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SUBJECTS — New Zealand; ELA, including characterization,
symbol and foil;
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Breaking Out; Female Role Model;
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Respect.
Age: 12+; MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief language and a momentary drug reference; Drama; 101 minutes; Color.
Paikea Apirana's grandfather is the Chief of a small Maori tribe in modern-day New Zealand. Maori tradition provides that only first born sons can be chief. However, Pai's father, the next in line, has declined to accept the role. If Pai had a brother, he would become chief, but her only brother, her twin, died at birth along with their mother. Although Pai's grandfather, Koro, loves his granddaughter, he is determined to find a male to serve as his successor.
This movie is the story of how Pai, as she is called, convinces her grandfather that she should be the chief.
Whale Rider offers young people the opportunity to learn about a different culture and to examine the difficulties that many traditional groups experience in facing change. Students can examine their own concepts of gender roles as they watch entrenched sexism diminish through the course of the film. The importance of myth and stories which shape the lives of traditional people will become clear to viewers and will offer the perspective necessary to look at their own myths and stories.
For English Language Arts Classes, the movie offers an opportunity to explore theme and the literary devices of characterization, metaphor, symbol, and foil. Whale Rider also provides an occasion for research, oral presentations and essay writing, required skills in most ELA curricula.
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Whale Rider describes the efforts of an indigenous group living within modern Western society to continue their traditions while assimilating some aspects of the dominant culture.
Learning Guide Excerpt
To give you a sense of how our Learning Guides can be used by teachers to develop lesson plans, and by parents to supplement school curriculum or for homeschooling, we have set out below a discussion question from the Learning Guide to Whale Rider.
3. How do the women in the film deal with the sexism of their tribe?
Suggested Response: The women let the men think that the men are the bosses. The women carry on with their lives accepting the men, yet criticizing the men's thinking. This can be seen when the women play cards and joke about the men. Pai's grandmother can be highly critical of Koro, yet she tolerates him using humor. She sympathizes with the difficulty of her husband's life, telling her granddaughter, "He's got a lot of rules to live by."
The Learning Guide to the film Whale Rider contains sections on Benefits of the Movie, Possible Problems, Helpful Background, Discussion Questions, Links to the Internet, and Bridges to Reading. The Discussion Questions are divided into three categories: Subject Matter, Social-Emotional Learning, and Moral-Ethical Emphasis.
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