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I am looking to develop a Science Fiction Literature Year Long Study Unit for my 10th grader for next year.

 

Has anyone already done this and would care to share it with me?

 

Or does anyone have some great links?

 

I've gone into the archives and got some great titles...but more help would be appreciated!

 

Thanks,

Myra

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We're calling it "Worldviews in Sci-Fi" (though, we also have a few gothic novels in there, too). We're *basically* progressing through the works chronologically, but with the idea of seeing how worldview changes are reflected in selected sci-fi (and gothic) novels from the 1800s to the present. We read aloud/discuss together each day; use the literature guides; and at some point I have him write a short paper (5 paragraphs) using one of the lit. guide questions, or a longer paper (3-6 pages) comparing/discussing several of the works. So far, it is going great! We are both really enjoying it, and are discussing literary elements, themes, worldview, character developments, the role of setting, etc. as we go.

 

Below is the list of books we're reading for the year, along with literature guides. Below that is another list of great sci-fi books I considered including in this lit. course. Hope that is of help! Warmest regards, Lori D.

 

 

1. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (Stevenson)

- lit. guide: Progeny Press

- worldview: Christian mixed with gothic

 

 

2. Frankenstein; Or The Modern Prometheus (Shelley)

- lit. guide: Progeny Press

- optional work: The Deadliest Monster (Balwin)

- worldview: Christian mixed with gothic-romantic

 

 

3. Portrait of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde)

- lit guide: Sparknotes (free online lit. guide)

- worldview: Christian vs. hedonism

 

 

4. The Invisible Man (HG Wells)

- lit. guide: article at Wikipedia online encyclopedia; analysis at Bookrags.com or Pink Monkey.com

- worldview: scientism vs. petty bourgeoisie

 

 

5. Farenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury)

- lit. guide: Progeny Press

- worldview: humanistic

 

 

6. Animal Farm (Orwell)

- lit. guide: Glencoe (free online lit. guide)

- worldview: socialism

 

 

7. The Giver (Lois Lowry)

- lit guide: Garlic Press publishers

- worldview: utopian / distopian

 

 

8. Brave New World (Aldus Huxley)

- lit. guide: Progeny Press

- worldview: utopian / distopian

 

 

9. several short stories from Cosmicomics (Italio Calvino)

- lit. guide: article at Wikipedia online encyclopedia; analysis at Bookrags.com

- worldview: existentialism

 

 

10. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)

- lit guide: article at Wikipedia online encyclopedia; analysis at Bookrags.com

- worldview: satirical-nihilism or evolutionary-absurdism

 

 

11. A Canticle for Leibowitz (Walter Miller)

- lit. guide: article at Wikipedia online encyclopedia; analysis at Bookrags.com

- worldview: post-apocalyptic Christian response to re-occuring, self-destructive cycle of the state

 

 

If we have time we'll also try to do:

- Flatland (Abbott) -- novella -- 2D and 3D worlds as Christian spiritual analogy for humans trying to understand God

- There Will Come Soft Rains (Arthur Clarke) -- short story, post-nuclear war with no humans surviving

 

 

 

 

 

Other Great Sci-Fi Literature to Consider:

 

- Journey to the Center of the Earth (Jules Verne) -- evolution, humanistic naturalism

- 20,000 Leagues Beneath the Sea (Jules Verne) -- humanistic naturalism, revenge, nature seen solely as source of harvesting by man, flawed utopia

- The Time Machine (HG Wells) -- evolution, flawed utopia, socialism

- War of the Worlds (HG Wells) -- alien invasion/destruction of human race, social Darwinism

- Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card) -- questioning of the motives/validity of war

- The Left Hand of Darkness (Ursula LeGuin) -- feudalism, communism, political manuevering/alliances, eastern mysticism/religious sects, gender issues (hermaphadetic society)

- Lathe of Heaven (Ursula LeGuine) -- attempt to control destiny; mind/spirit vs. psychiatric control

- Dune (Frank Herbert) -- feudalism, politics, ecology, technology, eastern mysticism

- I, Robot (Isaac Asimov) -- nature of humanity, technology, and morality

- A Wrinkle in Time (L'Engle) -- physics, power of love vs. evil/darkness, societies under totalitarian rule

- 2001 A Space Odyssey (Arthur Clarke)

- 1984 (Orwell)

- On The Beach (Shute) -- how people conduct themselves post nuclear war, with extinction of all mankind inevitable

- Alas, Babylon -- survival/adventure tale surviving post nuclear war

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I'll get the list when I get a chance. Mostly, I picked from the ones I'd read, trying to pick one from various general topics. I had an after-a-massive-war one (Canticle for Lebowitz), robot one (I, Robot), etc. I also tried to pick ones from all the "classic" (not really classic but more what-everyone-was-reading-when-I-was-growing-up-and-sci-fi-came-into-it's-own) authors, so he read a Le Guin, Bradbury, Heinlein, Asimov, Herbert, Silverburg, etc. And he picked some himself.

