Science Fiction

Class info

  • Meets Gold Days, periods 6 and 7
  • Room 775
  • Senior English Literature Elective

Announcements: The final for both classes will be given May 14. The last day for extra credit will be May 16. 

“What do the worlds of science fiction teach us about our own world?”

Students will analyze selected works in order to study the essential questions Science Fiction writers have been asking for over 180 years. Students will also research and collect materials to find and support the thematic concepts that are at the base of all science fiction: unexplained phenomena, self-knowledge, the individual vs. society, space and time travel, the relationship between technology and humankind, and the relationship between the environment and humankind.

We will be reading short and long fiction as well as watching films, all of which will tie into our four central themes: (Hu)Man and Machine, Robots and Mechanical Men, Utopia, and Stranger in a Strange Land.

Tuesday, 5/20

Today was technically the last day of class, though I only saw the 6th period students (there was a senior assembly and early dismissal for seniors following 6th period). I played the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers just for fun for those 6th period students who showed up. Finals should be graded figured into semester grades by the end of the week.

Friday, 5/16

Today only a few students showed up. We spent class time working on extra credit and checking in textbooks.

Wednesday, 5/14

Today was the final. If you were excused absent, you need to make it up immediately or risk receiving a zero. All books must be returned before I will sign your senior check-out sheet.

Monday, 5/12

Today we finished our just-for-fun film, Children of Men, discussed it, and tried to figure out which unit it would best fit in. Then we did a group review for the final, which is Wednesday, talking primarily about connecting these texts to our own realities. Lastly, I handed back the previous unit test and progress reports so everyone would know where they stood going into the final.

Homework: study! And don’t ditch, or you’ll get a zero on the final, which will be worth two unit tests.

Thursday, 5/8

Today we briefly discussed the final — we reviewed the essential question for the entire course and talked about how a successful essay on the final will have to make solid, significant connections between texts in each unit and our own world. Concrete examples and quotes from these texts will, as always, be expected.

Then, for fun, we started watching Children of Men, a film I haven’t seen myself, but has been highly recommended to me as a sci-fi film — one I may consider including the next time I teach the class. I’ll be looking for feedback on where best it would fit.

Homework: review for the final!

Tuesday, 5/6

Today was test day for Unit 4: Stranger in a Strange Land. Any students who missed the test with an excused absence are responsible for arranging a make-up time; unexcused absences will result in a zero and no chance to make it up. After the test, I asked students to fill out a course feedback form and also begin their review for the final, which will be 5/14.

Homework: complete the course feedback form, if you didn’t get it done during class and begin your semester review.

Friday, 5/2

Today we took a quiz on and discussed the last two texts of the last unit, “Mariana” and “The Ifth of Oofth.” After this, we worked on unit review questions in preparation for the unit test next Tuesday. Most of you need to do really well on this test to either bring your grade up out of the gutter, or to maintain a grade with which you’d like to finish the semester. Remember, if you have an A going into the final, you don’t have to take it.

Homework: study! Review those texts! Come to the test prepared with specific examples (that means quotes from the printed texts).

Wednesday, 4/30

Today we started with a quiz over the short story “The Veldt.” We then used these discussion questions to set up our, well, discussion:

1. The lions go from being “realistic” to “real” in the story. How does this happen?

2. In what other texts have we seen this happen — something becoming real?

3. Does this happen in real life? Does perception make things real?

The third question really ended up driving discussions in both classes, which was fun. We also watched part of an episode of The Simpsons, which we mentioned after reading “A Sound of Thunder” — not only did it have time travel where changes in the past changed the present/future, but it also included a dystopic alternate present run by a Big Brother-like Ned Flanders. Awesome.

Homework: read “Mariana” and “The Ifth of Oofth,” beginning on pages 152 and 304 respectively, both in the Science Fact-Fiction text.

