"A Monster Calls" Me: Identifying Personal and Public Monsters, a "Frankenstein" Response

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SWBAT identify their personal "monsters" and those in history or pop culture as responses to "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein."

Big Idea

"The real world is where the monsters are." --Rick Riordan

Teacher to Teacher: Lesson Context and Time Frame

Although the lesson as presented here is lesson #6 in the unit, it is a lesson that teachers can use as a way to reenergize discussion and as a way to keep students thinking about Frankenstein's relevance in our 21st Century world. Thus, it's a very portable lesson, and if a teacher prefers to use the lesson in another unit, it will work well there, too. 

In this lesson students 

  • Watch the book trailer for A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness,
  • Listen to a book talk about A Monster Calls,
  • Research historical, fictional monsters,
  • Identify their own personal monsters,
  • Take time to read,
  • Share their findings in a pair and share discussion,
  • Turn in an exit ticket that includes their research findings and personal monsters.

The biggest challenge in the lesson is getting kids to connect the activity to the novel.

My goal in the lesson is to help students see how a classic text can resonate in their lives. This is a topic Pulitzer Prize winning author Junot Diaz challenges us to think about: Junot Diaz in Salon.mp4. Here's the Salon article.

Introducing the Lesson with a Book Trailer and Book Talk of "A Monster Calls" by Patrick Ness

15 minutes

How often do we refer to something or someone as a monster? That is the question I pose to students at the beginning of the period. 

Next, I tell students that a recent (2013) Patrick Ness novel tells the story of a boy who is confronted with a monster that he must face. Then I show the book trailer:

Next, I tell the students a bit more about the book in a book talk format. Here is some of the information I include:

  • The novel reads like a fairytale.
  • It has wonderful illustrations as the trailer shows.
  • Connor is haunted because he is afraid of something outside his control. 
  • Connor knows his mother is dying, so he must confront his fears of death and of life w/out her. 

I tend to live in the moment when reading for pleasure, so if I haven't composed my own summary of a book, or if I'm sharing a book I have not yet read, I look for an online summary, such as this one at Schmoop. And since A Monster Calls is a popular book in my small classroom library, I don't always have the book available when I present a book talk. 

Calling Social and Personal Monsters: Documentation Investigation

30 minutes

Begin the lesson with a discussion about personal and social monsters. I ask students about types of monsters and criterion on which we evaluate monsters:Notes from the Board

To help students connect to the monsters among us, I ask them to do the following: 

  • Research the internet for monsters. These can be from the news, from history, from literature, or from anywhere else you can find. Student Work: Monster Investigation
  • Brainstorm your own "monsters." What are your fears, anxieties, personal demons, etc.? Think about the things that keep you from accomplishing your goals. 
  • Put the social monsters on one side of the notecard and your personal monsters on the other side of the card. Student Work (2): Monster Invstigation
  • Be prepared to share your results with the class or w/ a partner, and be prepared to discuss how your ideas connect to Frankenstein

Immediately, a student mentioned a recent school shooting that was all over the news this morning as a possible "monster." I tell the students that this is an excellent suggestion and I really value the connection the student made.Student Work (3): Monster Investigation

At this juncture, I give students time to work, and as they work, I circulate around the room so that they know I'm available to assist them. 

Some questions students have:

  • What kind of monster do you want? This question is typical of a generation of students who think there is a right and wrong answer to most every other task. 
  • Is it okay if I give a monster from a movie? I allow this because I really don't want to put stipulations on the assignment, but an option I suggest is finding a movie monster and a "real-life" one. Student Work (4): Monster Investigation

Pair and Share and Ticket Out

5 minutes

We take the last few minutes for students to share their monsters. My favorite is an admission from a student who identified his personal monster as his cell phone. He said he's on his phone so much that he cannot follow directions and knows he misses much important information in his classes. 

One student showed me his personal monster but was unwilling to share with the class for fear he's offend someone. Student Work Personal Monster

I ask, what do you think are Victor Frankenstein's personal monster(s). One student says, "regret." He continues, Frankenstein regrets making his creature; now the creature his his monster and not something he's proud to have created. He has to find a way to get rid of the monster. 

I collect the cards but will return them later so students can use them as artifacts in their reading of Frankenstein. Student Work (5): Documentation Investigation and Student Work(6): Documentation Investigation