an archive of lesson plans

Author: Aleksandra Bystrova

RU S22 ADV: Limericks (Chastushki)

Language Resident Name: Aleksandra Bystrova

Date: 02/08/2022

Class theme/topics discussed: Russian Limericks (Chastushki)

Goal of the class:

  • Learn about Russian folklore – limericks
  • Develop translation skills

How did you structure the class?

  1. Warm up (10 mins): Discussion
    1) What is the definition of “chastuska”?
    2) Why do you think people compose them?
    3) Which topics do they raise?
    4) Do you have something similar in your culture/country?

I ask students to discuss those questions. Even if they don’t know what is chastuska, they can be creative and just guess. Students present their thoughts and results of a discussion by writing the main ideas on the board. Then, I show them a slide with an official definition and main elements of “chastushka”.

2. Activity 1. Read “chastuski” and translate (10 mins).
I give my students a handout with several limericks to read them and analyze. While they translating them, I add some cultural background for them to better understand the lyrics. We read it together and I also show the rhythm.

3. Activity 2. Watch a piece of the cartoon and translate the limerick (25 mins).
I show my students a piece of a cartoon. (11:03-12:50). In the video, folklore characters sing a limerick. Before watching I give my students handouts with lyrics. After watching I put them in two groups and ask to come up with an English translation of the limerick. While translating they realize, how unexpected the lyrics are.

4. Activity 3. Chastuskki in Modern Russia (10 mins).
We watch youtube videos of limericks in modern Russian culture.
TV-show “Voice”
Political Satire

What do you think of limericks now? Do you like them?

What worked well in this class? What did not work?

Students loved the topic. During the warm-up students found a lot of facts about limericks and managed to create the right understanding of their implementation. Their research made it easier to work later. Even though listeners of chastuska have to possess the certain cultural background to understand the content, students were open-minded and tried hard to understand them. While working in groups, students managed to come up with correct translations of Baba Yaga’s chastuska and were surprised, when we summarized the meaning of it.

How could this class be improved/ modified?

The activities did not take as long as I expected. Students managed to finish the activity very fast. We had 15 minutes left, so I had to improvise and show them videos of modern performances of chastuska. If I could modify this class, I would provide students with lyrics of those songs as well. If the students are comfortable with composing rhymes, the instructor could ask them to come up with their own limericks.

RU S22 ADV: Myths and Mythical Creatures

Language Resident Name: Aleksandra Bystrova

Date: 02/01/2022

Class theme/topics discussed: Myths and Mythical Creatures

Goal of the class:

  • To learn more about Russian traditional mythical creatures
  • To practice storytelling
  • Ice breaking

How did you structure the class?

  1. Warm up (10 mins): Discussion
    1) What is myth/mythology?
    2) Why do people need myths?
    3) Do people use myths in the modern world?

2. Activity 1. Mythical creatures of your culture or region (20 min)
I present to students 3 most famous Karelian (Russian/Slav) mythical creatures and explain how you can “meet” them in real life. Leshiy (the host of the forest), Vodyanoi (the host of the lakes and ponds) and Domovoi (the house creature).

After demonstrating my students those creatures, I ask them to think about one example of mythical creatures from their home region. After small research, they share their characters with the rest of the class.

3. Activity 2. Create a story (30 minutes)
I ask my students to come up with a story, where every mythical creature (that students presented) meets each other. I explain my students the rules of composing any story before they begin. They create visual story (like comics), where their chosen creatures meet each other and deal with a problem.

What worked well in this class? What did not work?

It is easier for advanced students to discuss this topic. They have more vocabulary to answer questions about myths and mythology. I had only 5 students, so I decided not to split them in groups and let them work together as a team.

How could this class be improved/ modified?

I would dedicate two classes to discussing the myths and mythical creatures. It is a broad topic that deserves to be covered. I would find a cartoon or a Youtube video, where the characters from my culture are presented. For example:

RU S22 INT: Celebrities

Language Resident Name: Aleksandra Bystrova

Date: 03/28/2022

Class theme/topics discussed: Celebrities and Famous People

Goal of the class:

  • Discuss vocabulary used to talk about fame
  • Learn about Russian celebrities
  • Create narration about someone else’s actions in Present tense

How did you structure the class?

  1. Warm up (10 mins): Discussion
    I ask my students to discuss the following questions in pairs:
    1) Would you like to be famous?
    Вы бы хотели быть знаменитым?  
    2) If you were a celebrity, how would you become famous?
    Если бы вы были знаменитым, в какой сфере? Как бы вы прославились?
    3) Do you know any Russian famous people? Do you like anyone and why?
    Каких русских знаменитостей вы знаете / кто и почему вам нравится?

