The Mechanical Hound: Using Context Clues to Understand Deeper Meaning

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SWBAT cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text by unpacking the text and illustrating.

Big Idea

Dogs are supposed to be man's best friend. Does the mechanical hound count?

Getting Started

10 minutes

At the beginning of class, we will quickly discuss their homework. Students were asked to compare their favorite tv shows to Mildred's: how are they the same? how are they different? I'm interested to know where they saw any similarities as well as differences (W9-10.9a). I'm hoping that we get a little debate going (SL.9-10.1a).


Here are two examples: example 1 and example 2.

Venn Diagram

15 minutes

Mechanical Hound

35 minutes

The first four paragraphs of Montag's return to the firehouse is dedicated to a detailed description of the Mechanical Hound. It is scary and ironic, but also a bit confusing at times. Words like "capillary," "proboscis," and "olfactory" are new for students are it takes some time to develop a clear image of this animal. I usually read this section aloud and pause frequently-- about every other sentence-- as we try to use context clues to decipher the meaning of words (L.9-10.4a). For instance, at least one student will probably remember "olfactory system" from science class, and from that word, it is easier to decipher "proboscis" in context. At each pause, I ask that students work to develop a mental image of the hound, or they can sketch it as we read. As we put the pieces together, it becomes clear that the hound is the loyal dalmatian we usually associate with firehouses, but a twisted version of man's best friend.


Then, it is clear why Montag fears the hound--we think it is a little scary-- yet Captain Beatty assures him that he is being paranoid, that the Hound can't dislike him because it doesn't have feelings. It merely functions. At this point, I ask students if Montag is being paranoid and to cite text to defend their answer (RL.9-10.1). As we find out more about Captain Beatty, most students will surely see that he isn't as disinterested in this topic as he seems in this section. Therefore, it is a good time to stop and reflect, so that we understand more later.

Wrapping Up

5 minutes

For homework, students will illustrate the Mechanical Hound. Their illustration also needs to include 4 quotes that correspond to their drawing (RL.9-10.1).


The Hound plays a major role in the text. Therefore it is important that we understand this "dead beast, living beast." Illustrating it proves that students understand.