 

As much of the list as I remember:

Eye of the Heron

I, Robot

Starship Trooper

Dune

Farenheit 451

Thomas the Proclaimer

1984

The Time Machine

Canticle for Leibowitz

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

 

We used TWEM questions for a literary guide. The questions work just fine for everything we've tried them on, whether the work is a great book or not. And if there happened to show up an article in Science News or something pertaining to the book he was reading, I had him read it. He read one in a medical journal about nanotech stuff, for example. We have absolutely incredible luck with stuff showing up when we need it, so I usually just rely on that rather than going to any effort GRIN.

 

It sounds rather unplanned and scattered as I list it out, but it worked fine.

-Nan

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Thanks Nan. I hadn't realized Starship Trooper was a book before it was a film. And I'd never heard of Eye of the Heron or Thomas the Proclaimer! What did your son think of 1984 -- I shied away from it after having seen the film years back, thinking it might be too intense.

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I made him read a few like 451 and 1984 because they are referenced so many places, but of course they are tough to get through, a combination of boring and painful - a lot of reading for what to my child was a fairly obvious point/danger. 451 was a dead loss as far as he was concerned, but he's politically active enough to have found 1984 mildly interesting in spots. He knows fringe people who think we are already living in something close to that state, so most of the ideas weren't new. This is a problem we have a lot with our reading. It turns out that peace walking is very educational. I think he got more from Eye of the Heron, which deals with pacifism. He was old enough when he read it that I wasn't worried about the sex in it. I wouldn't give it to my 14yo. I asked him just now what he thought and if he was glad he had read it (now that it is a few years in the past) and he said:

"A truly scary book. I never really thought of them [the issues] in a context where they were all combined. I am glad that I read it. It gave me particular images and associations of what to look for in the future as a warning that things are going that direction. If you can't imagine it, it is hard to notice it."

-Nan

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Based on his maturity level and his observations on Eye of the Heron, may I recommend "Children of Men" by PD James? We recently watched the film (NOT for teens!) which, while very well-done/intense/compelling, is COMPLETELY different from the book. The book starts a little slow, but starting at about the halfway point, I had a hard time putting it down. Fascinating futuristic view -- combines that lethargy and the self-entertainment attitude our western culture already has, and you see this slow, almost imperceptible slide downwards into a type of denial of despair once the human race becomes infertile. Powerful.

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Yes, it's a book AND a movie. Read the book first; it is from a Christian worldview and ultimately redemptive. The film is intense, secular, and completely different in plot, characters and theme from the book -- should have been prefaced with "this film based on the title and general idea of a book" (lol). However the film is also very fascinating, very secular, violent/mature themes, and ultimately very hopeless -- it does a great job of expressing that worldview.

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It seems to me that that kind of defined/epitomized a major part of the sci fi genre for a long time. And what about the transitional literature kind of between sci fi and fantasy? Ursula Leguin comes to mind.

 

From a literary perspective, I really like the third of C. S. Lewis's sci fi trilogy "That Hideous Strength".

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Heinlein always seems to deteriorate into male sexual fantasies. Ug. The maleness of the books is ok, since I have sons, but I guess there is such a thing as too male. So I picked juvenile literature by him instead, and I had my son pick out the places where his reasoning about ethics would be flawed if you applied it to here and now. Not that I don't think Starship Trooper makes some good points, and not that we didn't enjoy the book. Fortunately, we don't have to agree with the author to enjoy the adventure GRIN. My other idea was for my son to pick out the places where Red Planet (can't remember the exact title - about the boy who wants to keep a pet at boarding school) is dated despite being set in the future.

We read lots of fantasy, and we want to keep it strictly for fun, so I tried to stick with the books that were more purely scifi. I think some of the books my son chose to read might have been more of a mix. I chose Eye of the Heron as the Usula LeGuin selection because of my son's peace activism.

I haven't read the CSLewis books. I keep meaning to. I am still rereading some of the Narnia books to myself periodically. : )

-Nan

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Oh yes, Lewis' space trilogy -- forgot that I had considered that, too. Because we already had several sci-fi books with Christian worldview that DS really wanted to read, I decided to save those books for later. Perhaps we'll do it this summer as a family read aloud/discussion at the dinner table. : ) That's an interesting set of books; each is completely different:

 

 

- Out of the Silent Planet

Closest to straight sci-fi, and thus, very dated technology. But it's the dynamic change of the main character -- slowly beginning to see through the eyes and minds of aliens -- and the theme of slow spiritual growth (move from self-centeredness towards willingness to do the hard thing because it's the right thing) -- that makes the book still interesting and relevant. The most "straight up" sci-fi/adventure story of the three books.