Monday, 4/28

Today we finally finished Twelve Monkeys and talked about the end of the film. I also handed back the Utopia tests and passed out progress reports. As part of this, we discussed the upcoming Stranger in a Strange Land test (most likely Tuesday, May 6) and the final (a week or two later).

Homework: read “The Veldt.” This story is photocopied into a handout, so you’ll have to get one from me if you didn’t get it in class.

Thursday, 4/24

Today we continued our viewing of Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys. We didn’t quite finish the film, however, as I wanted to make sure we had a good discussion about some of the themes prominent in the second act of the film. We will finish the film on Monday, when I will also hopefully give back the Utopia tests. No homework this weekend.

Tuesday, 4/22

Today we discussed “—And He Built a Crooked House.” Doing so required some background info on tesseracts and hypercubes (the images specifically are helpful). After discussing the story, we began viewing Twelve Monkeys, which we’ll finish on Thursday.

Friday, 4/18

Today we began our 4th unit, Stranger in a Strange Land. The essential questions of this unit are:

  • What is real?
  • How would you define “real?”
  • How would we react to alternate realities/parallel universes/other dimensions?

We started class with a quiz on “A Sound of Thunder” and “The Yellow Pill.” Then we discussed these essential questions, using Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” to try and illustrate different levels of reality and perception (for more about the “Allegory of the Cave” beyond my inadequate explanation and horrible drawing, check out these resources online — 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 — or do a Google search). Then we transitioned into our two stories for today.

Homework: please read “And He Built A Crooked House,” p. 25 in the Science Fiction anthology.

Wednesday, 4/16

Today was the test for our Utopia Unit. If you were excused absent, please talk to me ASAP to get it made up. If you were unexcused absent — bummer, you get a zero. After the test, students need to start reading the first two stories for our next unit — Stranger in a Strange Land; those stories are “A Sound of Thunder,” which is in both anthologies (p. 46 in Science Fiction and p. 251 in Science Fact-Fiction), as well as “The Yellow Pill” (p. 127 in Science Fiction).

Homework: finish these two stories for Friday.

Monday, 4/14

Today we took a quiz on and discussed “The Winner.” We then did review for the Utopia Unit test. The test will be Wednesday. Please be ready!

Thursday, 4/10

We started today with a quiz today on “The Enchanted Village,” and then we watched the last 30 minutes of THX-1138. Next was a lengthy discussion of both texts and how they tie into the Utopia unit themes. We also briefly talked about the Utopia test, which will for sure be next Wednesday, 4/16. The last 10 minutes or so of both classes was for me to reiterate that the vast majority of you need this class to graduate, and if you are failing or borderline right now, that doesn’t bode well for your chances of walking in May. I will not simply pass students by with a D just because they want to graduate. Two ways you can make sure you will pass this class are extra credit and doing well on the remaining tests (which includes reviewing for this upcoming one!). Please take this to heart.

Homework: our last text for this unit is “The Winner” on p. 109 in the Science Fiction text.

Tuesday, 4/8

Very few students actually read “The Enchanted Village” over break, so I gave extra credit to those that did, and re-assigned it for Thursday — there will be a challenging quiz to go along with it! We spent most of class watching THX-1138, which we will finish Thursday and discuss, along with the story. What was supposed to be homework, “The Winner” (p. 109 in the Science Fiction anthology), will be postponed, but feel free to read it now if you can. As we are about finished with the Utopia unit, the test is imminent — probably next Wednesday, 4/16.

Friday, 3/28

Today we finished watching Gattaca. Afterwards, we discussed the three Utopia texts thus far — Brave New World, Gattaca, and “Harrison Bergeron” — using this handout as a guide (which will also be useful on the Utopia unit test).

Homework: read “The Enchanted Villiage” in the Science Fiction text for our first day back from spring break.

Wednesday, 3/26

Today we began watching Gattaca, the first film text of our Utopia unit. We will finish the film on Friday, discuss it, draw connections between it and Brave New World, and also draw connections to “Harrison Bergeron,” a short story by Kurt Vonnegut in the Science Fiction text.

