Science Fiction

Class Info

“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, 5/19

Today was the final and collection day for all of the books checked out throughout the semester.

Friday, 5/14

Today was the review day for the final. For those students who bothered to show up, I helped them get prepared and organized for the final, gave them some tips, and also awarded them extra credit for the work they put in today. Homework: be ready for the final next Tuesday!

Wednesday, 5/12

Today was our fourth and final unit test. Friday we will review for the final, and the final itself will be given next Tuesday, the last day we will meet as a class. Homework: prepare for the final!

Monday, 5/10

Today we finished Twelve Monkeys and discussed all of the remaining texts in the unit (a student in the 8th block class brought up this very interesting fractal math visualization for a way to picture multiple dimensions) while also reviewing for the unit test. This test will be on Wednesday. Homework: prepare for the test!

Thursday, 5/6

I reminded everyone today that next Monday is the last day to turn in extra credit, and that the unit 4, Stranger in a Strange Land, test will be next Wednesday. We then continued watching Twelve Monkeys. Homework: please read “—And He Built a Crooked House” for Monday.

Tuesday, 5/4

We started class today reading an article by Stephen Hawking on the science behind time travel. We discussed this as well as the two stories due today. I also handed back the Utopia tests. Then we started our viewing of our final film of the semester, Twelve Monkeys. Homework: read “The Ifth of Oofth” and “Mariana” for homework.

Friday, 4/30

Today we started our fourth unit: Stranger in a Strange Land. I started the class with a lecture/discussion on Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. This took up most of the class. Afterwards I handed out reading materials for two stories, both due Tuesday. Homework: please read “The Yellow Pill” (some of you have read this already) as well as “A Sound of Thunder.”


Wednesday, 4/28

Many students failed to show up today. Rather than having so many students miss the discussion of the final unit’s essential questions, etc., I gave the students present a story to read in-class accompanied by an open-book quiz. I think everyone who showed up benefitted from their effort to come to class. Homework: for the few students who didn’t quite finish the story in class, do so for Friday.

Monday, 4/26

Today was the Utopia test. If you were absent, it is your responsibility to arrange a make-up test with me as soon as humanly possible. Unexcused absences will reduce the test to half-credit. Homework: work on extra credit while you still have time.

Thursday, 4/22

Today we wrapped up the utopia unit with “The Enchanted Village.” We also reviewed all of the texts in the unit to prepare for the test on Monday. Homework: get ready for that third essay test Monday!

Tuesday, 4/20

Continuing our Utopia unit today, we took a quiz over and discussed “Harrison Bergeron” and “The Winner.” These discussion questions were intended as an aid to examining the similarities between these two worlds as well as comparing them to our own. Homework: read “The Enchanted Village” for Thursday.

Friday, 4/16

Today we finished up Brave New World. We took the final quiz, and then we discussed the answers to these wrap-up questions to review the novel as a whole. I also passed out the last three stories of the unit (photocopies to period 7, the Science Fiction anthology to period 8). Homework: read “The Winner” and “Harrison Bergeron” for Tuesday.

Wednesday, 4/14

We’re nearly done with the novel, so expect the third unit test to be in the next week or so. Today we took a quiz over ch. 14-16 and then (surprise, surprise) found more quotes, this time attempting to connect them to our world. We of course discussed these quotes and connections. Homework: finish the novel for Friday.

Monday, 4/12

Today we went over ch. 11-13, including a quiz and a discussion of the plot. Students spent a large portion of class searching for quotes to explain John’s idea that life in the World State isn’t “expensive” enough. Homework: read ch. 14-16.

Thursday, 4/8

We, of course, started with a quiz today. Then we continued discussing the slogans worksheet, including page two in which we worked in advertising and other slogans that we are bombarded with every day. After this, students worked on beginning to collect quotes for the next test. Homework: read ch. 11-13.

Tuesday, 4/6

Welcome back from spring break! Today we took a quiz on and discussed ch. 4-7 in Brave New World. We also began spending time with the Hypnopædic Slogans worksheet some of you got last time we met. Homework: read ch. 8-10 for Thursday.

Friday, 3/26

Post-snow day, we finally started Brave New World today with a quiz over ch. 1-3 and a discussion of students’ questions. I also handed out the reading schedule. We reviewed the start of the novel, talked about the details of the setting Huxley created for the novel, and then we read part of ch. 3 out loud to help everyone understand what was going on. The 8th period class got started on page 1 of the Hypnopædic Slogans handoutHomework: read ch. 4-7.

Wednesday, 3/24

Snow day! Homework originally due today is now due on Friday.

