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Lesson Plan

Finding the Science Behind Science Fiction through Paired Readings

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Finding the Science Behind Science Fiction through Paired Readings

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Six 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Lisa Storm Fink

Lisa Storm Fink

Urbana, Illinois


National Council of Teachers of English


Student Objectives

Session One

Reading and Discussion

Session Two

Session Three

Session Four

Session Five


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • apply information from nonfiction in their literary analyses of science fiction texts.

  • compare and cross-reference information from science fiction and nonfiction texts.

  • identify topics to research for factual content.

  • record factual research information.

  • write a reflection paper on their topic.

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Session One

  1. Invite students to share titles of science fiction books they have read. Record these on the board or on chart paper.

  2. When students have completed their sharing, hand out the Science Fiction Definition.

  3. Discuss this genre and compare it to other genres that they have read. To visually represent the comparisons, complete a Venn Diagram on science fiction and another selected genre.

  4. Explain that the class will be reading a science fiction novel. While reading, they should record any questions they have or situations they encounter that they want to learn more about.

  5. Introduce the Science Fiction booklist. Read through the annotations with the students. Note whether any of the books were mentioned by the students.

  6. Students should select Science Fiction books, and begin reading them. As the students are reading, remind them that they will be identifying questions that they will further research.

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Reading and Discussion

  1. Allow the students time to read their selected novels, either individually or in literature circles; or read the book aloud to the class.

  2. As students read, ask them to keep in mind that they should identify questions for research that will help them determine the accuracy and validity of what they find in their reading.

  3. As you discuss the reading, use this handout to guide their critical reading. Students can also write their responses in a reading response journal.

  4. In addition to paying attention to the science that is represented in the novel, ask students to brainstorm different words and phrases from science, technology, engineering, and mathematics that appear in the novels. Focus their discussion on how the terminology of these different areas functions in the novel. In particular, have students consider how this terminology communicates details about the science that is presented in the novel.

  5. Meet with students and review the questions they are recording. Use this information to obtain additional nonfiction texts for Session Two if necessary.

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Session Two

  1. After students have finished reading their science fiction novels, share the list of nonfiction books and any additional nonfiction resources that are available.

  2. Preview the available Websites that students can use to research the background on their novels, answering any questions that students have about the way that the sites work.

  3. Model the process of finding facts about a science artifact for students, choosing a focus that is not covered in students' novels.

  4. Students should find ten science facts to support or dispute the science included in the plot of their science fiction texts. If desired, the students can record their information on the data collection sheet.

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Session Three

  1. Revisit the definition of science fiction that was shared in Session One. Working in pairs or small groups, ask students to revise the definition of the genre now that they have first hand knowledge of it from their reading.

  2. Invite students to share some science facts that they recorded from their reading with the class.

  3. Next, ask students to share some details from the novel that are clearly fictional or that cannot be easily verified.

  4. Ask students to brainstorm words and phrases from science, technology, engineering, and mathematics from the nonfiction resources that also appear in the novels. Ask students to discuss what the use of similar terminology in the fiction and nonfiction texts tells them about the science behind the science fiction novels.

  5. Ask students to hypothesize about the balance between fictional and factual information in the novels that they have read, using discussion questions such as the following:

    • Does the information help them gain an understanding of the present and future?

    • Did they learn something about science concepts by reading the novel?
  6. After the group discussion, which touches on how these books are science fiction, ask students to examine the novels they've read more closely by writing a reflection paper that addresses the following questions:

    • What makes the text fiction?

    • Is your text fiction because of inaccuracies (which are proved by your nonfiction research), or is it science fiction because of the scientific principles woven into the plot?

    • Did the author do his or her homework regarding the portrayal of space travel, the future, human portrayal? In other words, is it presented accurately?

    • What evidence is there that the author did his or her homework in preparing to write this novel?

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Session Four

  1. At this point, present project choices to the students:

    • Write a literary analysis of one of the science fiction novels, using the information they gathered in your research as your guide.

    • The setting of science fiction texts is in the future. If you read this text in the future, what aspects would read as contemporary realistic fiction? Write a paper that explains your observations.

    • The texts listed on the booklist are not without some ethical questions. Select an action or decision in the plot, and write a persuasive paper that explains how things could have been handled differently. Use the Persuasion Map to gather your thoughts before you begin your first draft.

    • Based on your research, create a glossary of scientific, technical, engineering, and/or mathematical terminology from the science fiction novel. In your description of the terms, explain both the nonfiction meaning of the term and how that term is used in the fictional text.

  2. Allow additional sessions for students to work on their projects.

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Session Five

  1. When the students have completed their projects, allow time for them to share with the rest of the class.

  2. Give students five to ten minutes to prepare to share their projects with the rest of the class.

  3. Have students present their projects, giving each student one to two minutes.

  4. Once everyone has presented, ask discussion questions that encourage students to synthesize the unit:

    • What difference does the science in a science fiction novel make?

    • How believable do the situations and science in a science fiction novel need to be?

    • Why is the human element important in science fiction?

    • How do science fiction novels comment on the contemporary world?
  5. Collect students' projects for assessment.

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  • Students can perform scenes from the science fiction books they have read. Refer to this lesson on Readers Theater.

  • Invite students to read more than one science fiction novel about the same topic (e.g., time travel.) Students can compare the presentation of the travel and related technology in the different novels. Use the Comparison and Contrast Guide to discuss how to write comparison and contrast papers, and then ask students to write papers or journal entries that compare the novels that they have read.

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  • As students discuss the novels, listen for comments that indicate that students see the ways that fictional and nonfictional details intersect in science fiction. Provide supportive feedback for observations that show students are identifying the ways that scientific data in the story adds to the fictional scenario that the novel focuses on. Additionally, monitor student interaction and progress during class discussion to assess social skills and assist any students having problems with the project. Look for evidence in studentsí contributions to the discussion as well as in their individual work in response to the Guided Questions and the Data Collection Sheet that they have engaged in the research process (searching for and recording facts about science and technology) and made connections between the fiction and nonfiction resources that they explore.

  • As students begin working on their projects, ask them to collaboratively create a rubric that the projects will be evaluated on. They might want to include whether or not the information in the project includes fictional and nonfictional information as well as how the project ties to the genre of science fiction. Other aspects that could be included in the rubric include whether or not sufficient information and ideas were presented.

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