Homework: read “Harrison Bergeron,” p. 119 in SF.

Monday, 3/24

Today we began with our last quiz on Brave New World. Then we considered discussion questions regarding the value of hard work and the rigidness or fluidity of our social structure (especially as compared to the caste system in the novel). We used these questions to discuss the events of the end of the novel as well as the themes overall.

Thursday, 3/20

Today we started with a quiz over ch. 14-16 of Brave New World. We talked about these chapters, especially John’s actions following his mother’s death as well as Bernard’s inability to act. We finally got around to page 2 of the hypnopaedic slogans handout and also discussed some of the qualities of the World State that qualify as utopic and/or dystopic. At the end of class, I handed back the Robots & Mechanical Men tests as well as semester progress reports. 

Homework: finish BNW for Monday.

Tuesday, 3/18 and Wednesday, 3/19

Today was a split day due to CSAP testing. We took a quiz on ch. 7-13 of Brave New World, discussed those chapters, and then I offered extra credit for those few students who managed to show up.

Homework: read ch. 14-16 for Thursday.

Friday, 3/14

I was absent today. The sub was supposed to have you complete page two of the hypnopaedic slogans handout and also to give you reading time. 

Homework: you should have read through ch. 13 by the time we meet on Tuesday (period 6) or Wednesday (period 7).

Monday, 3/10

Last night I realized the reading for today was probably too aggressive. So the quiz and discussion today only covered ch. 5-6 of Brave New World. After our lengthy discussion, I gave out page one of this handout on hypnopaedic slogans — we didn’t have time in either class for page two, so we’ll pick up with that on Friday (we won’t meet again before then because of CSAP testing).

Homework: we’re going to try not to drastically alter the reading schedule; technically, you need to read all the way through ch. 10 for Friday. Realistically, your quiz and the discussion probably won’t go past ch. 9, if that far.

Thursday, 3/6

We began with a quiz on ch. 3-4 of Brave New World. Next, we discussed a lot of the “abnormal” realities of the world of the novel, all the while trying to connect them to our own world — hopefully, realizing that in some respects our world is actually not that different. We read out loud a particularly confusing passage at the end of ch. 3 to try and help with this.

Homework: read ch. 5-7 for Monday’s class.

Tuesday, 3/4

We began our Utopia unit today, introducing definitions of utopia and dystopia as well as introducing our essential questions — check out the slides for more. Part of my presentation was also background on and information about the novel Brave New World, which is the first text of this unit. We then laid out the plot and setting details of the first two chapters of BNW.

Homework: read ch. 3-4 of BNW for Thursday.

Thursday, 2/28

Today was the test for Unit 2 — Robots and Mechanical Men. If you were excused absent, please talk to me ASAP about making up this test; if you were unexcused, you will receive a zero. After the test, I handed out copies of Brave New World, which is our next text. I decided to hold off on Gattaca to make sure we’re able to finish BNW before spring break. We also previewed introductory notes and essential questions for this new unit on Utopias. More of that on Tuesday.

Homework: read ch. 1-2 of Brave New World.

Tuesday, 2/26

Today we had a lengthy discussion on Blade Runner — much more indicative of the discussions we’ll have of films from here on out. Primarily we talked about Deckard as a replicant and which characters are more “human.” I then gave everyone time to work on the study guide for the Robots and Mechanical Men test, which will be Thursday, the next day the class meets

Homework: prepare for the test. You may want to re-read portions of the texts as well as re-watch at least one of the films. Remember, I’m looking for you to be able to intelligently discuss at least a few of the texts from this unit. The test will be open-book and open-note.

Friday, 2/22

Today we spent the entire class finishing our viewing of Blade Runner. We will discuss the film on Tuesday. To prepare for the discussion, think about which characters in the film seem more human — the actual humans or the replicants? Also, is Deckard (Harrison Ford’s character) a human or a replicant?

