To enhance student learning and literature exposure, the Trinity Academy high school English department is assigning at least one literary work per grade level to be read and analyzed (to a certain degree) by the beginning of the fall semester. The literary piece for seniors is a play written in 1913 by George Bernard Shaw entitled Pygmalion.
Background and Summary of Pygmalion
The play’s title and story line come from a Greek story about a sculptor named Pygmalion who falls in love with a statue he has made of a beautiful young woman; he asks the gods to have this statue come alive, whose request is granted. In Shaw’s play he has a renowned British language expert and teacher (named Henry Higgins) making a bet with an expert in Indian dialects (named Colonel Pickering) that he can teach a poor, uneducated, low-class flower girl whom they encounter (named Eliza Doolittle) how to speak and act as well as the upper class can do; to win the bet, Higgins must pass Eliza off as a duchess at an ambassador’s ball where only the elite, upper-class socialites are invited. Not only does Higgins win the bet, but in the process he falls in love with his “creation” as Pygmalion did. Hollywood captured this charming story in an academy award-winning musical called My Fair Lady.
Shaw wrote the play to satirize and expose the shallowness of the rigid boundaries of social class in a humorous way. Perhaps more applicable to Trinity seniors and their English teachers, the play does provide a model of what a master teacher (Higgins) looks like as well as what a successful student (Doolittle) looks like; the transformation of the low-class flower girl into a charming upper-class lady, however, could not have occurred without both teacher and student demonstrating special attributes.
Annotation Assignment due first day of class: 50 points
Students need to underline or bracket various passages that describe the positive teacher attributes of Higgins and positive student attributes of Liza/Flower Girl. Look for these attributes and write the boldfaced word in the margin next to the passages you mark.
*Concerning Higgins as a successful teacher, he
(1) incorporated innovative learning strategies/technologies,
(2) provided immediate, helpful feedback,
(3) required adequate, focused practice,
(4) gave rewards and consequences for learning performance,
(5) provided opportunities to apply acquired learning in every day settings, and
(6) garnered later successes from the application of these strategies.
*Concerning Liza as a successful student, she
(1) took personal initiative to allow herself to be accepted as a student of Higgins, (2) showed consistency and diligence in practicing the concepts exposed to her,
(3) demonstrated persistence in learning despite times of difficulties and seeming failures,
4) displayed a giftedness in learning/applying information to which she was exposed,
(5) demonstrated an appreciation for others’ efforts to improve her life, and
(6) ultimately garnered various benefits and successes from her student experiences and investments.
Use the word “other” for an attribute that doesn’t fit the categories provided above.
Furthermore, following each abbreviation provide a concise summary of the words that were underlined or bracketed.
Annotation example for teacher attributes: (from the Hollywood musical):
To illustrate from the Hollywood musical, Higgins recognizes that the low-class people like Doolittle have a habit of dropping the “h” sound on words (so “hat” was pronounced “at”). He designs a tube that Doolittle breathes into when saying a phrase that has several “h” sounds in it; if she pronounces the “h” sound correctly, a flame that is connected to the other end of the tube flickers so that she can visually recognize when she successfully pronounces the “h” sound.
For students’ annotation here, they could write: “technology” or “tech.”—flame flickering w/”h” sounds.
Annotation example for student attributes:
To illustrate that Doolittle showed initiative in obtaining lessons from Higgins, she investigated how much an acquaintance paid for being taught to speak French—and she used this information for offering Higgins a fair compensation (in her own mind) for teaching her to speak English properly. For students’ annotation here, they could write “initiative”—researched speech-lesson costs. Of course, be sure that the passages in the text have been underlined or bracketed.
Students will use these annotations to discuss the themes and literary concepts as well as include them as topic areas and specific supports in writing assignments.
As a reminder, students need to turn in their marked plays on the first day of class in order to be graded for this 50-point assignment. If you lose your book, purchase a new one with this ISBN #978-1-4165-0040-7.
Note: To help seniors taking the ACT in September and October improve their scores, we may interrupt or postpone a comprehensive study of the play until students review the Irby Rules. A majority of the ACT English section involves punctuation and grammar rules.
Hopefully students will find Pygmalion a beneficial, enjoyable learning experience, especially when we view My Fair Lady in class as part of our study. Happy reading!