Analyzing an Interview with the Author

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Students will be able to analyze the main ideas in an interview and explain how they clarify an issue by watching an interview with the author, discussing, and writing an essay.

Big Idea

In which we uncover an author's motivation for writing.

Daily Grammar

15 minutes

We revisit subject and verb agreement, the capitalization of proper nouns, and the use of quotation marks to show a quote. The quote gave students some trouble. The comma after 'remembers' helps signal that direct words are coming.  The next question is where does the quote end?  She remembers all the way to the end, to "the stench was dreadful." 

Wallace Serling Interview

25 minutes

Today students are practicing their listening skills in order to draw a conclusion, cite evidence, and ultimately, write an essay.

They're watching an interview that Mike Wallace conducted in 1959 with Rod Serling, right before The Twilight Zone first aired.  They're comparing what they hear in the interview to the biography we read five million weeks ago about Serling and drawing conclusions about why Serling wrote "Monsters" and whether he was trying to say something with that story.

While students watched the interview, they used this handout to record notes. I asked them to consider four things:

  • What kinds of stories does Rod Serling write?

  • What does Serling want to accomplish with his writing and with The Twilight Zone?
  • According to Mike Wallace, what kinds of stories does Serling write?

  • According to Serling, what kind of stories does Serling write?

 Here's the link to the Wallace Serling interview on YouTube.


15 minutes

Listening to the interview to find specific information was quite difficult for the students.  It's an important skill to develop, but unfortunately, students aren't given a whole lot of opportunity to practice this skill.  Or, when they are given an opportunity to practice, they treat the opportunity not as an opportunity, but as a VIDEO! YAY! I DON'T HAVE TO THINK! opportunity.This is also an interview, so it doesn't have the fancy graphics to captivate their attention. The vocabulary in this interview is more advanced than they're used to hearing.

In an ideal world, we would have listened to the interview more than once.  However, it's getting close to our state testing week(s), and we simply don't have time. Unless, of course, you have some extra time that you'd like to donate to me? 

Therefore, I had to provide additional scaffolding for students.  We started with some lower depth of knowledge questions.

  • What did it seem Mike Wallace was saying about why Serling wrote?
  • What kinds of stories did Serling say he was going to write?

It took them awhile to wade through what was said to get to the bottom.  Mike Wallace seemed to prod Serling into saying that he wasn't going to write stories that mattered to avoid controversy, which Serling took umbrage to. Serling said he was going to write stories that mattered, but with a half hour show, he simply didn't have time to delve into the deep, controversial issues.

I then brought them back to the biography we read about Serling about five thousand million trillion years ago. In that biography, the author states very clearly that Serling did deal with controversial issues in The Twilight Zone, but he crouched them within science fiction.  He could comment on Cold War paranoia if he used aliens in place of the "communists."

We then considered the following:

  • Why did Serling say that he wasn't going to write controversial stories?
  • Do you believe him when he says that he wasn't going to write controversial stories?
  • What would his motivation be for saying that he wasn't going to write controversial stories?

You can see me asking students some of these questions in this video.

Lesson Resources

Today's lesson picture is a screenshot of Serling during his interview with Mike Wallace.