Language Resident Name: Aleksandra Bystrova
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?
- 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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zv5lIQPRCPY (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” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KjJtiSKPTz4
Political Satire https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgYrPV_d3tg
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.