Leaving Literature Tracks: Open Mic Discussion of "Frankenstein" (focus on chapters 1-4)

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SWBAT lead discourse on chapters 1-4 of "Frankenstein" through an open mic discussion.

Big Idea

"With how many things are we on the brink of becoming acquainted?" --Mary Shelley ("Frankenstein")

Teacher to Teacher: Lesson Context and Time Frame

This is Lesson 4 in the Frankenstein unit.

In the previous class, students volunteered to lead discussion on on chapters 1-4 of Frankenstein. I selected two students for each chapter and gave them the following instructions: Summarize the chapter, share significant passage(s), talk about what you think is important, feel free to talk about the text in terms of your literary lens.

As we progress through the romance, the discussion will continue in this vein. Each student will be required to present at least one Open Mic discussion. 

In this lesson students

  • watch Part ! of "Frankenstein" Crash Course w/ John Green,
  • Present Open Mic discussions for chapters 1-4
  • Preview their Literature Tracks unit plan.

The Literature Tracks project, based on S by J.J. Abrams might be the most complicated literature assignment I have ever taught/explained to students. I will show students examples and have them show them to one another as we progress through the unit. These will appear in subsequent lesson plans!

*A shout out to Tim Gillespie for the Open Mic idea. Tim's version can be found in Doing Literary Criticism.

Crash Course "Frankenstein": Part 1

15 minutes

There is no better friend to teachers and students than author and entrepreneur John Green. Happily, the week before I began teaching Frankenstein this year, he posted Frankenstein Part I on Crash Course, his YouTube channel. 

To begin today's lesson, I show students this episode, which is #205 in the Crash Course Series:

The video reinforces questions and context of the novel students have been exposed to already. However, after viewing it, I ask students to share observations and questions the video raises in their minds. To assist teachers with this, I've prepared some notes that can be used w/ students. The teacher can check off what students notice, use the notes to clarify information w/ students, or share the notes w/ students so that they have a deeper understanding of the book. Frankenstein Crash Course Part 1 notes.docx

Open Microphone Presentations

40 minutes

Open Mic discussions are based on the idea that student led inquiry is preferable to teacher-led discussion. To conduct an Open Mic discussion, I give students simple directions, depending on how I set up the discussions. In the Frankenstein unit, students chose a chapter to be responsible for, and I grouped the chapters in four-chapter increments. I have in the past had a more organic discussion and allowed students to speak when ready. The make-up of the class will determine the approach one takes.

Instructions to students. These should be given at least a day before students present the information. 

Choose a passage to share with the class. The passage should be approximately 10 lines long. Tell why you chose the passage. Tell what questions the passage raises in your mind. Tell how the passage resonates with your literary lens.

Before the presentations, give students five minutes to meet with their partners if more than one student has a given chapter or meet with groups depending on literary lens assignments. Then have students present in turn.

Here is one example of two students presenting their Open Mic discussion:

After students present their commentary for chapter 1, I ask the class if they have comments or questions. Next,it's important to add to the presentation. I do this by asking if students noticed any passages that respond to their critical theories assigned in the previous lesson.

Then I share passages I think are most important. For example, in chapter 1 students may need a little help seeing how objectified Elizabeth is at the end. In the last paragraph Victor refers to Elizabeth as "a possession of my own."

In chapter 2 I want students to think about Victor's claimed "thirst for knowledge." I ask: "Is it possible to follow the wrong teachers?" I also ask them if knowledge can become out of date? Initially, I pose these as rhetorical questions if the students need time to think about them. 

I expect students to think about both Victor's mother's death and how his studies influence his response to it in chapter 3. 

In chapter 4 students really begin to notice Frankenstein's objective. But if they have not yet mentioned that he wants to reanimate life as a response to his mother's death, I ask them why he wants to create life. I also want them to notice VF's goal of doing what women do: reproduce. If I ask, who gives or creates life, at least one student will say, "God" and another "women." This helps students begin to see Frankenstein through a feminist lens.


Leaving Literature Tracks: Introducing Students to Close Reading the J.J.Abrahams "S" Way

10 minutes

I have in mind a creative reading of Frankenstein inspired by J.J. Abrahams' postmodern novel "S."

To help students understand my vision, I bring the book to class and show it to them. "Ship of Theseus" in the "S" Box, which is sealed. I let them see the box the book comes in, talk to them about the book inside the box, which is titled Ship of Theseus, show them the envelop of artifacts that came in the book and that I have tagged indicating the page in which I discovered each artifact, and show them several pages of the book so they can see the typed text (the Ship of Theseus novel) as well as the marginal notes written in two different styles of writing to indicate two different responders. A page from "S"'s "Ship of Theseus" showing the story w/in the story that I show to students. This marginalia is the "story" of two readers--Eric and Jen--who have never met but who "communicate" inside the novel to solve a mystery. As I said, the novel is very postmodern. Additionally, I tell students that the artifacts also contribute to the story. "S" w/ "Ship of Theseus" and the artifacts. And I tell students that in an eight-hour time span I only read 111 pages of the book, explaining that I have to take my time reading "S" because it's a tough read and because I'm reading two novels at once within the parameters of one "text." 

S is a beautiful book, and my idea is that students will create a personal and unique reading experience as they leave their mark on Frankenstein and as Mary Shelley's timeless classic leaves its mark on them. 

After showing students S and explaining the project, I pass out Leaving Tracks: Frankenstein Checklist. This handout gives a tentative schedule and the tasks students will complete. I save the handout for today because I want students to see how far they have come in their reading journey. Already, they have completed the first two items on the list, and eight of the students have completed the Open Mic assignment. 

As students read Frankenstein, they are to annotate their books and create their artifacts. At the end of the unit, they will have a project that includes artifacts they created and those we worked on in class together. Here are some examples from the final projects: 

Amber is a student who aspires to be a doctor (her father is a radiologist) so she focused on the biology in Frankenstein in creating her artifacts: Amber's Artifact 1 and Amber's Artifact 2 show two of her three artifacts. She used tea to stain the pages and bound the artifacts as books she put into her annotated Frankenstein. 

Suzanne is a foreign exchange student from France who made her artifacts early. Here are her three artifacts displayed. One focuses on the book as romance: Suzanne's three artifacts

Several students played with the wanted poster idea, but most needed to make the artifact have more textual relevance, which is something I'll address w/ future classes: Frankenstein Wanted Poster

The frankenstein 4-Squared and love letter artifact shows an artifact every student was to include w/ a student artifact. 

Body artifact is another student created artifact, and one student who loves social networking used Twitter as inspiration for an artifact: Tweet artifact.

These are just a few of the creative ways students responded to Frankenstein based on the J.J. Abrams novel S. One student even created a 3-D work of art.