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    LEARNING GUIDE TO:

    A Christmas Carol

    SUBJECTS — Religions/Christianity; World/England;
    SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Redemption;
    MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Caring.
    Age: 8+; There are several versions. This Learning Guide relates to all of them and to the book. Available from Amazon.com

    Description:     This is the classic film presentation of Dickens' immortal Christmas story about Ebenezer Scrooge and his discovery of the joys of sharing.

    Benefits of the Movie:     The novel and the film will enrich any child's cultural experience and impart positive moral values. The story also provides a harsh critique of conditions in England at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

    Possible Problems:     MINOR. Very young children (ages 5 - 8) may be frightened by the ghosts.

    Parenting Points:     Show your child the location of England on a map or a globe. For younger children (ages 8 & 9), explain that in the early 1800s, the time this story took place, conditions for workers in England were very poor. Many farmers were moving to the city and there were more people who wanted work than there were jobs. Employers could keep wages very low. If an employee asked for more pay, the employer could easily find someone else who was willing to work for the low wage the employer wanted to pay. "A Christmas Carol" is a great story of Christmas and how a man changed from being selfish to being generous. When it was first published, almost 200 years ago, the author also wanted to change the selfish attitudes of the wealthy of that time.

    For children about ten years of age or older, describe the information set out in the Helpful Background section.

    After the movie, ask and help your child to answer the Quick Discussion Question and several of the other Discussion Questions that might interest them.

    The book is not long. Give it to your child to read. If he or she needs help, read it to them.

    Selected Awards, Cast and Director:

      Selected Awards: None.

      Featured Actors: Alistair Sim, Kathleen Harrison, Jack Warner, Michael Hordern, Patrick Macnee, Mervyn Johns, Hermione Baddeley, Clifford Mollison, George Cole, Carol Marsh, Miles Malleson, Ernest Thesigner, Hattie Jacques, Perter Bull, Hugh Dempster.

      Director: Brian Desmond Hurst.






 









LEARNING GUIDE MENU
Benefits of the Movie
Possible Problems
Parenting Points
Selected Awards & Cast
Helpful Background
Discussion Questions:
      Subjects (Curriculum Topics)
      Social-Emotional Learning
      Moral-Ethical Emphasis
            (Character Counts)
Bridges to Reading
Links to the Internet
Assignments, Projects & Activities
Bibliography





WORKSHEETS: TWM offers the following worksheets to keep students' minds on the movie and direct them to the lessons that can be learned from the film. Teachers can modify the worksheets to fit the needs of each class. See also TWM's Historical Fiction in Film Cross-Curricular Homework Project and Movies as Literature Homework Project.

Additional ideas for lesson plans for this movie can be found at TWM's guide to Lesson Plans Using Film Adaptations of Novels, Short Stories or Plays.





QUICK DISCUSSION QUESTION: If a person makes a mistake, is it ever too late for him to fix it by admitting his mistake and doing something extraordinary to make up for it?

Suggested Response: There is almost always time to repent, make amends, and to redeem oneself.


    Helpful Background:

    The Industrial Revolution began in the late 1700s and its effects began to be felt strongly in the 1830s and 1840s. It required large numbers of workers concentrated into small geographic areas. Cities filled with unemployed people from rural areas provided an excellent location for factories. However, there were more workers than there were jobs. With several people competing for each position, employers could keep wages low.

    As the 19th century progressed and competition increased, ancient ways of doing business were left behind in favor of the more aggressive methods of the new age. Scrooge's first employer, Mr. Fezziwig, was unable to adjust to these changes. Scrooge adapted to the new environment, but lost his soul in the process.

    People who couldn't pay their debts were thrown into debtor's prison until the second half of the 19th century. Wealthy and educated Englishmen during the period of this story (the early 1800s) often lumped the lower orders of society together and referred to them as "the Poor." The prevailing view was that poverty was largely the result of laziness, incompetence, immorality, and drunkenness. If the Poor were taken care of it would only encourage these vices. Government policy at the time provided that the Poor, children and adults, healthy and infirm, were to be abandoned on the streets to starve unless they agreed to go into "Poor Houses". In England before the 20th century, there was little help for the indigent as we know it today.

    In his influential Essay on the Principle of Population, first published in 1798, Thomas Malthus contended that the population of Britain was growing so quickly that it would soon exceed the country's capacity to grow food. Malthus predicted that the poorer classes would starve and this would act as a natural check on the increase in the population. He reasoned that helping the Poor would be useless and simply postpone the inevitable.

    Malthus' prediction was used as a pretext by many wealthy people to justify paying starvation wages and subjecting the Poor to oppressive work and degrading conditions. Scrooge, until he realized the error of his ways, was just such an employer. His comment about "surplus population" derives from this line of thought.

