Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Headless Horseman Rides Again

Every year during the month of October and at times into early November, I show my EFL students the Disney animated version of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. The video serves several purposes both didactic and non-didactic. It continues to be popular with the students regardless of their age, major or occupation.


The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Most of you are probably familiar with Washington Irving’s classic American short story, originally penned in 1819-1820, based on a German folktale. A transient schoolmaster, Icabod Crane, arrives in the tiny colonial burg of Sleepy Hollow situated near Tarrytown, in Westchester County of New York state. As he integrates into the local society, he falls for a wealthy farmer’s daughter, Katrina Van Tassel. The superstitious pedagogue battles a local rival for the fair maid’s favors. On the night of October 31st during festivities at the Van Tassel estate ghost stories told by the guests bring out the worst of Icabod’s fears. One story in particular, that of a Headless Horseman who rides one night each year in search of a new head, terrifies the schoolmaster beyond all else. The hapless schoolteacher later encounters the legendary Headless Horseman and … Well, if you don’t know the rest of the story it’s worth a read.


Setting the stage

The full-color, animated feature runs about 30 minutes, so it is short enough to fit well into a 90-minute class session. I prepare a two-page worksheet to help the students follow the story and extract key information as they watch. To set the stage overall we talk about legends in Colombia which may include:

• The Three Crosses (Las Tres Cruces)
• Chupacabra (like a “Boogeyman”)
• El Duende (similar to a Leprechaun)
• Pata Sola (like a one-legged “Bigfoot”)


Are you superstitious?

After watching the story and working through the task sheet, we check answers and responses. We talk about their likes and dislikes which may be similar to those seen in the story. I also ask about their superstitions and reactions to situations like:

• Breaking a mirror
• A black cat or black butterfly approaching them
• Using a broom to ward off bad luck
• Walking under a ladder

The activity, in general, is useful for English levels from beginner to upper intermediate and beyond. It serves to illustrate some aspects of history, culture and customs in the USA associated with the fall of the year.


The Worksheet is available

If you have access to this particular video and would like to have a copy of the worksheet I use, e-mail your request to me at: lynchlarrym@gmail.com and Ill be glad to send you one right away.

Although I’m not a great proponent of using whole movies for their own sake in the EFL classroom, I do favor using short, 5 minute or so video clips on occasion. Audio visuals like videos do aid in lowering the affective filter of the students and can greatly promote learning when used judiciously.

By the way, are YOU superstitious?

1 comment:

cylon said...

A typical dictionary definition of hypnosis states that it is: a state that resembles sleep but that is induced by suggestion. However, anyone who has tried hypnosis (and any self respecting hypnotist) will tell you that this is a very simplistic view of the subject!
A much better description comes from the Free Online Dictionary which states that hypnosis is: an artificially induced state of consciousness, characterised by heightened suggestibility and receptivity to direction. So what does this mean and how can it be used to your advantage?

Well, the subject of hypnosis has been discussed and pondered since the late 1700s. Many explanations and theories have come and gone though science, however, has yet to supply a valid and well-established definition of how it actually happens. It's fairly unlikely that the scientific community will arrive at a definitive explanation for hypnosis in the near future either, as the untapped resources of our 'mostly' uncharted mind still remain something of a mystery.
However, the general characteristics of hypnosis are well documented. It is a trance state characterized by extreme suggestibility, deep relaxation and heightened imaginative functioning. It's not really like sleep at all, because the subject is alert the whole time. It is most often compared to daydreaming, or the feeling you get when you watch a movie or read a captivating book. You are fully conscious, but you tune out most of the outside world. Your focus is concentrated intensely on the mental processes you are experiencing - if movies didn't provide such disassociation with everyday life and put a person in a very receptive state then they would not be as popular (nor would TV advertising be as effective!). Have you ever stated that a film wasn't great because you just couldn't 'get into it'???
This works very simply; while daydream or watching a movie, an imaginary world becomes almost real to you because it fully engages your emotional responses. Such mental pursuits will on most occasions cause real emotional responses such as fear, sadness or happiness (have you ever cried at a sad movie, felt excited by a future event not yet taken place or shivered at the thought of your worst fear?).
It is widely accepted that these states are all forms of self-hypnosis. If you take this view you can easily see that you go into and out of mild hypnotic states on a daily basis - when driving home from work, washing the dishes, or even listening to a boring conversation. Although these situations produce a mental state that is very receptive to suggestion the most powerful time for self-change occurs in the trance state brought on by intentional relaxation and focusing exercises. This deep hypnosis is often compared to the relaxed mental state between wakefulness and sleep.
In this mental state, people feel uninhibited and relaxed and they release all worries and doubts that normally occupy their mind. A similar experience occurs while you are daydreaming or watching the TV. You become so involved in the onscreen antics