I just finished up teaching Frankenstein in my classes. We started by doing a bit of contextualizing. We watched a short video: The Prophets of Science Fiction Season 1: Episode 1 Mary Shelley on the life of Mary Shelley and modern connections of between the story of Frankenstein and modern science. I should mention that we had already determined this unit would focus on kids seeing connections between a piece of literature represented in varying forms. This episode (which is available on Netflix did an amazing job of showing how Mary Shelley was inspired by the science of her time and how some of her prognostications have come to fruition). It fit perfectly with what we would be asking the students to do.
As students watched, I asked them to take notes and complete the following table:
Inspiration for Frankenstein - what inspired Shelley to write this novel - what was happening in the world that may have inspired this novel?
Who was Mary Shelley - what happened in HER life that may have impacted her writing of this novel?
Modern "Frankensteins" - Theme/Modern/Why so Famous - Connection to modern science? Reality of Shelley's story...
Questions presented in Frankenstein and still being asked today. Why is Mary Shelley/Frankenstein so famous?
Next, we looked at three different versions of the Prometheus myth: Hesiod, Plato and a cup depicting the Punishment of Prometheus.
Here are links to those:
Students annotated and answered guiding questions about this myth.
Next, we started to read. As we read, we annotated for four things: diction, use of source material (this was going to be a main focus for this unit), theme (students struggled with this on past assessments and needed increased instruction on it) and character development (another aspect of literature that students had demonstrated significant struggles with in the past).
Here is an example of my annotations for this unit. Each day as part of class, I also delivered focused instruction and modeling of annotating for each of the required elements.
These notes are about themes that we see emerging in the text. I ask the students first to notice topics that keep coming up over and over again (on the far left) - in the middle we noted specific instances in the book where this topic was dealt with (there were many) - on the left are notes about questions we believe Shelley is asking the reader to consider in relation to these topics. As the students continue to annotate/read they are looking for Shelley's answers to these questions and how she uses elements of the text to answer these questions. I try to emphasize the idea that a theme is developed over the course of the text and not just through one line and that they are looking for Shelley's opinion and NOT their own - that is literary analysis. I also encourage them to consider HOW Shelley answers those questions - through plot? through character development? through literary devices? Theme is one of the hardest elements that we annotate for and we spend extensive time involved with instruction over this element. The notes in red on the far right are on thematic connections with Prometheus - another aspect that the students are required to annotate for.
After each section we had a class discussion. The protocol is called a "Seed Card Discussion", students were asked to bring in a seed card after each section. A "Seed Card" is a card with another text/piece of art on the front that relates to the reading completed. Students were asked to bring one card with a thematic allusion, one card with a direct reference in a non-fiction text, one card with a stylistic reference, and another card with a direct reference in artwork. A different type of card was required for each discussion. The front of the card had the image/text, on the back students were required to have the passage that inspired this selection and four open-ended discussion questions designed to help their discussion partner understand the relationships they were seeing better.
I did the seed cards and ran the discussion for the letters, after that, students created the cards. The basic setup is to have two rows of desks facing each other. Students start with the card they brought and share it with the person across from them. After both kids have shared, one row moves one seat forward and THEN trades cards. I give SILENT time for the students (with their new cards and without looking on the back) to make connections between this card and the Frankenstein text - they have to quote the text - this is a literary discussion and this helps to keep it really rooted in the book.
The kids share and the original owner can add their ideas/thoughts/etc. on. the quote/questions on the back of the card are basically used as a sponge activity. If this kids have extra time they work through the questions on the back. I have the same row rotate again (they no longer have their card in their hands) they switch cards with their new buddy, look for a connection and share. This results in a really rich discussion of both the original text and the seed card. It also really helps them to get at some of the deeper meanings within the text.
Here are some examples:
This is an example of a stylistic similarity between Frankenstein and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, both of which use letters to convey plot at one point. The students were asked on the back of this card to discuss the effect of this style and why Shelley may have chosen to begin the text this way.
I used this as example of thematic connection. The questions on the back asked students to consider why Victor may have felt so defeated, etc.
This is an example of a direct reference in artwork. Students were asked to consider the accruateness to the text and why the artist made the changes that were made.
The primary goal of this unit is for students to see connections between pieces of art presented in different mediums - this is one of the 9/10 Common Core Standards paraphrased and one that my team had not covered as of yet in the school year.
At the end of the unit students worked in small groups and were required to complete the following assignment (which I created in collaboration with another teacher in my school):
Common Core Standards Addressed:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.9 Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work (e.g., how Shakespeare treats a theme or topic from Ovid or the Bible or how a later author draws on a play by Shakespeare).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.7 Analyze the representation of a subject or a key scene in two different artistic mediums, including what is emphasized or absent in each treatment (e.g., Auden’s “Musée des Beaux Arts” and Breughel’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.6 Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature.
Prompt (Core and Honors):
Analyze how Mary Shelley draws on and transforms the myth of Prometheus in Frankenstein, including what is emphasized or absent in each text.
Analyze the representation of a subject or a key scene and how a modern artist draws on and transforms Frankenstein in a modern piece of art/literature, including what is emphasized or absent in each treatment.
Analyze the implications about Greek, British and ______________, culture reflected in Prometheus, Frankenstein and your modern piece of art.
- What does each piece reveal about the culture that it came from?
- Why would each piece appeal to the corresponding culture?
- What connections can you make about each representation and what does that reveal about human-nature? That is, what do these representations reveal for the viewer/reader about characteristics of human nature that are general and not tied to culture? What are the themes in these three pieces that are transcendent of time and culture?
Create and docent for an infographic exhibit on how Frankenstein has been portrayed through the ages.
Core = How does Frankenstein integrate the myth of Prometheus?
Honors = How does a modern piece of art integrate elements of Frankenstein and therefore Prometheus? And what do each of these art pieces reveal about the corresponding culture?
We provided them with the following infographic about what an infographic is:
I should mention that during my previous unit on business writing, I relied HEAVILY on infographics, just to get the kids used to the format
We also provided them with the following link with infographic tools:
Most of my students used something called piktocahrt.com, but some of them created their graphics from the ground up in Word, Publisher, etc. The infographic at the top of this was a student creation done in Word. I purposely left it fuzzy to protect their privacy and to avoid copying in future years, but you get the general layout idea.
To wrap everything up, we hosted another class that came in and viewed our infographics. They are going to be doing them soon and they wandered around and asked questions while completing a feedback form for my students.
The work my students turned in was phenonmenal and I was very proud of them.
We did end the unit with a fornal multiple choice test, which is a common assessment for my team and I am planning to use that data to devlop my final literature unit for the year: a dystopian novel unit with literature circles as the discussion strategy.
I will work on posting rubrics/etc. developed for this unit.
Every year, I make improvements...one improvement that I made this year was that I converted the actual assignment into an infographic this year. It's pretty cool (might do a lot more of these in the future) - here is my awesome infographic assignment: