Developing a Definition of "Science Fiction"

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SWBAT use their prior reading experiences to develop a definition and "test" for science fiction; SWBAT apply that "test" to a story.

Big Idea

Science + Fiction = Science Fiction?

Developing a Definition

15 minutes

This is the first lesson of the science fiction unit, our final unit of the year.

To begin the unit, I asked the students to help construct a definition of science fiction.  I gave a student a whiteboard marker, and she acted as a scribe.  The students raised their hands and provided input.

The class did a pretty comprehensive job, but we had to talk about the difference between science fiction and fantasy (a gray area for most.)  We agreed that plausibility made a big difference between the two.  Fantasy incorporates unbelievable elements, such as trolls and unicorns. We discussed how science fiction might take something that exists (like cloning) and take it to an extreme (creating a world of clones.)  I talked to the students about how clones can represent conformity, so that science fiction can reflect truths about our current society or provide cautionary tales.


Isaac Asimov Story

15 minutes

We then read "Rain, Rain, Go Away," by Isaac Asimov.  The story is in our anthology, and I like to use it because the students can compare the story (which is a little silly) with our definition.  When we go on to read Ray Bradbury, they can see that sci-fi, as a genre, has levels of complexity.

Does this story pass the test?/Theme Exit Ticket

10 minutes

To come back to our definition of science fiction, and to reinforce the students' understanding of theme, I wrote the following exit ticket:

  • Think about the story and compare it to the definition of science fiction that we developed in clas today.  Does this story qualify as science fiction?  Explain.
  • What is the theme of the story?

The students did a great job with the first part.  There were good arguments on both sides, though the side for it "not" being science fiction seemed a bit stronger.  However, the theme part showed me that we still need to work on our understanding of theme.  I plan to create a mini-lesson or PowerPoint with their answers to the question, and I want to use that as a springboard for discussion. (Note: you can find that here.)