2. Activity 1. Qualities that people admire (10 minutes)
I draw a person on the board and ask students for some help to give him a stage name. This person is very famous in Russia. Students should come to the board and write qualities that can be admired in a celebrity.

3. Activity 2. What are they doing right now? (15 minutes)
Each small group writes the name of a famous living person on a slip of paper. The teacher will collect and redistribute the pieces of paper, one per group. The group must then write four sentences telling what the person is doing right now. The teacher will encourage imagination and creativity.

4. Activity 3. Game: Pairs of Famous characters (15 mins).
In advance, the teacher will write names of famous people on pieces of paper. The names should each have a “match.” Here are some examples:

  • Матроскин и Шарик
  • Волк и заяц
  • Пятачок и Сова

The teacher will distribute the papers and instruct the students not to show the paper to anyone. Then, instruct the students to walk around the room trying to find their “matches” without saying the name of the person.

What worked well in this class? What did not work?

Students loved the class. My intermediate group knows many Russian celebrities from their classes at Pomona, so it was easy to spend time naming and discussing them. The activity with writing sentences if very helpful for the Intermediate group. They seemed comfortable taking their time and writing down the sentences in Russian.

How could this class be improved/ modified?

If the group works very fast, at the end of the lesson you can play a game, where students write a famous name on a piece of paper and pin it on someone else’s forehead. Person tries to guess what name is pinned on his/her by asking others around the room yes or no questions.

RU SP22 INT/ADV: Fears

Language Resident Name: Aleksandra Bystrova

Date: 04/26/2022

Class theme/topics discussed: Fears

Goal of the class:

  • Talk about names of fears in Russian
  • Storytelling
  • Learn how to react on scary situations

How did you structure the class?

  1. Warm up (10 mins): Discussion
    I ask my students to discuss the following questions in pairs:
    1) What is the nature of fear? Why do people feel it?
    Какова природа страха: почему люди испытывают страх?
    2) What is your biggest fear?
    Чего вы боитесь больше всего?
    3) Describe the last time you were scared.
    Опишите последний раз, когда вы испытали страх.

2. Activity 1. List of fears (10 minutes)
Students go to the board and write words for objects or situations that people can be afraid of. Then, we discuss whether or not those fears are phobias and if they have scientific names.

3. Activity 2. Cards of fear (20 minutes)
One group of students come up with scary situations. The second group should react to those situations, describing what was scary about them.

4. Activity 3. Game: Create a Monster (20 mins).
Students are divided in pairs. Each pair should come up with a picture of a monster that does not exist. While thinking about their monster, they can consider the following questions:
1) What is the name?
2) Why people are afraid of it?
3) What is its purpose?
4) How does it look like?

What worked well in this class? What did not work?

The class went well. Students really enjoyed talking about fears of each other. Initially, I planned the discussion in pairs, but they wanted to know opinions of everyone, so we decided to discuss it together. Students also came up with funny stories for their monsters.

How could this class be improved/ modified?

Maybe I would add one more activity to this class, because students did not spend much time creating scary stories. Also, I would change places between Activity 2 and Activity 3, so students could create a story and include it in their story. That would be more fun!

RU F21 INT: Russian Cuisine

Language Resident Name: Aleksandra Bystrova

Date: 11/16/2021

Class theme/topics discussed: Russian Cuisine

Goal of the class:

  • Talk about most famous Russian meals
  • Learn vocabulary about cooking
  • Prepare for a cooking class

How did you structure the class?

  1. Warm up (5 mins)
    I ask my students to discuss the following questions in pairs:
    1) Which traditional Russian meals do you know?
    2) Have you ever tried Russian cuisine? What was your experience like?
    3) Have you ever been to a Russian restaurant?

2. Activity 1. Do you know this meal? (10 minutes)
I show my students pictures of the most famous meals and ask them to guess names or ingredients.

3. Activity 2. Cooking Vocabulary (10 mins)
I show my students a PowerPoint slide with cooking vocabulary and ask if they know those words. I prepared a handout for them with those words.

4. Activity 3. Game: Describe an action (10 mins).
After that, I ask my students to come in front of the class and show a cooking action without using words. Other students should guess what they are showing. Then they change.

