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Lesson Plan

Paying Attention to Technology: Exploring a Fictional Technology

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Paying Attention to Technology: Exploring a Fictional Technology

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Traci Gardner

Traci Gardner

Blacksburg, Virginia


National Council of Teachers of English


Student Objectives

Session One: Prereading Survey & Discussion

Session Two: Story Mapping & Discussion

Session Three: Technology in Fiction


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • complete a short survey to establish their beliefs about technology.

  • compare their opinions to the ideas in a fictional resource that depicts technology.

  • analyze the ways that technology is described and used in a fictional resource.

  • be urged to reexamine and think more deeply about their own beliefs.

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Session One: Prereading Survey & Discussion

  1. Explain that you are about to begin an exploration of the role that technology plays in people’s lives and that the first step will be to complete a survey.

  2. Distribute copies of the Technology Survey, and ask students to fill out the sheet.

  3. After students have responded to all of the questions, compile the results on the board, chart paper, or an overhead. You’ll refer to the survey responses in later sessions so use an overhead or chart paper if you’re likely to have to erase the board between sessions.

  4. Begin class discussion with the statements for which there is the most disagreement. Encourage students to explain the reasoning behind their responses and to debate differing opinions. Share the results of this NPR Survey with students and discuss how their views compare to the survey results.

  5. Be sure to challenge students’ views of technology as you discuss the responses to the survey. Many students have an oversimplified view of technology. They readily accept the notion in the first statement on the survey that technology makes life better for everyone. Urge students to think about the ways that technology can be defined.

  6. In discussion of the survey, students may be surprised to discover that everyone does not share their optimism regarding technology. Some students point to pollution or to problems with nuclear power plants or to other technology-related disasters as examples of the potential drawbacks of technological advances. Be sure to ask students for such examples as they discuss their responses.

  7. Encourage students to consider the ways that technology has influenced their lives. As students discuss the survey results, invite them to share any personal experiences that have shaped their opinions.

  8. Once you have discussed most or all of the questions on the survey, ask students to read the story or novel that you’ve chosen.

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Session Two: Story Mapping & Discussion

  1. Lead a brief discussion of the reading that students have completed to answer any immediate questions and ensure that students understand any unusual jargon or word choice in the piece.

  2. Establish the names of the main characters and any special place names or significant objects.

  3. With the basics explored, have students use the Literary Elements Map to explore the role of technology in the story in more detail. Students can work individually or in small groups.

  4. If students need additional help with the questions in the tool, you might provide the following tips:

    • Character: Think about technology (however it is defined) as the main character, or focus on the reaction of a key character in your story who is affected by technology.

    • Conflict: Look for conflicts that involve science and/or technology and their possible effects on specific people or on society as a whole.

    • Resolution: The resolution may be a disaster or catastrophe, or it may be a realization on the part of one of the characters. The story doesn’t have to work out to a “happily ever after” conclusion.

    • Setting: Realize that there can be more than one setting in the story. Pay particular attention to the information about the setting that influences the main conflict.
  5. Remind students to print out their information at the end of the session. Explain that if they desire, students can print their responses for a particular literary element (e.g., for a key character in the story using the Character Map) then complete the questions and print them again for a second instance of the element (e.g., for technology as a character in the story using the Character Map).

  6. If time allows, have students share their observations with the class.

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Session Three: Technology in Fiction

  1. Divide students into small groups and give each group a new copy of the Technology Survey.

  2. Ask students to use their printouts from the Literary Elements Map and additional evidence from the story to determine how the story’s author would respond to the survey questions.

  3. In addition, ask students to review all their findings and answer the question, “What is the author of this story saying about technology?”

  4. After students have worked out responses to the questions, reassemble the class to discuss and debate their findings.

  5. As groups report their answers, encourage them to compare the responses that characters in the story would give to the Technology Survey to the response that the author would give to the statement. Ask students to draw conclusions about the role of technology in the story and the author’s message about technology based on their class discussion.

  6. When students have explored the survey in relationship to the story, post the students’ own answers to the survey from the first session.

  7. Ask students to compare their own responses to those for the story’s author. Often their opinions will have changed. Encourage students to explain how the story has affected their own opinions.

  8. Encourage students to draw conclusions about the influence of the description and use of technology in the story on their own understanding of and opinions of technologies in the survey and in their daily lives.

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  • With some adaptation, this lesson plan can be completed in literature circles—each group exploring a book or story that examines issues related to science and technology and their possible effects on society. The connecting investigation of opinions on technology and the description and use of technology can yield exciting findings as students note where the different authors agree and disagree on the influences of technology on society.

  • Students can use online versions of Brave New World or 1984 for close explorations of text and to track details through the body of the texts. Because of their length, the novels do not lend themselves to being read online; however, students can use the Find command in their Web browser to locate instances of a particular word quickly. For example, if readers of 1984 wanted to find references to the word “telescreen,” the online version would help them move through the book quickly. This capability can be used to find a particular passage that the student is looking for as well as for information going through the text and investigating the use of a term in more details (e.g., noting who uses a term or how often it is used). The online versions will not align with the printed texts that students have, but textual markers such as chapter titles will help them narrow in on the location in their own copies.

  • If your students are exploring M. T. Anderson’s Feed, look for the audio version of the book (Listening Library, 2003), and play excerpts of the Feed broadcasts to help students more vividly imagine the effect of the technology. After hearing the audiobook’s broadcasts, students will likely find comparisons to radio and television very easy.

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There is normally considerable disagreement among students discussing which statements on the Technology Survey the author would agree or disagree with and why. This disagreement provides a natural follow-up writing situation that can serve as an assessment for the activity. Ask students to write a letter about why they think the author would agree or disagree with one of the statements from the survey that the class could not come to agreement on. The letter should be addressed to someone else in the class who disagrees with their viewpoint.

Students can use the Letter Generator and include their responses in their journals for informal assessment or submit the letter for more formal assessment. Look for details from the readings that support the position that students argue in their letters. Students can exchange letters with others in the class then continue the discussion of the author’s position. In their discussion, encourage students to refer to points from the letters that they agree or disagree with.

If formal assessment of the piece is desired, share the Taking a Position on a Fictional Technology Rubric to establish the expectations for the activity then use the document to guide your response to student work.

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