LEARNING GUIDE TO:
SUBJECTS — Literature (magical realism & allusion);Age: 12+; MPAA Rating -- PG; Comedy; 1993; 101 minutes; Color. Available from Amazon.com.
Description: Phil Connor, an arrogant and selfish television weatherman is assigned his fourth year of covering the Groundhog Day festivities in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where he becomes trapped in a time loop. He must re-live Groundhog Day, February 2, day after day after day. No matter what he does, when he wakes up the next morning, it's as if yesterday never happened. Except that he remembers that day and all the ones before it, but he's the only one who does. Since there is no tomorrow, there are no consequences. If Phil eats too much, drinks too much, robs an armored car, or jumps off a tall building, the next morning dawns as if none of that had happened. He can also learn what women admire and use that knowledge to seduce them on the next day.
Initially, Phil indulges all his appetites, but then he becomes bored and despondent. Not even suicide is a release. Finally, resigned to his fate, Phil discovers that he likes to play the piano and that there is satisfaction in helping people. He finds that his producer, a young woman for whom he only had contempt, is the sweetest person he has ever met. He falls in love with her and to his surprise finds himself released.
Rationale for Using the Movie: The comic situation in which the main character learns important life lessons encourages students to evaluate their own routines and to find ways to avoid patterns of self-defeating behavior.
Objectives/Student Outcomes Using this Learning Guide: Through assignments requiring writing in narrative, expository and analytical domains, students will exercise their ability to derive meaning from content and to apply themes to their own lives.
Possible Problems: None.
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.
Worksheet for Cinematic and Theatrical Elements and Their Effects.
USING groundhog DAY IN THE CLASSROOM
1. In the bowling alley, Phil asks two locals, "What would you do if you were stuck in one place, and every day was exactly the same and nothing that you did mattered?" One of the locals replies, "That about sums it up for me." What are the filmmakers trying to tell us in this exchange? Suggested Response: There are a number of ways to put it. They are trying to say that real people get caught up in what was magical in Phil's situation. Another way to put it is that the filmmakers are saying, "Hey audience, listen up! There's something for you in this movie!
2. If you lived one day over and over and over again, what would you do with your time? Suggested Response: This is a personal question with no one correct answer. Teachers may want to end the discussion with the observation that students have their whole lives ahead of them which means that they have thousand and upon thousands of days, more than 20,000 (assuming an 80 year life expectancy), and that this seems like an endless number of days to live.
3. Who or what are the antagonist and protagonist in this story? Suggested Response: Answers will vary. A strong response is that the selfish and uncaring part of Phil is the antagonist while the protagonist is all the good parts of Phil, the parts that help him become over time an authentic and caring person.
4. Early in the story Rita describes Phil by quoting a passage from Sir Walter Scott's poem "There Breathes the Man":
The wretch, concentrated all in self,There are two metaphors in this passage used to describe Phil and his situation. What are they and what is their meaning? Suggested Response: "Doubly dying" refers to the assertion that a life, "concentrated all in self" is really no life at all and more like death than life. Thus, someone who lives a selfish life dies twice, once in the living and again in the dying of the physical body. The metaphor is the equating of two dissimilar things, life and death. "The vile dust" is also a metaphor because something that is vile is something evil while dust is a physical object that is neither good nor evil, it is neutral.
For six additional Discussion Questions, see the Supplemental Materials for this Guide.
Assignments and Assessments:
1. Write a narrative, fiction or nonfiction, about a student in your school setting who finds him or herself in a time loop as experienced by Phil in the movie. Show the student going through resistance, acceptance and change over a period of days. Note the improvements that are made in the final day of the time loop that will serve to free the student from the repetition and allow him or her to move forward. In your narrative describe action (including dialogue), reveal thoughts (including internal monologues), describe observations by the characters, use descriptive language (including images of people, places and things), and compare one thing to another.
To prepare for this assignment, have students complete TWM's Exercise in "Showing Rather than Telling" When Writing a Narrative. Also check out the Narrative Writing Lesson Plan.2. Research the "Groundhog Day" holiday and write an expository essay in which you explain the origins of the holiday and the various events associated with it around the country. Seek to find any similar late-winter activities in different cultures around the world. Conclude your essay with your opinion about the social or cultural value of Groundhog Day.
3. Analyze the changes Phil experiences while he is in the time loop. Does Phil ever notice his own flawed behavior? How does he shifts his responses to the situation and to the people he meets? How, finally, does he becomes a more authenticated individual. Conclude your essay with a thematic statement about the process of personal growth as seen in the film.
For two additional Assignments, see the Supplemental Materials for this Guide.
Are you concerned that time will be wasted if you are absent from class? Worry no more . . . Check out TeachWithMovies' Set-Up-the-Sub.
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.
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Parenting Points: Parents may ask their children to note the changes in the main character as he repeats one day's experiences and to think about routines in their own lives that they may want to change.
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