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IMGALTTAG Volume III: Comedy:  From Aristophanes to the Present


Laugh and Learn
By Doris Braun
Mifflin School

The purpose of this unit is to acquaint fifth graders with elements of comedy. I plan to introduce the historical aspect of comedy as well as introducing some forms of comedy writing such as parodies, limericks and cartoons.  Also, those students with an artistic bent may choose to design a comic mask or clown costume. Fifth graders are already quite adept at stand-up joke telling, so adding to their comic repertoire can only make the classroom a happier place.

I am currently teaching Communications and Science to Grade 5 at Mifflin Elementary School. I feel that this unit will enable the students to meet the portfolio requirements of two personal narratives, a response to literature, and a report.  Each student will write a personal narrative about the funniest thing that ever happened to him/her or the funniest person that he/she knows. In addition, each student will research a famous comedian or comic author. Also, each student will present a book report about one of the funny books that he/she read. This will contribute to the twenty-five-book requirement of the Pittsburgh Public Schools.  These activities will help the students meet all of the communication standards.


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The Evolution Of Comedy As a Literary Genre
Michelle A. Broskovich
Schenley High School

The purpose of my curriculum unit is two-fold. The unit was designed for secondary students to understand the genre of comedy. This goal is achieved through students learning about the origins and the history; infused with the characteristics and elements that define the genre. Through their study of comedy students will work on achieving Pennsylvania Communications standards. Examples of the students’ proficiency and meeting standards will be stored in their student portfolio.

I designed the curriculum unit to provide a detailed background on the evolution of comedy. This curriculum unit outlines the evolution of comedy from Aristophanes to the twentieth century. The second portion of the unit describes and defines the elements and characteristics of comedy. This research is intended to provide the classroom teacher with information to organize and present to students. The third component is my objectives, strategies and classroom activities. I selected William Shakespeare and two of his comedies to gear my activities on. My main objective for the curriculum unit is to present the genre of comedy on the broad scale. I would like to expose students to this genre of literature.  Traditionally tragedies are taught in schools. I never studied any comedies until I took this course. Comedy could be the key to open the mind of disengaged, bored student.


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Comedy in a Cruel World
By Ellen Connelly
Mifflin School

This curriculum unit is designed for middle school students and is specifically targeted for sixth grade English Language Arts students. This curriculum unit will address the themes of fairness and injustice. The intent of this unit is to offer a unique and effective way for students to recognize and deal with these serious issues and themes. My curriculum unit will introduce comedy to students as a mechanism for identifying and coping with injustice they may encounter. This will be done through defining, developing, and exploring humor in the context of a classroom production of a play.


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Comedy: Hurt or Humor?
Julie S. Gillis
Burgwin Elementary

Violence has become such a prevalent means of solving problems in today’s society. Everywhere we look we see that people do not allow things to role off their backs and anger is overtaking any sense of community or neighborly behavior. Road rage and random acts of violence over something as inane as a look can cause people to commit murder. Our students see this anger everyday in their homes, classrooms, television, movies and in the streets. Children have not learned effective means of diffusing situations. As a mediator in my school, I often meet with students who cannot solve a situation and have chosen to fight. However, I have never had a student that has wanted to fight but I have had many students that just do not have the skills to solve their problems peaceably. They do not know how to diffuse situations and often are only making things worse by the actions and words that they use with one another. Many adults have learned to deescalate situations and one such way is to use comedy.

Comedy is an excellent means of diffusing tense situations. This unit will explore different aspects of comedy such as characterization and plot so that the students can see how comedy can help them deescalate events in their own lives. The students will come to understand that some of our most important ideas and opinions can be expressed through humor and be more easily accepted. Through six activities the students will become aware of how comedy can work to their advantage.


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Spicing The Classroom With Laughter: Classical French Comedy Structure
By David C. Ghogomu
Taylor Allderdice High School

Even though Taylor Allderdice High School students have consistently and repeatedly demonstrated their competency and ability to achieve highly in the AP French grammar tests over the years, one still wonders why in the last 15 years not a single student in the school has taken the AP French literature test. Even more, there is reason to question why, in a district which has strong World Language programs characterized by excellent language magnate feeder-elementary programs, more students at the high school level (district-wide) do not try the AP grammar test (than they do now) let alone the literature version.

The introduction of a curriculum unit which deals with comedy and brings a lot of laughter into the classroom may just be what is needed to encourage, attract, or redirect students--who may be or may not be planning to take the AP exam—to take the literature test. Spicing the French Classroom with Laughter is a curriculum unit which promotes comedy and highlights the comical aspects of French literature, albeit with limitations to the classical works of Molière and Voltaire. The goal is to immerse students in the interesting and laughable aspects of literature which, should in turn, foster student interest in reading more literature and acquiring the self-confidence, the lack of which may be hampering some of them from preparing for the French literature AP test.