Monday, 3/22

Today we finished Gattaca. We discussed the end of the film as well as the answers you all gave to the utopia survey I gave at the end of class last Thursday. I passed out and introduced the novel Brave New World, and students had time to begin reading. Homework: read ch. 1-3 of BNW for Wednesday.

Thursday, 3/18

We continued watching Gattaca today, and I also administered a quick questionnaire relevant to the topics we’ll be discussing this unit. Homework: none, but you should think about doing extra credit.

Tuesday, 3/16

Today is the start of the Utopia unit. After reminding everyone of the extra credit opportunities available, I introduced the essential questions and defined “utopia” (and “dystopia”). We then began watching Gattaca.

Friday, 3/12

The Robots and Mechanical Manufactured Men test was today. If you were absent, you need to see me ASAP about making it up — if your absence is unexcused, you will only receive half credit for the test.

Wednesday, 3/10

We discussed the end of Blade Runner as well as Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang. We also discussed the review sheet in preparation for the Robots and Mechanical Manufactured Men test on Friday. Homework: prepare for the test!

Monday, 3/8

I was away from school today. Students finished watching Blade Runner and answered these questionsHomework: the end of the novel was due today, but now you have until Wednesday to finish.

Thursday, 3/4

As usual, we started with a quiz — today over ch. 24-25. We had a short discussion of this reading as well as a run-down of the next week’s worth of classes. Then we began our viewing of Blade Runner so as to make sure and finish it by next Friday for the test. (Incidentally, through some very geeky serendipity, minor TV personality John Hodgman posted to his blog today about the film and a letter he found from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep author Phillip K. Dick regarding his opinion of the film. Funny.) Homework: finish Birds for Monday.

Tuesday, 3/2

Today included a quiz over ch. 21-23. We discussed the nuts and bolts of the last two readings, and then everyone spent a good chunk of class trying to find quotes in the text to support some overlapping motifs in the novel. We shared and discussed these quotes, which, if you put some effort into this activity, will help a lot on the upcoming test. Speaking of the test, it will be next Friday, 3/12. Homework: read ch. 24-25.

Thursday, 2/25

I was absent from school today. Students needed to complete this open-book quiz/handout for ch. 18-20 in class. There was then time to read ch. 21-23 in class or work on extra credit. Homework: finish ch. 21-23 for class next Tuesday if you didn’t finish it today in class.

Tuesday, 2/23

Today we quizzed on and discussed ch 14-17 in Birds. We also had a lengthy discussion on the nature of the individual vs. society, using these quotes from the text to launch the discussion:

  • “No one had the right to bring unhappiness to the brothers or sisters, she thought. No one had the right to exist if such an existence was a threat to the family. That was the law” (113).
  • “We all know and agree it is our duty to safeguard the well-being of the unit, not the various individuals within it. If there is a conflict between these two choices, we must abandon the individual” (124).
  • “For the first time in her life she would be alone at night....If she had a bad dream and stirred in her sleep or cried out, no one would hear her, no one would be at her side to soothe her, comfort her” (125).
Homework: read ch. 18-20 in Birds.

Friday, 2/19

We started with a quiz over Birds ch. 10-13. Then we switched things up a little bit and I shared an article from Time magazine on human cloning from 2001. Students read this in class and then we discussed the following questions:

  • What were your thoughts on human cloning before you read the article? Has the article changed your thinking, even just a little bit?
  • What in the article was surprising to you? What was an aspect or effect of cloning that you hadn’t considered before?
  • Do you agree with me that human cloning will be a real issue in your lifetimes? Why or why not?

Afterwards, we briefly discussed ch. 10-13 in Birds. Homework: read ch. 14-17.

Wednesday, 2/17

Today students took a quiz over Birds ch. 5-9, which we then discussed. I also gave a little bit of reading time today to help folks get caught up/get ahead. Homework: please read ch. 10-13.

Friday, 2/12

Today we started Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang. I gave a quiz over ch. 1-4, and then I split the class into groups to summarize each chapter and note key points. These groups reported back out and we discussed the beginning of the novel. I spoke with some students about possible difficulties getting through the novel, and I suggested purchasing the audiobook version of Birds from iTunes or Audible. I then returned the (Hu)Man and Machine tests. I gave the following feedback to everyone in the hopes of seeing some improvement on the next test:

  • You need good organization, a solid thesis that states your opinion, and then support from the texts to show how you formed that opinion
  • Support from texts needs to be specific — quotes from printed texts are the expectation
  • Detailed discussion of each text is also the expectation, more than a short paragraph on each one
  • The more texts you can work in, the better
  • Discussing 3-4 texts in depth is way better than trying to discuss them all briefly
  • I’m not looking for regurgitation or summaries — that’s what the quizzes are for, just to prove to me that you read
  • The tests are to prove to me that you can think about the reading, and to show me what you think about them and how the texts got you there
    • to synthesize information from multiple texts
    • to analyze that information to form and defend an opinion
  • You could do so much more, but at the very least write a 5-paragraph essay
    • intro with thesis and preview of which texts you'll cover
    • one thorough paragraph for each text with multiple examples and explanation
    • thought-provoking conclusion that re-states the thesis and reviews the texts/topics you covered
Homework: read ch. 5-9 for next class.

