Thursday, February 2, 2017

Frankenstein Plot Unit

Okay, third year teaching Frankenstein, third focus for the unit.  This year, we are choosing to focus on plot as we examine this text.  Given that the common core standards call for understanding how an author uses plot to create effects such as mystery, tension or surprise, this actually makes a lot of sense.  Another reason for this choice is that we have already covered character (with Ender's Game) and theme (with The Bean Trees).  Plot seemed like a logical follow-up.  In the past we have looked at the integration of source material and tone using this text.

I began this unit by having students gain some background knowledge about the text itself and Mary Shelley, the author.  Following the unit, students will be writing an argumentative essay focused on "monsters" of science - with this and the need for background knowledge in mind, students watch a Science Channel special called The Prophets of Science Fiction: Mary Shelley.
We take a pre-test on plot and the information gleaned from that pre-test will be used to inform instruction throughout the remainder of the unit.  For this test the students were asked to read the myth of Prometheus and identify main conflicts, the plot, theme, and development of mystery tension or surprise.

I model annotations based off the Preface and send kids home to read the letters at the start of the novel.  Here is the annotation rubric for this unit:
Four times during the unit, we pause and work on speaking skills by having seed card discussions. 
For each "Seed Card Discussion", students were asked to bring in a seed card to stimulate discussion of the themes/ideas/connections to modern life they saw within the text.  A "Seed Card" is a card with another text/piece of art on the front that relates to the reading completed.  The front of the card has the image/text, on the back students are 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.  At the end of each discussion, I have students reflect and do a short write/share out about how the discussion changed their thinking.  I use the following prompt/sentence stems to encourage this:

After each discussion, I chose cards to "feature" on the Frankenstein bulletin board.  The board starts out completely blank and as the unit progresses, I added student work:
At the end, the board looks like this:

In past units, students have struggled with analyzing quotes well and being able to explain how a quote contributes to other aspects of the novel, such as character development or tone.  In order to teach this more directly and to expose them more to this kind of in-depth analysis, for each set of chapters students are being provided with or being asked to select a significant quote and analyze the contributions that it makes to various other aspects of a novel.  We are doing this both formatively and summatively throughout the unit.
The unit will end with a summative assessment almost identical to the pre-test, but based off a different text: Frankenstein this time.

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