Wednesday, 2/20

Today we finished I, Robot, and had a pretty extensive discussion about the end of the text, particularly Calvin’s comparisons between robots and “good” men/politicians (don’t laugh, it makes sense in the book, sort of) and our own comparisons between this text and the film. During the second half of class, we began watching Blade Runner, an weird, confusing, but excellent film that fits nicely into this unit (What is the definition of “human?”) and also bridges the gap to our next unit (Utopia) quite well.

Homework: finish reading I, Robot if you haven’t yet.

Friday, 2/15

Today we took a quiz on and discussed “Little Lost Robot.” 

Homework: read the last two stories in I, Robot — “Evidence” and “The Evitable Conflict” — for Wednesday. We’re skipping “Escape!”, but this would be a good one for extra credit.

Wednesday, 2/13

I gave the class reading time today to catch up/get ahead on I, Robot. Alternately, students could use this time for extra credit reading. We followed this with a quiz on “Catch That Rabbit” and “Liar!” and a discussion of both, particularly how they indicate a shift in the text.

Homework: read “Little Lost Robot” for Friday.

Monday, 2/11

Today we took a quiz over “Runaround” and “Reason” in the I, Robot text. I also gave back the unit 1 tests and also handed out progress reports with your current grades. Afterwards, we spent a long time discussing the I, Robot film, along with both “Runaround” and “Reason.”

Homework: Please read “Liar!” for Wednesday. Please also make sure you’ve read “Catch That Rabbit!” for Wednesday, which was assigned during the previous class.

Thursday, 2/7

We spent most of the class today finishing our viewing of I, Robot. I assigned these discussion questions at the end of the film, but due to time constraints, we really only discussed the filmmaking aspects of I, Robot. Next week, we’ll get more into the thematic aspects of the film as well as the next few stories in the text.

Homework: read “Catch That Rabbit” in the I, Robot text.

Tuesday, 2/5

We began today with a brief discussion of “Robbie,” the first short story in the I, Robot anthology/text. As I recommended in class, I feel strongly that most of you need to keep some sort of notes to look back on during assessments — so, we’re going to try and formalize the discussion questions each time we have reading due, and it is my hope that you will keep the answers to these questions in a central place (notebook, binder, etc.). Next, we did a quick review of the film critique criteria we discussed a couple weeks ago, which lead into our viewing of I, Robot, which we will finish on Thursday — during this viewing, I’m asking you to pay special attention to lighting and camera movement/angles.

Homework: read “Runaround” and “Reason” in I, Robot — the next two stories after “Robbie.”

Friday, 2/1

We started today with a quiz on Act II of R.U.R. After a brief discussion of Act II (particularly, whether the company should have been more responsible in deciding to whom they sold their Robots), we read Act III out loud and I summarized the Epilogue for the class. We then began comparing this text to I, Robot, and in particular Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics (from which the characters in R.U.R. may have benefited). I handed out copies of I, Robot to students, which we will begin next week.

Homework: read the Introduction to I, Robot, as well as the first story, “Robbie.”

Wednesday, 1/30

Today we started with a quiz on Act I of “R.U.R.” We then continued our discussion of Monday about defining the word “human.” Students then used this worksheet to answer some discussion questions about Act I, which we then ... discussed as a class.

Homework: read Act II for Friday.

Monday, 1/28

Today was test day for unit one — (Hu)Man and Machine. If you were excused absent, please make arrangements to make up this test as soon as you return to school. If you were unexcused absent, you will receive a zero.

After the test, we read a short article on human cloning as a way to kick off our discussion of what it means to be human. The discussion in both classes centered around the idea of a soul to go with a physical body. But that begs the question: What about the inevitability of human cloning or the nearly as likely development of artificial intelligence? Can those beings be considered human?

To kick off our first unit, we will read R.U.R., which starts on p. 33 of the Science Fact-Fiction text. Homework is to read Act I for Wednesday.

