03 April 2009


Lesson Plan: Sita Sings the Blues/Ramayana by Valmiki
Please notify me if you plan to use all or part of this plan. Suggestions and comment
always welcome. As the students finsih their work, it will also be posted on the wiki.
Teacher: Leslie Healey Grade: 12
St. Mark’s High School Subject: World Literature
Wilmington, Delaware Honors Phase 4, 5
Date: April 2009
1. Description of Class and Students:
This lesson plan will serve 22 twelfth graders, ages 17-18. There are 12 boys and
10 girls. There is one Indian student and two Chinese students, all of whom are bilingual.
The students are honors level, Phase V.
2. Lesson Goals-Students’ Learning Objectives
*Students will recognize Valmiki’s relevance, his ability to capture universal human
behavior and impulses.
*Students will be able to identify culturally essential aspects of a contemporary
filmed version of the story: Sita Sings the Blues.
*Students will be able to a) write a critique on one of the social and cultural themes
and aspects of Sita Sings the Blues or b) write a movie critique evaluating the success
or failure of the film as a discrete work of art or c) deliver a four-minute presentation
on the social/cultural issues inherent in this re-imagination of the Ramayana.
*Students will use literary knowledge (Ramayana) as the basis for extending
understanding of themselves and their culture.
3. Goals are suitable for these students because…
The ability to compare and contrast is a critical thinking skill natural to the human
experience. Students in this age group are self-aware and thoughtful in how they
evaluate experience and make decisions regarding action. This is an important reason
why Sita Sings the Blues/Valmiki’s Ramayana appropriate for this age group. Adding
the secondary layer of cultural awareness will serve to emphasize the commonality of
human experience. This is the goal of the literary portion of a Language Arts class.
The compare/contrast technique is a concrete way to bridge the gap between what the
students can understand consciously and what they are close to understanding as they
mature. In addition, this lesson will reinforce cultural awareness and a sense of their
place in society and culture: that we are all both different and alike in our experience.
The students will also apply critical thinking skills to a critique of the film, both as a
representation of the original story and an artistic work on its own merits. A side
benefit will be an acknowledgement that literature is not irrelevant to their lives.
4. How do these goals support the district’s curriculum, state frameworks,
and/or content standards?
The following NCTE content standards are supported in this lesson:
Standard One-Using written and oral communication appropriately
Standard Two-Constructing and extending meaning of a literary text through reading,
listening and viewing.
Standard Four-Using literary knowledge through print and visual media to connect
self to society and culture.
5. How do these goals support broader curriculum standards in Language Arts
and/or other disciplines?
Since one recognized goal of most writers (certainly a goal of dramatists) is to
communicate common experience, adding an additional layer of meaning onto the
textual discussion of The Ramayana would enhance the lesson’s relevance by having
students focus on the cultural themes of Valmiki’s epic. It is supportive of Delaware
state standards that students be instructed in the multiple cultures present in 21st
century America: this particular lesson is well suited to this goal, for it exhibits the
ease with which subsequent generations have adopted the epic for their own time and
culture. As should always be a goal in a Language Arts curriculum, this lesson creates
a framework to discuss values and character by acknowledging the cultural aspects of
a classic story. Hopefully, the universal appeal of Shakespeare is reinforced for
students. In addition, it offers practice in written and oral media, and is particularly
strong in promoting visual literacy and self-awareness.
6. How does the teacher plan to engage students in the content? What will the
teacher do? What will the students do?
Background: Students will already be familiar with Valmiki’s Ramyana, having
recently finished a class reading and analysis of the story. An assessment of students’
comprehension of literary aspects of the epic is separate from the goals and
assessments of this lesson. The work was discussed with epic techniques, plot
development, and religious/cultural values in mind. So students will come to this
portion of the unit with understanding of the plot, the ability to identify particular
literary techniques used by Valmiki to represent cultural values, and a sense of epic as
a distinct genre from poetry, drama or fiction. The study of the cultural values was
particularly important as scaffolding for this next section: viewing and evaluating Sita
Sings the Blues, a 21th century interpretation or “reimagining” of Valmiki’s
Instructor Strategies: The hook for the lesson is foolproof; watching a film (instead of
reading) is every student’s fond desire for English class. Comparison of the film and
the play will be done in discussion (whole group) and then instructor will assign a
choice of written or oral assessment.
Introduction/Warm-up (10 minutes): We have read the Ramayana. I know that we
have had some discussion regarding whether or not the epic represents values relevant
to today’s India. Indeed, if the Ramayana hold universal appeal for present readers,
does it also hold true that Sita Sings the Blues also presents universal appeal? Does
the filmmaker (Nina Paley) protect the original intent of the story, or has she changed
the story and themes? If so, to what end? This film adaptation presents the story of
the original Ramayana and adds a new layer of story—the filmmaker’s personal
Transition: I am going to distribute a sheet noting particular elements of structure related
to the genre of film, as well as some particular styles of animation that will help you
navigate your first viewing of the film. You should jot down your impressions and
questions as we enjoy the movie.
Objectives/Goals: By the time this lesson is over, you will identify common themes and
language between the movie and epic. You will recognize Valmiki’s characters in their
(various) new incarnations in the film. You will be able to discuss what Sita Sings the
Blues tells us about culture as a determining feature of literature/cinema. How will I
know that you can do this? Because you will either blog your thoughts or present them
orally to the class when the movie is over.
