There is a wide range of options available when it comes to teaching science fiction. One of the first things I read when deciding to put together a science fiction literature study was the article, Why Teach Science Fiction? by Professor James Gunn. In it, he writes:

The kinds of subjects that can be taught through science fiction involve all the social and physical sciences, history, ideas, futurology, religion, morality, ecology, reading skills, and many others. In fact, looking at the course descriptions gathered for this issue of Science-Fiction Studies, I am impressed by the fact that they are addressed to almost every issue but the genre itself.

When teaching science fiction from a literary perspective, he outlines three approaches, any or all of which would be valid:
  1. The "great books" approach, in which the focus is on novels and critical analaysis of what makes them great.
  2. The "ideas in science fiction" approach, dealing with how science fiction stories can be used to dramatize contemporary problems.
  3. The historical approach - what is science fiction and how did it get to be that way?

Before I get back to planning our literature study, here were a couple of other ideas that captured my interest:

Teaching Science with Science Fiction

Teaching Writing with Science Fiction


*The first three books are specifically for middle grade students, while the last two are for adults, but still of value.

Miscellaneous Resources

As a spin-off to our year-long science fiction literature unit, we'll also be taking a look at retro-futurism, just for fun. This would also make a quirky tie-in to a study of technology or the history of inventions. Here's my reading list, though there may be some overlap between titles:
Paleofuture is a terrific blog that explores "The Future That Never Was" and Dark Roasted Blend also has some amazing stuff.

One of my recent ideas for school next year was to put together a science fiction unit for J, something that he would absolutely love (he wants to be an astrobiologist). Below are the books that I initially purchased, though I expect that some will be culled and others added as I get further into my pre-reading and planning. In particular, I like the idea of studying the books by sub-genre (time travel, dystopian, apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic, etc.), so there's clearly some organizational work to be done. More than likely our "spine" will be the amazing Prentice Hall Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy, a college text which I'll use selectively.

A fascinating blog documenting non-fiction children's books about space flight, from 1945 to 1975, is Dreams of Space.

The Tom Corbett - Space Cadet series was inspired by Robert Heinlein's Space Cadet and published between 1952-1956. The series inspired comic books, a daily and Sunday newspaper strip, radio shows, and a television series.

Thanks to Boom Pop!, I discovered that 7 of the 8 titles are available as free eBooks at ManyBooks:
While these books might not have much literary value, I thought they might be fun to include anyway (or maybe not!).

Dystopian Fiction*
*I picked these books from the excellent lists found here and here.
Top 50 Dystopian Movies of All Time

Since I haven't done a weekly report in forever, I decided that I should force myself to write something this week. Overall, I'm feeling unusually dissatisfied, and have been since winter break. In particular, language arts (which I've written more about below) and history are distressing me - and distracting me from most everything else. I think I'm only upset about history because I'm working on a plan for next year which is utterly unique and rather brilliant and I'm impatient to get started on it! It's really hard to focus on this year when it seems positively dull in comparison!

  • We've been shamefully lax about religion this past month, though the kids are still attending religious classes twice weekly at church. I hope to piece together a plan this weekend to get us back on track!

Math and Science
  • The kids read and narrated a chapter per day from Isaac Newton and Physics for Kids: His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities. As usual, there wasn't enough time to actually complete any of the activities (nor was there, quite frankly, much interest). J has been doing his own science reading as well lately, studying the topics that interest him.
  • The kids continued with daily lessons from their Singapore Math books. They're currently working on fractions and all is going blessedly well.
Language Arts

Since December, I've been feeling enormously discontented with several aspects of our entire language arts program. With D at public school again this year, and headed to an academically rigorous private high school next year, I've become increasingly aware of his weaknesses in language arts. There are deficiencies that I wish I had seen sooner, so that we could have worked on them during the brief time he was at home. This has made me especially mindful of M and J's education, since they remain home with me. What an enormous responsibility a child's education is! Silly as it may sound, I think the full weight of that has only just hit me.

In analyzing the potential "gaps" in their education, I found it helpful to first compile a list of goals. To do this, I consulted the state's curriculum content standards and the result was, quite frankly, overwhelming (here, for example, are the reading goals). Then, I decided to take a step back and listen to Susan Wise Bauer's excellent audio lectures (specifically those on writing and literary analysis). They're really such a joy to listen to, and very comforting, but at the same time, too simplistic I think.

So, I've been puzzling over all of this for awhile now and, while I still don't have a clear plan in place, I am getting closer. Nevertheless, I expect there will continue to be a slight amount of chaos until everything gets sorted out. With that in mind, here's what we did this week:
  • Daily cursive copywork from the Bible and George Washington's Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation, part of the Time Travelers: Colonial Life unit.
  • In Voyages in English, the kids completed five lessons pertaining to limiting adjectives, demonstrative adjectives, possessive adjectives and the position of adjectives. Overall, I'm quite pleased with Voyages in English, but realized this week that while the books cover a lot of ground, there isn't nearly enough review (and thus, retention suffers). Beginning next week, I plan to resume daily or thrice-weekly review drills. We did this with Rod and Staff English and I found it fairly effective.
  • For spelling we completed four lessons plus a review lesson from Dictation Day-by-Day by Kate Van Wagenen. Misspelled words were written ten times each. Though we haven't been using the book for long, I really like it.
  • From Figuratively Speaking, the kids learned about denotation and connotation, with an emphasis on the shades of meaning a word can have. I stretched the lesson to last all week and supplemented with a few additional worksheets found online (here, here and here). 
  • We took a week off from writing/composition work this week while I assess where we're at and where we need to be. Moving forward, I know that I will continue to use Methods and Material for Composition in Intermediate and Grammar Grades by Alhambra Deming. I'm also expecting Grammar for Middle School: A Sentence-Composing Approach by Don Killgallon to arrive today, and have a few other ideas that I'm working on.
Personal Notes

I feel as though I've been going in about a hundred different directions at once these days! I recently learned that the company I work for may be closing soon and am feeling quite conflicted about that. Since high school, I've never not worked, but at the same time, after working from home for seven years, I think I would find returning to a 9 to 5 office job very difficult! So, it's not likely that I will get another job if/when my present job ends. That would, of course, free up so much more time for me, which would be wonderful. At the same time, my income pays for all of our books and fun stuff. Needless to say, I've been spending every penny on books these days - in a panic for the future!