 

 

Perelandra

Set on a different planet, but so much of this book is a theological/philosophical discussion, I almost wouldn't call it sci-fi. Just as "Till We Have Faces" by Lewis is a type of reworking of the Cupid and Psyche myth, this book is a type of reworking/expansion of the temptation of Eve. Very rich, dense, and deep -- the most challenging (and rewarding!) of the three books in my opinion.

 

 

That Hideous Strength

Set in (then) modern times on Earth, so the least like sci-fi of the three. Lewis was heavily influenced by Charles Williams' supernatural thrillers by this time, and it really comes out in this book: evil is so nasty it slightly turns your stomach. This book goes more deeply into spiritual themes and covers more characters in more depth than Out of the Silent Book, making it a richer book than the first of the trilogy.

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The titles here are quite good. I would chip in a few short stories:

 

"The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" Ursula K. Le Guin

Utopia made possible by the suffering of others and the consequences of this

 

"Unaccompanied Sonata" Orson Scott Card

Creativity, suffering, creativity managed by the state

 

Walter Van Tilburg Clark has an interesting post holost short story-- I can't remember the name.

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Is the sonata one about a boy who writes music free from outside influences and then gets in trouble when someone sneaks some in, big trouble? I read this short story ages ago and have been haunted by it ever since, but I can't remember the title or the author. Not that I want to reread it LOL. Once was enough. But it definately raised questions about what is creativity and what is not that I am still thinking about 20 years later.

-Nan

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I'd suggest some Philip K. Dick as well, either some short stories or a novel. Man in the High Castle or UBIK are good novels to start with, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is the book Blade Runner was based on.

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Thanks to all of you, I now have a good list of science fiction books to choose from. So...what do you do for the unit?

>Do you use study guides?

>Do you go for chapter-by-chapter comprehension or for general themes?

>Where do you get some good essay questions?

>Where do you get some open-ended discussion questions?

 

Help me get started!

 

Myra

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Thanks to all of you, I now have a good list of science fiction books to choose from. So...what do you do for the unit?

>Do you use study guides?

>Do you go for chapter-by-chapter comprehension or for general themes?

>Where do you get some good essay questions?

>Where do you get some open-ended discussion questions?

 

Help me get started!

 

Myra

 

 

Well, our method probably doesn't work for most people, but we do the literature together. Below is more detail about what we do and ideas for resources. Also, ask Nan in Mass for how she does literature; she once posted a *terrific* post on this topic!! Hope this is of help! Warmly, Lori D.

 

 

How we do literature:

Each day, we take about 30-45 minutes to read aloud/discuss in the moment as things come up. (Reading is done "popcorn" style: "you read a page, I read a page".) This means we don't do comprehension questions, since it's obvious whether the students are "getting it" or not. (And if not, we stop and I explain or we go back and reread until it becomes clear.) Discussing in the moment also seems to help them really remember the story and details, so there's no need for comprehension questions to prompt their memories. (They now bring up specific details from literature we read 1-2 years ago to compare with whatever we're currently in the midst of -- stuff I'd forgotten all about!!)

 

Typical conversations run something like this: someone points out an image we've seen before (discussion: repeated imagery is usually a symbol of some kind; when/how did we see this before? is it similar/different? what might this be a symbol of?). Or someone pointsout a plot/character similarity to a previous book, movie or TV show (lots of comparisons to Star Trek TV series shows, Star Wars films, Batman and other recent superhero films or western films, Lord of the Rings books, and other boy friendly topics -- lol). Or I'll ask about a character's motivation or what worldview does a character's choices represent. Or someone notices the author's description of the weather/time of a scene (discussion: does this reflect the character's mood? is is ironic? is it a plot point? is it unrelated?). Or someone will point out how events we're currently reading about are yet another example of a theme we noticed earlier in the book. And so on... It helps that in the past few years we have gone through some great beginning literary analysis curriculum (Lightning Literature 7 and 8, and the Literary Lessons From the Lord of the Rings) to get us thinking about setting, character, themes, etc.

 

About once a week, we skim through a lit. guide that matches the book for any helpful info, and then use discussion questions from the guide for further discussion, which is also another layer of review.