5. Activity 4 (20 mins)
I divide my students into two groups and ask them to choose one meal that is easy to cook. They should write a recipe on a board using the vocabulary they learnt. Then they present their recipe and we vote for the meal that the majority would like to try. Next class we will cook the meal using their recipe.

What worked well in this class? What did not work?

The class went well. Food is one of the most favorite topics of my students since they had been asking me to talk about Russian cuisine or cook something from the very beginning of the semester. This class is good for practicing the vocabulary dedicated to food and cooking. It also includes the cultural element.

How could this class be improved/ modified?

I would leave it as it is. This class was created with the help of the Spanish language resident Natalia Cano. You can include an activity, where students should describe a picture to practice food and cooking vocabulary.

RU F21 INT/ADV: New Year in Russia

Language Resident: Aleksandra Bystrova

Date: 12/1/2021

Class theme/topic discussed : the New Year in Russia

Goal of the class :

  • Introduce traditions of the New Year celebration in Russia
  • Practice the usage of adjectives in the text
  • Practice the food vocabulary
  • Listening and comprehension of a song

How did you structure the class?

  1. Warm-up.
    I put my students in pairs and ask them to discuss the following questions: 1) Do you celebrate the New Year? How and with whom? 2) Do you sum up the results of the year? 3) Do you create goals to accomplish in the following year?
  2. Activity 1. The New Year’s table
    I show my students a picture of a traditional Russian New Year’s table with different meals. I ask them to name what they see and come up with more dishes. This activity is focused on creating a perfect table for the New Year’s celebration and practice food vocabulary.
  3. Activity 2. Prepare a traditional New Year’s toast
    I give my students a handout with a long traditional Russian toast. There are blank spaces that students should fill up with adjectives. They can be creative and funny while choosing words.
  4. Activity 3. A song about 5 minutes
    I show my students a video of a must-listen Russian song, which sounds in every house 5 minutes before the New Year. I also provide students with lyrics of the song. I ask them to feel free to sing along.
  5. Activity 4. President’s Speech.
    It is impossible to imagine Russian New Year without the President Putin’s speech. We watch a piece of a video from 2020 and discuss the content of this speech. This activity was performed with Advanced students.
Activity 3. A song about 5 minutes

Intermediate. What worked well in this class? What did not work?

The class went well. Students enjoyed talking about New Year in Russia. We focused more on the activity dedicated to food. I wanted to practice vocabulary with them, since they hadn’t known many words before we had our class about Russian cuisine. I decided to skip the activity with the President’s speech, because the language of the speech is too difficult to comprehend. We also didn’t do the “toast” activity because I felt like it could be too challenging for them. I decided to spend more time with the song instead. I asked my two students to come up with a translation of this song and give their opinion about it.

Advanced. What worked well in this class? What did not work?
My advanced students enjoyed this class. They knew a lot of words dedicated to food and Russian cuisine. The activity with inserting words turned out to be amusing. They came up with funny and sometimes unsuitable words. That made the toasts activity very lively. We skimmed the song and spent more time with the President’s speech. Students had a hot discussion about the content of his speech because some of them found it ambiguous.

How could this class be improved/ modified?

The president’s speech is an interesting text to analyze and discuss with advanced students. It consists of many topics, which students find curious to talk about. I would make a separate class about politics to discuss leader’s speeches. In the context of New Year and holiday atmosphere it is a challenging issue to discuss.

RU F21 ADV: Russian Folktales

Language Resident: Aleksandra Bystrova

Date: 09/16/2021

Class theme/topic discussed: Russian Folktales

Goals of the class :

  • Learn about Russian folklore and rules of creating a traditional fairytale
  • Practice storytelling

Class structure:

  1. Warm-up.
    I ask my students to discuss the following questions:
    1) What is “сказка” (traditional Russian verbal fairy tale)?
    2) Did you like reading fairy tales or listening to them when you were a kid?
    3) Do you know any Russian fairytales?
  2. Activity 1. Reading a fairytale “Сказка об Иване-царевиче, жар-птице и о сером волке” (The fairytale of Ivan-tsarevitch, a firebird and a grey wolf) (one and a half page, adapted, with vocabulary).
    Students seat in a semi-circle. We read the text aloud making stops at the end of each paragraph. I make sure they understand everything by asking them questions. I draw a plan of a fairytale on a board while they are reading. At the same time, I have a powerpoint presentation opened with drawings of this fairytale, so students have a visual image of what is going on.
  3. Activity 2. Analysis of a fairytale 
    I ask students to name all characters from the fairytale (7). Then, I ask them about the role of those characters. What do they do? We do it on purpose, so later we could discuss the thesis from the book “Morphology of the Folktale” by a Soviet folklorist and scholar Vladimir Propp. After we wrote all characters and their role (functions) on the board, I present my students Propp’s concept and give them a handout with a plan of creating a folktale.
  4. Activity 3. Create your own fairytale!
    I ask students to use the Propp’s concept of creating a folktale (7 main characters and 31 functions, which constitute the plot). They can choose any quantity of characters and functions to create a folktale.

