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Decoding The Matrix Exploring Dystopian Characteristics through Film
|Grades||9 – 12|
|Lesson Plan Type||Standard Lesson|
|Estimated Time||Three 50-minute sessions|
Charleston, South Carolina
The Matrix is a fast-paced action movie with plenty of dazzling special effects. At its core, however, it is a dystopian work with many of the same characteristics found in dystopian novels such as Fahrenheit 451, 1984, and Brave New World. In this lesson, students are introduced to the definition and characteristics of a dystopian work by watching video clips from The Matrix and other dystopian films. They first explore the definition and characteristics of utopian and dystopian societies, and then compare and contrast the two using a Venn diagram online tool. Next, they identify the protagonist in clips from The Matrix and then discuss how the clips extend and confirm their understanding of a dystopia. Students then view additional film clips and identify which characteristics of a dystopian society the clip is intended to portray. Finally, they explore how they can apply their knowledge about dystopias to future readings.
Interactive Venn Diagram: Use this online tool to compare and contrast the characteristics of utopian and dystopian societies.
NCTE's Topical Resource Kit, Professional Communities at Work: Engaging Media-Savvy Students explains that exploring texts from popular culture in the classroom can open doors for students:
Because of their ties to students' world, these texts often result in a higher level of engagement and underscore the literacy skills that students bring to the classroom. Teachers can identify print, visual, and sound texts that students already read and compose; then, they can analyze and compose examples of such texts in class. Once students understand these reading, composing, and critical thinking concepts in familiar texts, teachers extend students' reading or composing practices to more traditional texts and additional examples and genres from popular culture. In this way, multimodal teaching practices provide a connection to more traditional literature and enable students to enhance and build sophisticated literacy skills that help them explore the cultural texts in the world around them. ("Framing Text" 6)
This lesson models precisely this move from familiar text to less familiar text-students begin with an exploration of a popular film that many will already be familiar with and then are ready to extend the analytical skills and new ideas to less familiar novels or other texts.
National Council of Teachers of English. 2005. Professional Communities at Work: Engaging Media-Savvy Students. Urbana, IL: NCTE.
Costanzo, William V. 2004. "The Matrix." Great Films and How to Teach Them. Urbana, IL: NCTE.