Sendak. There have been several well written articles about the man, and his wonderful stories and his unusual art work. What is interesting is that Sendak stated in an interview with comedian extraordinaire Stephen Colbert (see lesson plan below ) is that he never intended to write for children, but rather other people took his stories as children’s literature. Some of his stories and drawings were criticized as being “improper” for children and yet as this article points out, his books grew in popularity, and he inspired many artists and designers, some which are presented in the slide show for this article.
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
Excerpt: Thanks, Maurice By Steven Heller The New York Times: OP ART
“Maurice Sendak’s 1963 “Where the Wild Things Are” unlocked a scary, psychologically nuanced, inner world long taboo in mainstream children’s books. Mr. Sendak once told me that King Kong was a great character and had influenced him when he created “Wild Things.”
“You’re supposed to be frightened of these things. Kids need Kongs to help them conquer their anxiety,” he said.
Maybe “Wild Things” is not your particular inspirational tipping point.
Mr. Sendak’s 1970 “In the Night Kitchen” also spooked a generation of readers. Mickey, the naked 3-year-old protagonist, and the whorl of sexual innuendos that floated around him, were shocking in their day.
“Wild Things” and “Night Kitchen” exemplify Mr. Sendak’s skill at bifurcation. He often objected to being called a children’s book illustrator, despite his success at it. His heroes were not children’s favorites, but rather Mozart and Melville.”read more…
Read this creatives and funny article in its entirety!
Level: Intermediate -Advanced
Language Skills: reading, writing, and speaking. Gammar activities are included.
Time: approximately 1 hour.
Materials: student handouts (from this lesson) access to news article, and video.
Objective: Students will read and discuss some of the art work by Maurice Sendak and evaluate whether some of the stories and art work were appropriate for children.
I. Pre-Reading Tasks
Analyze headings and photos
Directions: Have students read the title of the post, and the title of the article. Next have them analyze the photos to see if they can predict what information the article will discuss. Then based on this information, direct students to make a list of ideas, words and phrases they might find in this article.
II. While Reading Tasks
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold (taken from the article) and use a dictionary or thesaurus for assistance.
- Where the Wild Things Are” unlocked a scary, psychologically nuanced inner world long taboo in mainstream children’s books.
- You’re supposed to be frightened of these things. Kids need Kongs to help them conquer their anxiety…
- Maybe “Wild Things” is not your particular inspirational tipping point.
- Mickey, the naked 3-year-old protagonist…
- …if Mr. Sendak’s work, in general, conjured demons…
- The artists and designers here are direct beneficiaries of Mr. Sendak’s genius.
- He revolutionized narrative and conceptual illustration…
- “Night Kitchen,” his stylistic homage to the comics artist Winsor McCay…
- …is a mash-up of comic strip hilarity, expressionist and surrealist absurdity…
- Mr. Sendak was not the only illustrator to explore these recesses.
- “Wild Things” and “Night Kitchen” exemplify Mr. Sendak’s skill at bifurcati
Directions: Place students in groups and after they read the article, have them complete the blanks from the paragraphs from the article (it is not the entire article). They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.
“Maurice Sendak’s 1963 ___ unlocked a___, psychologically nuanced, inner world long ___in mainstream children’s books. Mr. Sendak once told me that___was a great character and had___him when he created “Wild Things.” “You’re supposed to be___ of these things. Kids need Kongs to help them conquer their___,” he said.Maybe “Wild Things” is not your particular___ tipping point. Mr. Sendak’s 1970 ___ also spooked a ___of readers. Mickey, the ___3-year-old ___ and the___of sexual innuendos that floated around him, were ___in their day. And, if Mr. Sendak’s work, in general, ___demons, “In the Night Kitchen” kindly presented a way of using ___to conquer them. The___and ___here are direct___of Mr. Sendak’s___. He___narrative and conceptual___through the way he ___his own influences; he drew from the ___to illuminate the___.”
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- Grammar Focus
Directions: Have students choose a picture from this lesson and write a descriptive paragraph using adjectives.
III. Post Reading Tasks
Reading Comprehension Check
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
1. WH-question format
Directions: In groups or as a class students can answer the WH-questions to check what they’ve learned about the topic.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
Group Writing Project
Directions: Place students in groups, and have each one create a short story based on one of the following drawings of Marice Sendak.
IV. Listening Activity
Video Clip: Maurice Sendak’s Last Interview with Stephen Colbert, Part 1: Time NewsFeed.
Introduction: “At the time, the idea of putting a children’s author known for giving free rein to his dark side in the room with a famously irreverent late-night host seemed like a recipe for a prickly interview. But in hindsight, this face-off between Maurice Sendak and Stephen Colbert was a match made in comedy heaven. And after the beloved children’s author died on May 8 at age 83, it’s the interview NewsFeed will always remember him by.”
Note To Teachers: Some of the material in this video might be offensive to some ESL ( or non-ESL) students. So it is suggested that you review the video prior to showing it to your students.
Questions for Listening Comprehension
Directions: As students listen have them fill in the missing words from the conversation between Mr. Sendak and Mr. Colbert. They can use the words from the “Word List” provided.
Stephen Colbert: Nation, anybody who knows me knows that I don’t like ___or books, or___, but I respect the___ and children’s books still sell. The latest literary trend is children’s books by ___folks…Well folks, ___wants in. I’ve got everything it takes. I’m a___.
For___I turn to one of the ___of children’s literature, Maurice Sendak, author of Where The Wild Things Are, Chicken Soup With Rice, and In The Night Kitchen, and his latest, Bumble-Ardy. I highly ___it unless you are ___ you can’t ___books about pork…I set down with Mr. Sendak where the mild things are.
Colbert: Mr. Sendak thank you so much for___ to me today. Now, tell me about children’s literature. Don’t you think that by writing books for children, you’re ___children the___ that reading is important?
Maurice Sendak: Very much so. Yes.
Colbert: Let’s talk about___. I don’t ___them.
Sendak: Is that true?
Colbert: They are just biding their time until we’re___, and they get our stuff, and they take our place.
Sendak: That’s an ___point of view. But not interesting to me particularly. There is something in this___ that is so opposed to understanding the ___of children. It’s quite___.
Colbert: What do you mean by the complexity of children? Cause children have it easy. They get ___every place, we ___them, we ___them. ___said it, “children don’t have a work ethic.”
Sendak: But Newt Gingrich is an___.
Colbert: Why write for children?
Sendak: I don’t write for children.
Colbert: You don’t?
Sendak: No, I write. And somebody says “thats for children.” I didn’t set out to make children___, or make life___ for them, or___for them.
Colbert: Do you___them?
Sendak: I like them as ___and___between as I do___. Maybe a bit more because I really don’t like adults, at all practically…
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