About This Unit
This is a study unit for use with the novel, The Iron Giant, by Ted Hughes (originally published as The Iron Man in 1968) and the 1999 film, The Iron Giant, directed by Brad Bird. The film is a very loose adaptation of the novel; though plot and characters differ quite a bit between works, they share some common themes, among them, friendship, sacrifice and Cold War hysteria (the latter evident to adult readers and viewers, but likely lost on kids). The novel is set in the late 60s, the film in the mid-50s. In each story a metal man enters the life of a boy named Hogarth who struggles to save his new giant-friend from nuclear annihilation in the film and McCarthyist paranoia (or, depending on the reader’s politics, perhaps, the Soviet “menace”) personified as a “space dragon” in the novel.
NOTE: This unit does NOT include an answer key. Though some questions here are designed to assess comprehension, the overall objective is to promote discussion, critical inquiry and the development of argument-building skills. Most prompts here are open-ended so a variety of responses will be "correct," depending on how well-supported they are. If you are looking for a unit with multiple choice or fill-in-the-blanks questions you can quickly match against an answer key, this is not the right unit for you.
Unit Components & Features
• Literature Response worksheets with 8-14 questions about the reading for each chapter of the novel (or section of a chapter for longer ones; the page numbers listed correspond with the Kindle edition.) The questions are grouped for differentiated instruction into Comprehending, Analyzing, and Connecting sections. The comprehension questions are appropriate for younger and/or struggling students and English language learners. The questions that involve analysis ask students to think critically and to support their conclusions with details in the text. The Connecting section questions ask students to draw connections between the film or novel and their own lives, and/or to consider what they might do if they were in the protagonist’s place. Several of the questions can also be used as prompts for longer writing assignments. There are some questions geared toward English Language learners that ask students to decode idioms with which native English speakers will probably be familiar.
• Several short “Mentor Text Exercises” designed for use with a Writers’ Workshop program. Each exercise asks students to read as writers—to pay close attention to elements of craft—and apply the mentor author’s writing techniques to their own works in progress. You can use as many or as few as you’d like. Though the exercises build on one another, the concepts involved are explained in each one so there’s no need to teach them in any particular order. Some include links to student writing samples that model approaches to applying the mentor author techniques under consideration.
• An in-depth, multi-part mentor text lesson on point of view that builds on examples from both the novel and popular videogames.
• Vocabulary quizzes, one for each half of the novel. Rather than ask for definitions, instructions here ask students to use each vocabulary word in their own sentences because I’ve found that this exercise tells me a lot more about how much students understand the words than asking them for definitions does. Since the document is in MS Word, however, you can easily change the directions to create assignments that meet your own objectives.
• A vocabulary practice crossword puzzle with solution.
• A vocabulary study sheet, where all words are listed with easy to understand definitions and parts of speech.
• A link to a set of The Iron Giant vocabulary flashcards stored on FlashcardMachine.com. From this URL you can download a PDF copy of the flashcards, or let students use the “study session” feature on the website or the Flashcard Machine app for ipad or android devices. Directions for three flashcard games are included with the link.
• Flexible formatting. This document is in Microsoft Word, so you can easily modify or delete anything here to fit your own class’s needs. The cover image and crossword puzzle are embedded PDF files so they will take a little longer to load. Keep in mind that if you make changes that alter the document’s pagination, the page numbers on the Contents page might become inaccurate, but will probably stay close enough for you to find what you’re looking for. If you want to use the unit as-is, simply save as a PDF to preserve existing formatting.
NOTE: This unit does not come with an answer key, as many of the questions are open-ended with more than one "correct" response.