I often wonder whether we are asking of our students too much when we throw images or texts at them on the basis of which they are expected to “create something”.
Even the most resourceful people would occasionally be hard put to produce anything of value. Therefore, we must be prepared to provide some input to help learners along when they are not at their most creative or assign some other task related to the topic.
Here is an example using a painting. In fact the suggestions which follow are meant for advanced learners.
Peach Blossoms—Villiers-le-Bel by Childe Hassam
The feature of the image that is susceptible of different interpretations and open to discussion is the way the trunks and branches interlock. One may want to start by eliciting words that describe the shape (a triangle, almost a heart!) or the way the branches curve to the left as if the wind is weaving intricate patterns with them.
One could ask the students whether they could think of another caption for the painting. The actual one is Peach Blossoms.
If there are no ideas, here are some among which they would be invited to choose from:
· The embrace of the branches (why do branches embrace each other? A product of luck, they have nothing else to embrace etc.)
· Unwieldy branches (what makes branches unruly? The wind, the rain, the elements )
· The blossoms that wanted to take over the land
· The blossoms that could not resist the music of nature
· Curling up to face the elements
They could now embark on expanding one of those ideas into a story or a poem.
The teacher could encourage them to base their stories or poems on facts, which means doing a bit of research online. I did a bit of reading in Wikipedia to write the following:
Here is the link for what inspired my story:
The blossoms that wanted to take over the land
Once upon a time blossom trees lived in ignorance of their power. Every spring their branches and twigs sprouted countless blossoms which attracted hundreds of buzzing guests.
Blossom trees thought that the visitors were enchanted by their beauty until an innocent-looking bee trusted them with the big secret: they (blossom trees) supplied bees with all the protein they needed to survive through their pollen -- and all for nothing!
Blossom trees refused to grow flowers the next spring if they were to get nothing in return for their offer of food and sustenance to bees. When summer came, horrified they realised that they bore no fruit, they were light and barren – not their solid productive selves.
And then it occurred to them that giving was not unreciprocated. They started to pray and pray for the bees to come back next year. And the bees did come back, and the blossom trees danced and danced with wild exuberance till the cascades of their riotous petals covered the ground far and wide.
Blossom trees were satisfied that by shedding their blossoms they had conquered the world around them.
If the students do not feel like writing, here is some reading they could do and present the main ideas orally to the class:
A group of students could read this part:
In Japan cherry trees are grown not for their fruits, but only for their beautiful blossom. The trees seldom bear fruit: when they occasionally do, it is inedible. The days in which the cherry trees blossom mark a very auspicious event: festivals, parties and other important events are planned to coincide with it, so as to garner favour with their ancestors. Japanese call raw horsemeat sakura, or cherry blossom, after its pinkish colour.
Picnicking underneath a cherry tree in bloom, in Japan, is called hanami, literally “flower viewing”. What started as a ritual at the imperial court is now a national obsession, with more and more cherry blossom trees being planted throughout Japan. Each year, the sakura zensen or “cherry blossom forecast” is released by the Japanese metrological office, and is tracked as it moves northward up Japan along with the warm weather. The blossom starts in Okinawa in January, reaches Tokyo around March or April, and then heads north to Hokkaido. The blossoms have come to symbolise the transience of life and so pop up frequently in Japanese art, film and music, as well as on kimonos, tea cups, plates and other everyday objects.
Another group would be given this one:
The Queen gets a sprig of blossom from Glastonbury each year around Christmas time. The blossom comes from a tree on Wearyall Hill above the town, which is supposed to have grown from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea, mourner of Christ and alleged bearer of the holy grail, more than 2,000 years ago. The tree is a variety of common hawthorn called Crataegus monogyna 'Biflora’ because it flowers twice – once in spring and again in winter, shortly after Christmas.
Many cuttings have been taken from it over the years: the most recent tree was planted in 1951, and badly damaged in 2010. The church of St John also has three sacred thorns, one of which is more than 80 years old, and which has produced grafts and cuttings that have been planted all over the world.
And the following for a third group:
The may tree or hawthorn is the only British plant to be named after the month in which it blooms. It is the origin of both the Maypole and the phrase “Ne’er cast a clout till may be out” – which refers not to the ending of the month, but to the opening of the flowers. Though the may is traditionally associated with May Day, it blossoms in the middle of the month (or even later, this year) not at the beginning. This is due to the changes made to the Gregorian calendar in 1752. Before this, May Day would have occurred 11 days later, exactly the time when the may tree breaks into flower.
It is considered extremely unlucky to bring hawthorn flowers inside the house, a superstition more widely believed than for any other species of plant in the British Isles. There are many possible reasons for this, but the most convincing is to do with its smell. Hawthorn flowers have a heavy, complicated scent, the distinctive element of which is triethylamine, which is also one of the first chemicals produced by a dead human body when it starts to decay.
On the other hand, triethylamine also smells like semen; hence its positive association with wild springtime romps in the fields.
All of the above have been removed from The Telegraph of 20 April 2017 (Some quite interesting facts about blossom)
You could even decorate your story to make it more alluring. I did mine:
I hope you have lots of fun with your students.