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Might of the Spirit
Fly Eagle Fly is a thought-provoking South African tale retold by Christopher Gregorowski. While the writing is very simple, the language is descriptive, beautiful and stirring. This genre usually has a moral, and true to tradition this tale packs a powerful message.
- The student will be able to identify the moral of the tale and explain how lessons depicted in literature can reflect real life.
- The student will be able to show how a positive outcome can grow out of giving up something of value.
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Fly Eagle Fly used in this third grade lesson works well as a 'read aloud'. However, before you read the book to your students, it might be instructive to inform the students that Christopher Gregorowski, an Angelican priest, wrote the book in 1981 to lift his daughter's spirits because she was terminally ill.
The idea for the book was derived from a parable found in the biography of James Emman Kweggyir Aggrey, known as Aggrey of Africa. Gregorowski retold it and the book was published in 1982.
Begin the lesson by teaching your students some terms that will prove useful as you read the novel:
- clambered - to climb awkwardly
- gully - a trench worn in the earth by running water after rains
- herd boy - tender of livestock (shepherd)
- parable - a short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or religious principle.
- retold - a new version of a story
- thatch grass - plant material (straw) used as a sheltering cover
- updraft - upward movement of air
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As the book is read, keep the students mindful of the colorful illustrations.
1. After reading the first page, have the students speculate about why the herd boys don't bring the calf back. Then read pages three, four and five.
2. Test their active listening skills by asking how many places does the farmer search?
3. Ask why the farmer feels so alone. How does the writer emphasize this feeling?
4. Ask the students why they think the farmer wants to train the eagle to be a chicken.
5. The farmer tells his friend, "Look, it walks like a chicken, it talks like a chicken, it eats like a chicken. It thinks like a chicken. Of course it's a chicken". Ask the students what they think would have happened to the eagle if the farmer's friend hadn't intervened? Ask them to explain their reasons and whether or not it would have been a good or bad thing.
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1. Have the students practice their verbal and written communication skills by responding to the following prompts:
a. The farmer had rescued and is caring for the eagle, but his friend helps him to understand that he should give him up. How do you think the farmer feels initially? How do you think he feels as he watches the eagle fly away? Think of something in your life that you owned, but you gave up because you felt it was the right thing to do. What were you initial feelings? What were your feelings later?
b. The farmer states, "It thinks like a chicken. Of course it's a chicken." How much influence does our thought process have on us? Write about an experience in which someone influenced your thinking and you wound up not being true to yourself and your beliefs. What important lesson did you learn from that experience?
2. Have the students use their journal or a sheet of paper. Have them draw a line down the center of the page. Write 'Farmer's Feelings' on the top left-hand side and 'My Feelings' on the top right-hand side. Number from one to seven under each title.
Instruct them to think about their feelings and what the farmer might have felt. Next, have them arrange the following feelings and emotions in the order in which they experienced them and how they think the farmer might have experienced them; confusion, sadness, doubt, anger, joy, relief, regret. Have them discuss what they think the farmer felt based on the story. Sharing their personal experience with the class should be left optional.
(Note: Given that young children are not innately unselfish or altruistic, help them out by explaining to them that sometimes when people have to give up something for a good cause, it's natural to have a gamut of emotions about it, including not feeling good about it right away.)
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Sending Your Students Aloft
- pictures of eagles
- white drawing paper
- watercolors or tempera paint (thin with water)
- paint brushes
- container for water
Discuss Niki Daly, the illustrator of Fly Eagle Fly, with the students. Explain that in 1982 when she first illustrated the book, she was limited to two colors. In 2000 a new edition was printed and she was "given her wings to fly" and create a book with full-color pictures.
Show the students the last two pages of the book and talk a little about the simple lines and color. Read the text again and see if they can catch the mood that the illustrator was striving for.
Pass out copies of the following poem. Have the students imagine that the poem is about the eagle that the farmer set free who is now full grown. Have them read and illustrate the poem. One option is to have the students do the illustration and cut out the poem and paste it on their painting, much like the book.
Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)
He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring'd with the azure world, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.
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As A Man Thinketh . . .
This lesson focuses on the moral lesson in the story and what the eagle symbolizes. His habitat, food, and hunting practices are beyond the scope of this lesson. Christopher Gregorowski, an Anglican priest, worked in South Africa and was struck by the parable in James Kwegyir Aggrey's biography, written by Edwin Smith in 1929. In this biography, Aggrey is quoted as saying,
"My people of Africa, we were created in the image of God, but men have made us think we are chickens, and we think we are; but we are eagles. Don't be content with the food of chickens! Stretch forth your wings and fly!"**
It has often been said, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste." Our youngsters, much like the eagle, must have their spirits lifted often so that they, too, can fly like an eagle.
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Gregorowski, Christopher, Fly Eagle Fly, Margaret K. McElderry Books (An imprint of Simon & Schuster), New York, 2000.
Brooks, Cleanth, Understanding Poetry, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., New York, 1960.
Smith, Edwin W., Aggrey of Africa: A Study in Black and White, Books for Libraries Press, Freeport, N.Y., 1971.
Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Springfield, Massachusetts, 1985.
The Free Library, On the Wings of a Story by Aggrey of Africa.