TEFLChina Teahouse: Teaching: General:

Groundhog Day -- sample lesson plan for teaching English with movies --Linell Davis, May 22, 1999. Nanjing University English department.

The repetition in this film makes it relatively easy to understand. Many jokes are physical. Students will laugh, which is always a good thing.

Pre-viewing activities

For culture, ask about traditional methods of forecasting the weather in China. Talk about attitudes of city people toward those who live in countryside.

  1. Groundhog Day is a folk belief (if the groundhog sees his shadow there will be 6 more weeks of winter) given new life in the television culture which dictates that the TV weatherman be a public relations agent and entertainer. Often required to appear at community events. He should be lovable. Phil means "love" in Greek, but this TV weatherman is anything but lovable.

  2. Town and city: Urbanites consider small towns boring, unsophisticated, backward, etc. while rural residents consider city dwellers to be selfish, insincere, unfeeling

For language, talk about weather words and feelings/moods.

  1. English has a large vocabulary to describe both the weather and personal feelings: gloomy, stormy ("He's looking really stormy today"); cold, cool, warm ("He has a very warm personality; the atmosphere in the meeting room was very cold), and hot (angry).

  2. This appears in sayings and songs: "Don't know why, there's no sun up in the sky Stormy weather, since my man and I ain't together, keeps raining all the time." "Blue skies, smiling at me. Nothing but blue skies do I see." "I can see clearly now, the rain has gone. I can see all the clouds have passed away."

  3. Phil Connors is a cold, selfish, egotistical man who finds himself condemned to live one cold winter day over and over until he becomes a better, kinder (warmer) person. Very often he seems to be talking about the weather when he is describing what it is like for him to live Feb. 2nd over and over: "It's gonna [going to] be cold; it's gonna be gray, and it's gonna last you for the rest of your life."

  4. If you subscribe to the Terry Avon school of EFL learning, you could have a contest on the pronunciation of Native American place names. Punxsatawney, Youghigheny, Monongahela, Piscataway. Get a gazeteer and have a ball. Or try tongue twisters: How much wood would a woodchuck (groundhog) chuck (throw) if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

  5. Meaning and use of "glass is half empty/half full"

Let students imagine what they would do "if there were no tomorrow."

During Viewing

When did you realize this was a comedy?

What do you see/hear in the first few minutes that tells you it is a comedy?

How does Phil cope with being trapped in time?

1. Practical attempts to solve the problem, which fail due to time/logic problems

2. Self indulgence

3. Disillusionment

4. Reformation -- becoming a new man

The ending is comic because it shows us that Phil still has some of the old, calculating, self inside him. As he and Rita walk out of the guest house into the new, snow-covered day, he exclaims, with his new enthusiastic wonder at life: "It's so beautiful -- Lets live here." Then, after he kisses Rita, he adds: "We'll rent to start." (Keep your options open.)

After viewing

Journal writing /small group discussions

  1. In what ways are we all like Phil at the start of the film? What are we dissatisfied about? Who do we feel superior to? In what ways are we selfish?

  2. What can we learn from the film about how to deal with our own problems? (It is only when we stop resenting/hating/complaining about the life we have and accept our situation, that we can truly live.)

  3. Did you have any difficulty accepting the fantasy of time repeating itself? Why does the storyteller-filmmaker use this device? What other kind of story does it resemble? (Traditional fairy tales, myths, legends.) Is there anything "real" about this fantasy? (A philosophical truth.) Do films that are more realistic tell a "fairy tale" about life? (They lived happily ever after conventions of many films, etc.)

  4. What do you need to do to win the heart of the one you love?

Other activities

  1. Play charades to communicate feelings. Classmates respond with a weather word

  2. Write and perform a dialogue with a comic love scene
  3. Write and perform a TV spot featuring Chinese folk weather forecasting

Have fun

Linell

Tip

See Teaching with movies* --Linell Davis


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