Take a trip to another dimension as you introduce your students to the delights and horrors of modern science fiction. Using the works of writers such as Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., and Isaac Asimov, this two (or three, depending on pacing) week mini-unit will entertain and challenge your advanced middle school and high school classes.
Here’s the order in which I present these science fiction lessons, but you can swap the order however you wish since each lesson stands on its own:
1. Harrison Bergeron
Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s futuristic short story starts the unit with a chilling vision of a future where everyone has the exact same level of intelligence, talent, and beauty. Shouldn’t we want to level the playing field so everyone is the same? Travel to the Year 2081, where a world of pure equality is exactly what we are horrified to find. This multimedia lesson will get your students thinking and debating the consequences of true equality.
2. The Veldt
If your students can’t go an hour without looking at their phones, they need to read “The Veldt.” Ray Bradbury’s short story gives us a glimpse of a world where children love their devices more than their families. Sound familiar? This compelling lesson will get your students reading, thinking, and discussing the consequences of our tech-dependent culture. The materials were designed to help middle and high school students sharpen their literary analysis skills of science fiction text while also making personal connections to Bradbury’s eerily prophetic tale.
3. Marionettes, Inc.
Imagine you could buy a clone of yourself and no one would ever know. Unpleasant chores? Your cyborg will clean the mess. Stacks of essays to grade? “You 2.0” quickly manages that paper load. Dinner with a difficult spouse? Send in the clone. What a great world! And nothing could possibly go wrong in this utopia, right? Right? Ray Bradbury’s short story, “Marionettes, Inc.,” gives us a glimpse of a world where clones are available to solve all of our problems. This lesson will get your students looking closely at the consequences of relying on technology to solve our most-human problems.
4. Robot Dreams
American science fiction writer Isaac Asimov gives us a world where robots have emotions and dreams for a future where they no longer must serve the needs of mankind. In this lesson, students will sharpen their literary analysis skills by digging into Isaac Asimov’s short story, “Robot Dreams,” identifying symbolic elements, and making modern connections to the disturbing tale.
5. Supertoys Last All Summer Long and A.I., Artificial Intelligence
Teach your students how to “read” a movie in just the same way that we closely read literature with this five-day lesson that begins with a study of Brian Aldiss’ short story, “Supertoys Last All Summer Long,” the inspiration for A.I. Artificial Intelligence, a 2001 film directed by Steven Spielberg. After analyzing Aldiss’ futuristic tale of a robot boy who wants only the love of his human mother, share Spielberg’s film with your students and guide their study of the movie with detailed worksheets filled with analytical questions designed to get them thinking deeply and connecting with the material. (Please note that Spielberg’s film is rated PG-13 and includes a lover-robot character named Gigolo Joe; there are a few sexually suggestive moments in the film, but there’s no nudity or sex scenes. As with all materials, you should preview the film before you show it to your class to ensure it’s appropriate for your students and community.)
The Science Fiction Mini-Unit bundle includes a total of 30 pages of handouts and detailed answer keys, one quickwrite Powerpoint slide, and one video clip (m4v). For more details about any specific lesson, just click the links above. All of these lessons are available for separate purchase in my shop, but you’ll SAVE MORE THAN 20% by buying this money-saving bundle.
Looking for more short story lessons to hook teen eyes and brains? Click HERE to view my full catalog of short story materials.
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