Thursday, 1/24

Today we finished The Fly, discussed it on both thematic and technical (film critique) aspects, and did a brief review for the unit test on Monday.

Homework: review for the final; in particular, make sure you re-read and understand the Asimov essay.

Tuesday, 1/22

Today we began by reviewing the film critique terms and talking about examples from films students viewed over the weekend. Afterwards we began watching The Fly. Class was cut short in both sections by a visit from Mr. Swan to discuss scholarship opportunities for seniors. At the end of class, I handed out a review sheet that we will use on Thursday to help in studying for the test next Monday, 1/28.

Homework: none officially, but students should be reviewing for that test. Also, anyone who missed part of the film needs to arrange to make that up.

Thursday, 1/17

Today we attempted our first Socratic seminar — and it went relatively well in both classes. Students read “And it Will Serve Us Right” by Isaac Asimov in the Science Fiction text, and then we discussed it in our seminar. At the end of class, I handed out the Film Critique Terms, which we’ll discuss further next Tuesday.

Homework: review the Film Critique Terms handout, and watch any film of your choice. As you watch the film, try to pay attention to at least one of the aspects of film outlined on the handout, and come to class on Tuesday prepared to discuss your film. The film you watch doesn’t have to be a Sci-Fi class, but you could use it for extra credit if it is.

Tuesday, 1/15

Today I started the class with a quiz over the two stories due today. Some students in both sections were under-prepared for class, so I sent them out to the hall to read while everyone else got to watch an episode of The Simpsons tangentially related to sci-fi. Afterwards, we discussed the stories, again relating them to the unit theme. 

I also outlined the basic plan for the rest of the unit — a Socratic seminar on an Isaac Asimov essay on Thursday, The Fly and a unit review next week, and a unit test probably the following Monday.

Homework: none this time.

Friday, 1/11

Today we began class by watching “The Ultimate Computer,” an episode from season two of the original Star Trek television series. While watching this, students completed this handout, comparing the episode to the story read for today, “Autofac.” We then discussed both texts, of course discussing the applications (and dangers) of technology in each. I also passed out copies of the Science Fiction text toward the end of class. If you were absent or did not receive one for some reason, please make sure you come do so on Monday.

Homework: read “Litterbug” (SF, p. 71) and “HEMEAC” (SF, p. 93) for class on Tuesday.

Wednesday, 1/9

Today I went over the class norms in some more detail, particularly noting the attendance and revision policies. We also briefly reviewed the guidelines for earning extra credit in the class

Next, I briefly talked about the essential question for this unit, (Hu)Man and Machine — “Do we use our technology wisely?” I also put this in the context of the novel Frankenstein — “Has technology become our ‘Frankenstein’s Monster?’ (Is technological progress self-destructive?)” Every text in this unit will tie back thematically to this essential question; it’s a good bet that the unit assessment will have something to do with this as well.

Then we finally jumped into this unit with the story “I Always Do What Teddy Says” (Science Fact-Fiction, p. 156). Students read this in class, and then we spent the end of class discussing it in the context of the questions above.

Homework: please read “Autofac” (S F-F, p. 340) for class on Friday. Come prepared for a discussion, as well as a comparison to other texts we’ve already read.

First Day (Monday, 1/7)

I introduced the course today, beginning by asking students to define science fiction and come up with some examples of sci-fi texts. We then read “The Gun Without a Bang” in the Science Fact-Fiction text, and discussed how it was an example of sci-fi — not only in the details of the story, but also thematically. I followed this with a short lecture introducing and defining the genre of science fiction, its history, and some common themes among sci-fi stories. Lastly, I passed out the course norms; we’ll go over these in more detail on Wednesday, but I want to make sure everyone has the permission form at the bottom of page 2 signed, which fulfills the district requirement of securing parental permission for any film rated higher than PG (regardless of the age of the student). Homework: all students must get this signed and return it on Wednesday.

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