A Brazilian Fable

A lesson plan for Civic Education in the English as a Foreign Language Classroom
by Elizabeth Tokeshi, CCBEU - Presidente Prudente/ Brazil

The activity below has been prepared by us and presented to our students. We, the teachers, felt very proud because the students reacted in a most satisfactory and profitable way, since it was the first time they worked with this kind of material, where they felt free to give their opinions, take risks (in both the language and context).

Unfortunately, we had to use Portuguese because the students lack fluency. We permitted that because we felt they would be freer to expose their thoughts and feelings. I could say it was a 50/50 class, as far as language is concerned.

What struck us was the fact that they brought up matters that bother them, just like "coronelismo," that is: feuds in the north and northeast of the country, police still give them a feeling of insecurity, and when the king's attitudes were discussed, the person they referred to was ex-president Fernando Collor de Mello for they still remember what happened when he was in power.

As a whole we could say that we were astonished to see how aware of the difficulties we are passing through the young people are. Sometimes, we grownups think they are alienated, but they really aren't. Isn't it great to learn they care for the country and its future?

How we did it:

We chose a Brazilian fable written by Monteiro Lobato, whose books are becoming popular again in Brazil. This fable was translated by Maria Odete Staut, our director.

First the students read the fable and we checked the vocabulary.

A Brazilian Fable - Two Travelers in Monkeyland

Two travelers lost in the wilderness after having walked for a long time found themselves in the land of the monkeys. Poor travelers!

Soldiers appear at the frontier, brutal soldiers, who grab them, tie them up, and take them to the presence of His Majesty Simao III.

The king looks them up and down and with simian curiosity asks them, "What do you think of our place?"

One of the travelers, very diplomatic, replies without delay:

"I think this kingdom is the eighth wonder of the world. I have traveled a lot, from Zanzibar to the South Pole, but never, ever have I seen people more beautiful, a court with similar intelligence, and a king with such a noble face like your Majesty's."

Simao relieved himself in a very satisfied way and turning to his guard said:

"Let him go. Give him a palace to live in, and find him the most beautiful girl for a wife. And I decree him a Knight of the Golden Banana Order."

So that was done and His Majesty Simao looking at the second traveler inquires:

"And you? What do you think of my Kingdom?"

The second traveler being a very nervous and bad-tempered man, a man who honored truth could not restrain himself, shouted:

"What I think? Some nerve! What I think?"

"And what is that?" asks Simao beginning to get angry.

"It is simple. This place is full of monkeys. Monkeys are everywhere, even on the throne."

"Beat him! The king yelled furiously," jumping up and down like a mad monkey. "Bring this detractor down!"

And the bad-tempered and nervous traveler was taken to prison under heavy whipping.

MORAL: He who honors the truth should be ironclad.

The next step was the presentation of these questions:

What's a fable?

What do you think about this kind of society?

What's your idea of the soldiers' attitude at the frontier? Why did they do that?

How about King Simao's questions?

What were the differences between the two travelers? Say something about the first. Comment about the second.

What was wrong in the reactions, both the humans' and simians'?

In your opinion is this kind of society still found in the world? Give examples. And in the past?

As feedback we asked them to write a story based on the moral.

Story (c) Copyright by Monteiro Lobato Licenciamento Lobato. Translated and used with permission. All rights reserved.

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