 

 

For open-ended questions and essay questions:

A good lit. guide will give you both. Other resources are books or programs that teach you how to read/think/analyze literature; you could start your year off by going through one of these with your student, or go through it yourself in the summer before your school year, so you'll have an idea of how to guide conversation. I jotted key questions down from SWB's book of WEM on a 4x6" index card to have handy during our reading/discussing times. Here are several resources, all also available at http://www.rainbowresource.com:'>http://www.rainbowresource.com:'>http://www.rainbowresource.com:'>http://www.rainbowresource.com:

 

- The Well Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had by Susan Wise Bauer (first 4-5 chapters)

- How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler

- Teaching the Classics by Adam Andrews (video lesson series) = http://www.centerforlit.com/

- Windows to the World by Lesha Myers = http://www.excellenceinwriting.com/index.php?q=product/windows-world%3A-introduction-literary-analysis-teacher/student-combo

 

We are currently going through the Windows to the World (in addition to the sci-fi literature) and it is an excellent resource for teaching annotation -- taking notes as you read literature to help you find symbols, themes, worldviews, character/plot/setting points, etc. It gives teaching information and then has you practice annotating and analyzing short stories.

 

 

Helpful literature guides (most are also available at http://www.rainbowresource.com):

- Garlic Press Publishers literature guides = http://garlicpress.com/cgi-bin/shop_gp.cgi?product=LITERATURE

- Progeny Press literature guides = http://www.progenypress.com/

- The Great Books worldview/literature guides = http://www.thegreatbooks.com/

- Parallel Shakespeare literature guide set = http://rainbowresource.com/prodlist.php?sid=1226160676-956142&subject=6&category=1471

- Glencoe free online literature guides = http://www.glencoe.com/sec/literature/litlibrary/

- Sparknotes free online book guides/book analysis = http://www.sparknotes.com/sparknotes/

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It works for any literature, not just for great books.

 

So, we didn't use study guides. We didn't do chapter by chapter. I chose each book for a reason, which I made sure to point out beforehand, afterwards, and during GRIN. We used the questions in TWEM for discussion. And for essay questions, I let my son make up his own essay questions. For 1984, for example, he compared the current US government to the government in the book. Sometimes I helped him come up with ideas, if he didn't have any. Usually, what happens, is as we discuss something, he'll make an interesting observation, and I'll say, "That would make a good paper." Then he will say yes or no, because... or I don't want to. By the time we're done discussing it, he has several ideas to choose from, or if he doesn't, I do and can give him some choices. It isn't that our discussions are all that great, just that by now we know how to look for ideas within them. TWTM/TWEM questions are really, really good for encouraging the sort of observations that lead to paper ideas. Now that we've been through the questions a bunch of times, my children keep them in mind whenever they read anything (or watch anything), and make comments during their reading. If we don't get to doing a more formal discussion afterwards, I don't worry too much, because I know they've been doing at least some processing as they go along.

 

HTH

-Nan

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Similar to Nan, I choose the lit. for a reason, which, I, too, point out in advance and throughout the reading; it's amazing how easy it is to "get" a particular theme or worldview out of the lit. when mom keeps pointing you in that direction. :tongue_smilie: We do like the lit. guides, though, because mom doesn't think of everything. (lol)

 

 

I forgot to add what we do for writing as we create our own literature program. We shoot for either one longer piece of writing (5 paragraphs to several pages), or 2 shorter pieces (1-2 paragraphs each) for most of the works we read/discuss aloud together. Like Nan, sometimes the student chooses the topic himself; mostly, our boys like some guidelines, so lit. guide essay questions are helpful. Here's what our older son has written on so far with lit. this year:

 

 

The Great Books literature I am doing aloud together with both sons:

1. Beowulf = 1-2 paragraph response to a Great Books lit. question on kenning (literary technique used in the work)

2. Macbeth =1-2 paragraph response to a Parallel Text lit. guide question

3. Macbeth = 1-2 paragraph response to the worldview question: Is there such a point where there is no turning back from evil; when (if ever) do you think Macbeth reached this point

4."The Most Dangerous Game" (short story) -- Windows to the World program = (in process) annotating the story; we'll see if there is enough annotation to come up with some sort of 1-2 paragraph analysis.

 

 

Sci-fi literature together I am doing with just the older son:

4. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde = 1-2 paragraph response to a Progeny Press lit. guide question

5. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde = 4 page paper analyzing Jekyll's choices

6. Frankenstein = 1-2 paragraph response to a Progeny Press lit. guide question

7 Frankenstein = (in process) longer paper comparing Dr. Jekyll and Victor Frankenstein

 

 

Hope that helps, Myra! Warmly, Lori D.

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