Thursday, April 3, 2014

C: Creepy--What Creeps You Out? For Some, It's Frankenstein #Blogging A to Z

Yesterday, I posted the lesson that follows this one: B: Blackout Poetry as Close Reading of Classic Literature.
"They're creepy!" That's the response from many students as they observed their creations, what they call their Frankensteins, during a classroom gallery walk the first day of the Mary Shelley's Frankenstein unit.

For the project, I have students find beautiful people in magazines. Then we cut out the various parts of the picture--the person--that makes each beautiful. These go into piles: hair, eyes, noses, lips, arms, legs, and torsos.

Students select parts from each pile, just as Frankenstein in speaking about his creature says, "I selected his features as beautiful."

Next, the students put their parts together. We display them around the room. Students then participate in a gallery walk. I created an Animoto video showing some of the projects from one class and students "admiring" their peers' work:

The next day, we begin the romance by reading the opening of chapter 5, which is where I start teaching Frankenstein, and follow this with a discussion of what it means to be beautiful in our culture, how arbitrary selection distorts the human form. Essentially, the students have created "grotesques," although this is not a term we use in our discussion.

Here's the opening from chapter 5 that I share with students to jump start the conversation:

IT WAS on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.

How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! -- Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.

The different accidents of life are not so changeable as the feelings of human nature. I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body. For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart. Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room, continued a long time traversing my bed chamber, unable to compose my mind to sleep. At length lassitude succeeded to the tumult I had before endured; and I threw myself on the bed in my clothes, endeavouring to seek a few moments of forgetfulness. But it was in vain: I slept, indeed, but I was disturbed by the wildest dreams.

*This lesson in its entirety will be live on eventually as part of the NEA BL Master Teacher Project.


  1. Interesting post. I've never read "Frankenstein." My thoughts are just gleaned from popular culture. Visiting from A to Z.

  2. New follower from A-Z and also a fellow English teacher-6th graders for me. Love this idea and the blackout poetry too. Cool blog you've got going.

  3. This is a cool project, and of course, Frankenstein is one of my favorite books. It is so well crafted. Thanks for sharing.

  4. What a wonderful teacher you are! What a great lesson. I was a mentor teacher who was trained by the state in a year long mentoring project. I would have used this lesson as an example of excellent teaching with student involvement

  5. My iPad froze up before I was through commenting . Thanks for visiting me. Now I'm off to post my C. Keep up the good work. Hugs, Lura

  6. I am so impressed with this classroom project! Kudos to you. I wish more teachers taught what you're teaching to your students with this! Enjoy the A to Z :-)