Wednesday, 2/10

Today we had a presentation from DeVry University during the first half of class. Afterwards I gave a quiz on and we discussed “EPICAC.” I also distributed copies of Where Sweet the Late Birds Sang. If you did not receive a copy, please come get one from me ASAP. Homework: read ch. 1-4 in Birds.

Monday, 2/8

Today I started with a quiz over “Instinct.” We discussed I, Robot, including not only thematic questions but also observations about the filmmaking. We also discussed “Instinct,” of course tying it in to our unit themes and questions. Homework: read “EPICAC” by Kurt Vonnegut (if you didn’t receive a copy, see me ASAP).

Thursday, 2/4

Today we finished our viewing of I, Robot, which took nearly the entire class. In preparation for a discussion of the film on Monday, I posed these questions to the class. I also handed out and reviewed the options for extra credit this semester. Let me know if you have any questions, and don’t forget to run those stories and films by me before you consume them. Homework: read “Instinct” on p. 176 in your anthology (I said yesterday there would be additional reading this weekend, but I changed my mind).

Tuesday, 2/2

Today we took a quiz on “Robbie,” the first text in our second unit — Robots and Mechanical Men. I introduced the essential questions for this unit: “What does it mean to be human?” and “What is the authentic human?” We talked about these questions and what those distinctly human characteristics are that separate us from all other beings. We discussed the story, and then we began our viewing of the film I, Robot. Homework: none for Thursday, but if you want to get ahead you can read “Instinct” on p. 176 in your anthology; this will be due next Monday, but I will assign another story over the weekend as well.

Friday, 1/29

Today was the (Hu)Man and Machine unit test. If you were absent, you need to talk to me ASAP. Homework: read “Robbie” on p. 142 in the Science Fiction, Science Fact, and You text.

Wednesday, 1/27

Today we wrapped up our first unit — we discussed “Litterbug,” “Dial F for Frankenstein,” and “And It Will Serve Us Right,” and we also reviewed for the upcoming test. Homework: please prepare for the test on Friday.

Monday, 1/25

Today was an unusual day, with college-related (yet unrelated) presentations from the Skyline counseling staff as well as a representative from the Art Institute of Colorado. We did squeeze in a quiz over “Dial F for Frankenstein,” and I also distributed copies of “And It Will Serve Us Right,” and essay by Isaac Asimov. We will discuss these and “Litterbug” (finally) on Wednesday. We will also review for the unit test that day. The test will most likely be on Friday. Homework: finish reading the Asimov essay if you didn’t finish it in class. 

Thursday, 1/21

Class started with a quiz over “Litterbug.” Afterwards, we finished our viewing of The Fly and discussed the filmmaking techniques employed as well as the commentary on technology the film made. I also handed out copies of an anthology, Science Fiction, Science Fact, and You — an unfortunate title, but it has some good stories we’ll be reading this semester, including one for homework, due Monday. If you didn’t receive a copy from me, come get one ASAP. 

Homework: read “Dial F For Frankenstein” in SF, SF, and You.

Tuesday, 1/19

We reviewed the film critique terms (handout, slideshow), using the films you watched over the weekend to discuss examples of these elements of filmmaking. We then started watching The Fly, which I paused periodically to point out and discuss the filmmaking elements. 
Homework: read “Litterbug,” which I provided as a photocopy, for Thursday.

Thursday, 1/14

Students took a quiz over “Autofac” at the beginning of class. We then watched “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 finished by passing out a handout on film criticism terms so that you could complete your homework assignment. 

Homework: watch any film you want between now and our next class on Monday; answer the questions on this handout. The film doesn’t have to be a science fiction film, but you could use it for extra credit if it is.... 

Tuesday, 1/12

I started by 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. I used a couple online examples (Did You Know 4.0, National Geographic) to illustrate some actual facts about modern technology and also to tease my preferred option for students to earn extra credit — share cool articles or Web sites about real science related to our science fiction.

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. At the end of class, I distributed copies of the story “Autofac” to be read for homework.

Friday, 1/8

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, some common themes among sci-fi stories, and our essential questions for the course. Lastly, I passed out and discussed the course norms. Everyone must have 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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