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“What If…?”

In our crowded literacy curriculum there is little, if any, room for science fiction.  It is, after all, considered a lesser literary light. Yet when I observe my students with their independent reading books, many are engaged with some sort of fantasy book or science fiction novel.  This unit is for these fifth graders and the many others like them, as well as for those who are not yet hooked on science fiction. This unit is not intended as a comprehensive genre study, rather through this two week unit, students will read stories and watch videos as they explore some of the important features and themes of the genre. Students will understand that science fiction, while immensely entertaining, is also an effective vehicle for social commentary. They will simulate landing on a distant planet by conducting a mini ethnographic study. They will do close readings of fiction and related nonfiction pieces and respond in a variety of written formats, and use the readings as a springboard for classroom discussions.  As a culminating activity, they will engage in the tantalizing exercise of speculating “What if…?” as they create their own science fiction stories that have them travel back in time to change some aspect of history. Students will share their stories and will reflect on the effects and ethics of their trip.

Joyce Arnosky
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