    Note that children of the Poor were not exempt from harsh treatment. Child labor was rampant and children were often maimed and disabled in factories. Children were permitted to live in the Poor Houses with their parents only until the age of 5, at which time they were placed in separate houses reserved for children. Life there was harsh and they were required to work long hours. (See Oliver Twist, another Dickens indictment of the treatment of the Poor.) Education was denied to the Poor because the ruling classes knew that even a little learning would make them discontented. In the American South of the same time period, it was illegal to teach a slave to read or write for much the same reason.

    In A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens was objecting to the hard-heartedness of the English ruling classes and the condition of the poor during the Industrial Revolution.
 


BUILDING VOCABULARY: humbug, Bedlam, Debtor's Prison, work house, poor law, old ogre, the little lame boy.



Contemporaries noted that when "A Christmas Carol" was published, the importance of Christmas as a holiday was in decline. The book played a critical role in redefining the importance of Christmas and its traditions. "If Christmas, with its ancient and hospitable customs, its social and charitable observances, were in danger of decay, this is the book that would give them a new lease," said English poet Thomas Hood in his review in Hood's Magazine and Comic Review (January 1844, page 68). Michael Patrick Hearn, The annotated Christmas Carol: a Christmas Carol in Prose by Charles Dickens, 2004, page XIV.


A quote from the book: "Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grind-stone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn't thaw it one degree at Christmas."

    Discussion Questions:

    1.  [Standard Questions Suitable for Any Film].

    2.  What did Scrooge mean when he said "perhaps the machines are not such a good thing for mankind after all?" What is the evidence for and against this statement. Suggested Response: The Industrial Revolution and the very competitive business climate that came with it changed the old ways of living. No longer were products made by artisans with small businesses who had joined together in guilds to protect themselves. Now, people worked in factories tending machines that made products. Workers in factories were poorly paid and didn't have enough money to live on. The social dislocations of the times were the cause of tremendous misery for many people.

    3.  What did Scrooge mean when he talked of "surplus population"? Suggested Response: See comment concerning Thomas Malthus' Essay on the Principle of Population.

    4.  What happened to Scrooge's first employer, Mr. Fezziwig? What mistake did Mr. Fezziwig make that Scrooge was determined to avoid? Suggested Response: Mr. Fezziwig could not adapt to the new competitive environment. As a result he lost his business, his money, and his property.

    5.  What did the Ghost of Christmas Past show to Scrooge? Suggested Response: The events of his past life that caused him to be the way he was. This is really a way for the author to tell the audience about what made Scrooge so mean.

    6.  What did Scrooge learn from the Ghost of Christmas Present? Suggested Response: This ghost showed Scrooge the meager celebrations of the Crachit family and the illness of Tiny Tim, the fact that his nephew still believed that Scrooge could change and become generous, and the evils of ignorance and want.

    7.  What did the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come show to Scrooge? Suggested Response: The death of Tiny Tim and of Scrooge and people's reactions to those deaths.
 




Select questions that are appropriate for your students.






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    Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions:

    REDEMPTION

    1.  See Quick Discussion Question.

    2.  If you do something that you later realize was wrong, and by doing that thing you benefitted from it either by making money, getting something you wanted, or in some other way, how do you make it right? Suggested Response: You must return, if possible, what you took or received and correct for any injury you have caused.
 








Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.

Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.


    Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions (Character Counts)

    Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.

    CARING

    (Be kind; Be compassionate and show you care; Express gratitude; Forgive others; Help people in need)


    1.  How did Scrooge cut himself off from other people? Why did he do this? Suggested Response: Scrooge cut himself off from others by not caring about them. He did this because he had been hurt in the past when he tried to care for someone.

    2.  What benefits did Scrooge get when he began to care about people? Suggested Response: He was no longer lonely and he had friends.

 


Teachwithmovies.com is a Character Counts "Six Pillars Partner" and uses The Six Pillars of Character to organize ethical principles.

Character Counts and the Six Pillars of Character are marks of the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition, a project of the Josephson Institute of Ethics.
    Bridges to Reading

    Books recommended for middle school and junior high readers include: Christmas Gif': An Anthology of Christmas Poems, Songs, and Stories, compiled by Charlemae Hill Rollins and A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman.
 

MOVIES ON RELATED TOPICS: Another great Christmas movie which is also good any time of the year is It's a Wonderful Life.

Movies on this site based on novels by Charles Dickens are:The Old Curiosity Shop, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, Oliver! (a musical), and A Tale of Two Cities.
 


    Projects And Activities: See [Assignments, Projects and Activities Suitable for Any Film]. In addition,

    • Separate the class into different groups and have each group act out a scene from the story;
    • Have each student make a puppet of a figure in the story;
    • Hold a toy drive for the class to help needy kids or the class can make toys as a joint activity and donate them to a charity for needy kids;
    • Ask each child to describe, in an essay or in a talk to the class, what happened on their best holiday;
    • Ask each child to describe, in an essay or in a talk to the class, what they are going to do this holiday to help someone else, either in their family or outside their family.
 


    Bibliography

    The web sites which may be linked in the Guide and Wikipedia articles on the Industrial Revolution, Malthus, Poor Houses and the Poor Laws.


    Last updated July 22, 2011.




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