So, do YOU teach allusion? I know that the 4th and 5th grade teachers in my school do NOT teach allusion (or any figurative language actually). Allusion actually makes its first appearance in the Common Core Standards at the 4th grade level:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including those that allude to significant characters found in mythology (e.g., Herculean).
So, that standard is NOT just telling you to teach myths in 4th grade, but it’s telling you that your students should know enough about mythology to understand allusions to myths. So, do your students know what an allusion is?
Today I’m sharing with you an activity that teaches allusion with the song “Someday We’ll Know” by the New Radicals. You can download it here on Google Docs or by clicking the images below.
Admittedly, I use this activity with my 7th graders, so yes, it’s probably somewhat advanced for you if you teach 4th grade. But it WOULD make a great extension activity or an easy way to differentiate and challenge your higher level learners.
I also included in this download an answer key for both highlighting allusions in the song and sample answers for the discussion questions so that you don’t have to do any research yourself. The point that I drive home by teaching allusion using this song is this: You can NOT understand an allusion unless you have prior knowledge about the subject the author is alluding to. So often our students come across allusions in literature that are way over their heads, so they just skim over them, never knowing the meaning of the specific phrase or paragraph that contained the allusion.
What are the best novels for teaching allusion? With my 7th graders, I teach allusion with the novel The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963. I love, love, love this novel, and it’s full of allusions, like Nanook of the North, Jack Frost, and Scientific Popular Magazine. I like to show my students specific examples so that they know exactly what the author means by looking at old issues of the magazine online or watching a short excerpt of Nanook of the North (one minute is ENOUGH of that one!).
I teach allusion to my 8th graders with another favorite novel, The Wednesday Wars. This novel has even MORE allusions. It’s packed with Shakespeare allusions so I teach my kids A LITTLE about Shakespeare, but it’s so full of others, too, such as Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle, the Bing Crosby Christmas Special, Walter Cronkite, The Monkees, the Vietnam War, and sooooo many others. And I *LOVE* this period in American history!