Molière’s Le Misanthrope and Le Bourgeois gentilhomme offer comical and hilarious situations which promote a lot of laughter for people of all ages, and can be very instrumental in convincing teen-agers to read more and varied literature and to take the literature test (as well as the grammar test).


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Comedy is a Spice of Kindergarten
By Alexis Kilgore
Westwood Elementary School

The main goal of this curriculum unit is to make known to kindergarten students that learning can be fun. Preparing a variety of age-appropriate and comedic classroom lessons and activities for the students and serving them with their existing curriculum will take part in accomplishing this task. This curriculum unit aims to prepare a selection of unique ideas that will compliment the curriculum already in place.

This curriculum unit also serves some rich textured educational items along with a hint of comedic flavor. The unit aims to prepare some insight into the intellectual elements of comedy that are often overlooked. These lessons and activities will offer students skills to sink their teeth into. These skills will help them to objectively view themselves and various situations. This connection between laughing and learning will make a wonderful accompaniment to their course of study.


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Comedy – The Humor of the Mind
Lynn Marsico

Adolescents love to laugh. They laugh at themselves, at the faults of others, when a teacher makes a mistake, when their friend trips and falls, at bodily functions, at dumb blonde jokes, and at a wide range of sit com television shows and movies. Can the subjects of their laughter be used as a jumping off point to a study of the structure of classic comedy? This unit attempts to do just that. Students will be fascinated to know that the same kinds of human situations that make them laugh now also brought laughter to the masses in Greece in 400 BC or in London in 1800. Although designed for the gifted seventh and eighth grade students that I teach, the readings in this unit and the suggested discussions and writings are definitely appropriate for high school students. The unit includes a Aristophanes’ The Clouds, a Shakespearian comedy, Midsummer's Night Dream; A School for Wives by Moliere; Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest and the viewing of a current television comedy such as The Simpsons.

As a part of this curriculum students will not only read the comic works, but also read excerpts from widely respected critical essays on comedy. Guidelines and suggestions for classroom discussions are offered. The final section of the curriculum directs students to write response papers which include connecting the critical essays read to the literature examined.

Students will also investigate the difference between comedy as a dramatic structure and humor. They will differentiate among satire, wit, irony, parody, and farce.


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Perspectives on American Humor
Melissa A. Pearlman

Any study of American Literature would not be complete without a study of the authors who, through their writings, reveal the humorous side of the American character. American writers from Washington Irving to Woody Allen reflect an ability to amuse their audience by creating dramatic comedy, which criticize, satirize, parody, or burlesque the American scene. It is our legacy as Americans and our heritage of freedom of speech that enable us to laugh at our follies and criticize society, government and ourselves. Because a study of American literature and the American character would not be complete without the study of the lighter side of life, this unit emphasizes perspectives on American humor.


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The Origins of Black Humor
Liza Simmons

The use of comedy throughout history has been well documented. This curriculum unit will be used to analyze the impact that comedy has had on the culture of Black Americans. The students will be introduced to a variety of comedic terms and well as characters. These terms and characters will act as a reference point when the students begin to study the history of black humor. The origins of black humor find its roots in the unlikely beginnings of slavery. The impact that slavery had on the establishment of black humor will be examined. Using humor as a method for survival, the students will learn the dual personality that the slave had to develop. The students will also learn the difference between the humor that the slaved showed publicly to his master and the private humor that he keeps within the black community.

The notion that whites imitating blacks on stage, using blackface, was once the number one form of entertainment in America will be addressed. The stereotyping that occurred during this time period, was a distortion of what white Americans thought to be true of black Americans. The implications of how strong an impact this had and continues to have will also be analyzed. The fact that blacks, themselves, had to perform in blackface will be one such example of how embedding these racist views were. Through a variety of methods students will be gain a working knowledge of the history of black humor and how it has effected both white and black Americans.


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What Makes Comedy Funny And Can We Write Humor, Too?
Connie Weiss

This curriculum unit, while designed for a writing class, could easily be adapted for an English class wishing to hook students into writing. It was designed to fill a void in our current curriculum, which is heavily weighted with tragedies, doubtless because more good ones have been written. It is simply harder to write comedy.

In this unit, several texts of comedy are examined as to elements of humor, always from the eye of the writer. Classroom activities are designed around ascertaining what has been found humorous to students, what new avenues of comedy they can find, and using both models and imagination, to create various levels of comedy, from one-liners to short stories.


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Chatham University
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IMGALTTAG Pittsburgh Teachers Institute
Jointly sponsored by Carnegie Mellon University, Chatham University and the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
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