WATCH MOVIE-should take 2 ½ class periods. 1 hour, 21 minutes
Whole Group Discussion (after movie):
Allow 12 minutes for general impressions. Then ask for any questions regarding the
tension between the two stories. Through questions, make sure the discussion turns to
discussion moves to themes-universal and contemporary.
Introduce Independent Assessment (8 minutes): The students will have a choice of
posting a response to a themed blog entry by the instructor OR presenting a four-minute
presentation comparing the two visions of the heroine. Students are already familiar with
the technique for compare/contrast. As it is essential for most critical thinking activities,
this will add to their experience with the style of composition. They are also familiar
with the rules of blogging for class, so a simple reminder will suffice.
7. What difficulties do students typically experience in this area, and how will I plan
to anticipate these difficulties?
First, their comparison/contrast skills are still developing, so I may have to monopolize
the first five minutes of the discussion after the film to answer questions. I may also
interrupt the film when indicated. The handout/worksheet will also direct their attention
to salient points in the movie.
Second, they have not formally studied the genre of cinema, so there will doubtless be
some questions regarding the movie’s construction and style. Third, I will be vigilant
regarding what they say during the discussion. I also take care to be sensitive to how the
Hindu/Sikh student(s) react(s). The students usually take care to respect each other, but
even as seniors in high school, they are sometimes embarrassed and ask their questions in
an immature way, so it is important that I model the proper tone, vocabulary and degree
of respect that I want them to show. I also expect some energetic commentary on the
Indian-style dress, paintings and puppets.
Fourth, some students are better at gathering information than expressing themselves
on sensitive issues. I will offer assessment choices to acknowledge this fact. These will
serve to support the success of the different strengths of the students.
8. What instructional materials or other resources, if any, will I use?
*The equipment necessary will be the movie (watched at
http://www.thirteen.org/sites/reel13/blog/watch-sita-sings-the-blues-online/347/) and the
projector. I understand a DVD of the film will be available for purchase soon, and an
episodic version is already up on YouTube.
*The handout will be copied for each of them. I will collect it as they finish the project.
*They have Valmiki’s Ramayana in their textbooks for backup. I will also post links to
relevant sites on Valmiki’s Ramayana and Sita Sings the Blues on our class wiki at
http://healigan.wikispaces.com/SITA+SINGS+THE+BLUES, which they can use to
reinforce their knowledge of the movie.
*I will use a rubric tailored to each assignment for assessment.
9. How did I plan to assess student achievement of the goals? What procedures will I
I will assess understanding by classroom discussion after the film. I will also review
the worksheet they completed during the film. The formal assessment will be the writing
assignment or the presentation. Since this is a portion of a larger unit, I will have already
tested their understanding of the original text through a test and a short critical response
paper. This unit is the large part of the Asian unit, which takes an entire quarter to finish.
It is worth it!
10. How do I plan to use the results of the assessment?
The critical response essay and the Sita Sings the Blues project will together account
for 50% of the quarter’s grades. So for the cultural awareness part of the unit, the project
will serve as the total assessment.
Leslie Healey http://healigan.bogspot.com/
Wilmington Delaware http://healigan.wikispaces.com
April 3, 2009
RUBRIC: Blog/Movie Critique NAME______________________________
APRIL 2009
3 paragraphs? ____
topic evident in each para ____
Minimum 5 sentences per para ____
Strong obvious thesis? ____
Main points noted & supported with
specific examples from text ____
Strong conclusion ____
Logical progression of points made ____
Name of epic/film italicized ____
Tone appropriate/diction ____
Punctuation-minimal errors
(apostrophe, commas, sentence
endings, semicolon, quotation
marks) ____
Use of appropriate vocabulary
Grammar-minimal errors (s-v agree,
pronoun references,
verb forms, syntax, etc) ____
World Lit 4, 5 Sita Presentation
Ms. Healey April 2009
Now that we have finished watching Sita Sings the Blues, it is time for
you to evaluate. We had some class discussion regarding the backstory
for Sita. I heard from you regarding Nina Paley’s interpretation of this
ancient archetypal story as well as your impressions of the importance of
cultural heritage in the development of an individual’s world-image. It is
important-and not just to the individual, but also to all of us. Bravo! I
would like you to prepare a four-minute research presentation about one
aspect of the techniques used in development of the film OR compare the
themes of the original epic to the themes highlighted in Paley’s version.
You may play a song or make a poster, create a video or shadow box, or
talk to us. You must consult at least three sources, all of which may be
online—be careful. Whatever media you use, I will need a list of your
sources, your poster or a copy of anything digital when you present. Be
ready to present on the 21st. Dazzle me just as Sita dazzled us!
RUBRIC: SITA PRESENTATION NAME______________________________
APRIL 2009
Topic presented clearly & initially ____
Research quality & depth ____
Research quantity-sufficient ____
On point for topic ____
Familiarity with topic ____
Identify sources ____
Clear speech, voice modulation ____
Minimum nervousness evident ____
Length appropriate ____
Use of appropriate vocabulary ____
Ability to answer questions ____
Memorized or near it ____
Quality of material preparation ____
Use your materials during pres? ____
Materials created if needed? ____
World Lit: Mrs. Healey Wilmington, DE
Premise of film-basic suppositions underlying film
Characterization-belief, voice, actions
Setting/set decoration
*Identify movie, director, date, genre, one-paragraph synopsis
*Must comment/note references to other works, whether they inspired the
Film or were actually the source material.
*Check the wiki for links and additional web materials to support your writing.
*More information to come as I develop it or YOU find it on the web. Please add any
Good web sources on the wiki.
*Compare to other versions, plots, genres, etc.

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