Ted's teaching tips

10th March 2000 at 00:00
Why does this picture make us smile? Is it the distortion of the cat which makes it look round and big-eyed - the physical characteristics that make us feel affectionate and protective towards babies? Or is it the surreal effect? This intriguing picture raises issues about humour, cats and even about design and the imagination.

Humour.

What makes you laugh or smile? Is it slapstick (custard pies); feigned cruelty (Tom and Jerry); puns and word play, such as "I'm a little hoarsehorse"; the unexpected (banana skin); ridicule and satire? Ask children to tell their favourite jokes to the class and see which category of humour they fall into. Think of writers who are funny and recall an incident from one of their books.

Cats.

What do we know about cats (four or five millions years of existence, domesticated and worshipped by Egyptians and protected their granaries from mice and rats; nocturnal, good night vision; sensitive paws, skin, whiskers; athletic, quite intelligent)? Why do we have a cat (catces mice, companionship for elderly, children, or those living alone)? Any snags (sharpens claws, goes out at night, cat wee)? How do we use the word "cat" (fat cat, alley cat, Cheshire cat smile)?

Art, design and technology.

Use this picture as a stimulus to design and make something that looks like a cat: a tea cosy, a paperweight, a cuddly toy, a wall hanging or mobile. Select materials and plan, make and improve your product. Paint a surreal picture where something familiar is distorted bizarrely, like the cat's face in the picture, or where two contrasting elements are brought together in an unexpected way.

Writing.

Write a story about a new kitten coming into your family, relating how it gets itself into trouble (stuck up a tree? steals food? wrecks the happy home?). Collect the best jokes together and compile an illustrated class joke book, possibly under different themes. Write a funny caption or speech bubble for the picture (Cat:"Hello, supper"; Goldfish: "Go away, bighead").


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