Puzzling Paraphrases: A whole language activity for upper level students

Much classroom activity can be based on a lengthy quote that has depth. We come across such thought-provoking quotes in various places –  in a magazine, during a political speech, on the radio, etc. The next time you encounter one, make note of it. Later find a copy to share with a group of upper level students, and consider using a combination of the ideas listed below to create a whole language activity.

  • Many attritbute the following quote to Socrates. (See Wikiquote article.) Apparently there is some debate over the source. Regardless, the statement is provocative and discussion-worthy.

“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.” (Retrieved from goodreads.)

  1. Discussion: Who do you think said this? What kind of person? Young, old, man, woman, parent, grandparent, politician…?
  2. Discussion: Summarize the thought in one sentence. Decide if you agree or disagree with the statement.
  3. Reading/ speaking: Create a puzzle of words. Break up the quote into phrases. Before students see the quote as a whole, ask them to assemble the pieces in the most logical order. Have them work in pairs and then compare their sequencing. Here’s how I’d break up the above quote before I mixed up the pieces: our youth now love// luxury //they have bad manners, contempt for// authority// they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of // exercise// they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their// parents// chatter before// company// gobble up their // food //and tyrannize their //teachers//
  4. Reading/ writing: Make the quote a gapped text. Have them work solo or with a partner to fill in the blanks. Let them compare their work before revealing the actual quote. Model with above quote: Our ________ now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for _________; they show disrespect for their _______ and love chatter in place of ________; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they _______ their parents, chatter before company; _______ up their food and ______ their teachers.
  5. Speaking or writing topics: Allow for students to make a personal connection to such a quote. For example, with the model quote above, I asked a group of students these questions: (1) How would you describe the differences between your generation and your parents’? And you grandparents’? (2) How do you think the generation after you will differ? (3) To what degree should parents influence their children? To what degree do you take after your parents?

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