What worked well in this class? What did not work?
While reading the folktale in the class, I tried to use visual materials, gestures and paraphrasing as much as possible. Students seemed interested in the plot, because they laughed when something funny happened and answered context questions. The fairy tale was not long (adapted 1.5 pages), but it took almost 30 mins to fully analyze it (which was more, than I expected). Students seemed overwhelmed with Propp’s concept, but I was ready for it — I simplified the functions, put pictures to them and printed it out in a handout. We did not have time to complete the last activity (composing a folktale), but when students discussed their plots, they were very engaged and came up with really funny ideas. We will continue talking about it next class.

How could this class be improved/ modified?

I would devote two classes to this topic. I would spend more time reading and analyzing a folktale and explaining to students the Propp’s concept, and during the next class I would ask students to create a folktale and present it (in a form of a performance).

PowerPoint Presentation:

RU F21 ADV Intro to the Soviet Poetry: Gennady Shpalikov

Language Resident: Aleksandra Bystrova

Date: 10/05/2021

Class theme/topic discussed: Soviet Poetry of the Khrushchev Thaw (1960s)

Goal of the class: 

  • Learn about the poetry during the Khrushchev Thaw
  • Practice translating and listening skills
  • Get to know the Soviet director, screenplay writer and poet Gennadiy Shpalikov

Class structure:

  1. Greetings and warm-ups.
    Discussion in pairs: Do you like poetry? Who is your favorite poet if you have one? Do you know any Soviet or Russian poets?
  2. Introduction. Gennadiy Shpalikov
    I briefly introduce the biography of Gennady Shpalikov to the class. Why he was important for the “Ottepel” (the Khrushchev Thaw) and what the general atmosphere in the culture at that time was. I ask students if they know something about 1960s culture in the Soviet Union.
    “В воздухе была надежда на свободу, и мы дышали этим воздухом, а как точно заметил Сергей Соловьев, Шпаликов этот воздух создавал” (Юлий Файт)
  3.  Activity 1. Translate a poem.
    I give students a handout with the Shpalikov’s poem “Людей теряют только раз” (“You lose people only once…”) translated in English and ask them to come up with a Russian translation for this poem. I put students into two groups, so every group come up with their own translation. Then, I ask them to present their poems to the rest of the class.
  4. Activity 2. Comparison with an original.
    Александр Яценко – “Людей теряют только раз”
    I show students a video of a Russian actor Alexander Yazenko reading this poem in a studio. Before that, I give them a handout with an original text, so students can compare their poems with the original.
Геннадий Шпаликов
Людей теряют только раз,
И след, теряя, не находят,
А человек гостит у вас,
Прощается и в ночь уходит.
А если он уходит днем,
Он все равно от вас уходит.
Давай сейчас его вернем,
Пока он площадь переходит.
Немедленно его вернем,
Поговорим и стол накроем,
Весь дом вверх дном перевернём
И праздник для него устроим.    
Gennady Shpalikov
Translated by Igor Skryagin and Aleksandra Bystrova  
All people may be lost just once,
And a lost trace may not be found,
When a person, who is staying with you,
Leaves into the night, saying «goodbye».
And if they leave in the afternoon,
They leave you anyway.
Let’s return them right now,
While they are crossing the square.
Let’s return them immediately,
And talk to them, and set the table,
Turn the whole house upside down
And arrange a feast for them.  
Activity 1. Translate the poem.
Activity 2. Comparison with the original

What worked well in this class? What did not work?
Students came up with beautiful translations of the poem. They were very engaged into translating it. If students are interested in the Soviet culture and poetry, it can be a very enjoyable class. However, if students don’t like poetry it might be challenging. The level of the poem is appropriate for advanced learners. The groups of two students in each group worked well.

How could this class be improved/ modified? 
I would leave it as it is. If you have more time left, you can do the same with another poem from the Thaw’s poet Bella Ahmadulina “В тот месяц май, в тот месяц мой…” (

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