At present I'm trying to sort out all of our lesson issues (see above), pre-read M and J's books for next year to forumulate ideas (honestly, I think I've got at least two years of books so far!), read books on teaching reading and writing, and, in the time that's left, read for pleasure...Needless to say, I fall asleep every night with a book in hand and am, overall, utterly exhausted. I just finished Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden, which is quite simply the best novel I've read in a long time - I loved everything about it.

For the most part, I've simply copy and pasted the Kansas curriculum content standards for 7th grade here, and added the resources that I've found to assist in teaching them. Thus far, this is a largely a collection of graphic organizers, but I hope to add more varied resources in the future.


Goal: The student expands their vocabulary.
  1. Determines meaning of words or phrases using context clues (e.g., definitions, restatements, examples, descriptions, comparison-contrast, clue words) from sentences or paragraphs.
  2. Determines meaning of words through structural analysis, using knowledge of Greek, Latin, and Anglo-Saxon roots, prefixes, and suffixes to understand complex words, including words in science, mathematics, and social studies.
  3. Identifies and determines the meaning of figurative language (similes, metaphors, analogies, hyperbole, onomatopoeia, personification, and idioms).
  4. Identifies word connotations and word denotations.
    The choice of words that a writer uses, and the tone of those words, is what evokes an emotion in us. As an active reader, you should question the author's use of words: Why does your author use neutral, positive, or negative connotative language? How does it affect the characters and you?
Reading Comprehension

Goal: The student reads and comprehends grade-level-appropriate material. They describe and connect the essential ideas, arguments, and perspectives of the text by using their knowledge of text structure, organization, and purpose. The student comprehends a variety of texts (narrative, expository, technical and persuasive).
  1. The student identifies characteristics of narrative, expository, technical, and persuasive texts.
  2. The student understands the purpose of text features (e.g., title, graphs/charts and maps, table of contents, pictures/illustrations, boldface type, italics, glossary, index, headings, subheadings, topic and summary sentences, captions, sidebars, underlining, numbered or bulleted lists) and uses such features to locate information in and to gain meaning from appropriate-level texts.
  3. The student uses prior knowledge, content, and text type features to make, to revise, and to confirm predictions.
  4. The student generates and responds logically to literal, inferential, evaluative, synthesizing, and critical thinking questions before, during, and after reading the text.
  5. The student uses information from the text to make inferences and draw conclusions.
  6. The student analyzes how text structure (e.g., sequence, problem-solution, comparison-contrast, description, cause-effect) helps support comprehension of text.
  7. The student compares and contrasts varying aspects (e.g., characters' traits and motives, themes, problem-solution, cause-effect relationships, ideas and concepts, procedures, viewpoints, authors' purposes) in one or more appropriate-level texts.
  8. The student uses paraphrasing and organizational skills to summarize information (e.g., stated and implied main ideas, main events, important details) from appropriate-level narrative, expository,
    , and persuasive texts in logical order.
  9. The student identifies the topic, main idea(s), supporting details, and theme(s) in text across the content areas and from a variety of sources in appropriate-level texts.
  10. The student follows directions explained in a technical (instructive) text.
  11. The student identifies the author's position in a persuasive text and describes techniques the author uses to support that position (e.g., bandwagon approach, glittering generalities, testimonials, citing statistics, other techniques that appeal to reason or emotion).
  12. The student distinguishes between fact and opinion, and recognizes propaganda (e.g., advertising, media, politics, warfare), bias, and stereotypes in various types of appropriate-level texts.

Goal: The student uses literary concepts to interpret and respond to text.
  1. The student describes different aspects of major and minor characters (e.g., their physical traits, personality traits, feelings, actions, motives) and explains how those aspects influence characters' interactions with other characters and elements of the plot, including resolution of the major conflict
  2. The student identifies and describes the setting (e.g., environment, time of day or year, historical period, situation, place) and analyzes connections between the setting and other story elements (e.g., character, plot).
  3. The student identifies major and minor elements of the plot (e.g., problem or conflict, climax, resolution, rising action, falling action, subplots, parallel episodes) and explains how these elements relate to one another.
  4. The student recognizes aspects of theme (e.g., moral, lesson, meaning, message, author's ideas about the subject) and recurring themes across works (e.g., bravery, loneliness, loyalty, friendship).
  5. The student identifies literary devices (e.g., foreshadowing, flashback, figurative language, irony, metaphor, tone/mood, symbolism).
  6. The student contrasts point of view (e.g., first and third person, limited and omniscient, subjective and objective) in narrative text and explain how they affect the overall theme of the work.
Goal: The student understands the significance of literature and its contributions to various cultures.
  1. The student identifies common structures and stylistic elements in literature, folklore, and myths from a variety of cultures.
  2. The student compares and contrasts customs and ideas within literature
    representing a variety of cultures.
  3. The student recognizes connections between cultures and experiences through a variety of texts.