Teaching Science Fiction in High School Classes
Developed by Paul Brians
Note: this course is no longer being offered. The syllabus is being made available for people who may want ideas about how to teach such a course.
- Note: This is a preliminary syllabus provided to help potential students get an idea of the course ahead of time. Changes may be made before the course actually begins. Because this is a compressed course taught in half the usual time, and is offered at the graduate level, students should expect to set aside adequate time to do the work. Considering it as approximately the equivalent of a half-time job should be adequate. Because it is a discussion course, students are responsible for setting aside the time to work on it consistently. This is not a “flex-time” course which can be done at leisure.
Although the general public thinks of science fiction (SF) primarily as a phenomenon of escapist movies and television shows, there is also a large body of fine written SF which qualifies as good literature by any standard. This course seeks to familiarize students with written SF as literature rather than as a pop culture phenomenon. Students will learn the history of written SF, study specific major works (both novels and short stories), and become acquainted with literary criticism in the field.
When you have completed this course, you will be able to:
- identify outstanding authors and works which may be recommended to students, encouraging them to explore beyond Star Wars novels and other pop series
- locate scholarly sources to support the study of works of SF
- design and create materials to help students understand works of SF
|Assignments for Week One (Due 9:00 AM, June 23)
(if you do not get your textbooks in time, use the online edition at Bartleby.com http://www.bartleby.com/1002/ to get your reading done by the assigned date
Heads-up: On July 7 you will turn in an annotated bibliography of books, articles, and other resources that you intend to use in researching your topic. Use MLA style documentation, and for each item, explain how you think it will contribute to your research project. Correspond with Prof. Brians now to negotiate your topic and begin searching for sources right away.
Assignments for Week Two (due 9:00 AM, June 30)
Assignments for Week Three (due 9:00 AM, July 7)
Assignments for Week Four (due 9:00 AM, July 14)
Assignments for Week Five (due 9:00 AM, July 21)
Assignments for Week Six (due 9:00 AM, July 28)
Assignments for Week Seven (due 9:00 AM, August 4)
Assignments for Week Eight (due 9:00 AM, August 11)
Note: Editions of SF read may vary; any edition will do.
Brooks Landon: Science Fiction After 1900: From Steam Man to the Stars. New York: Twayne, 1997.
H. G. Wells: War of the Worlds
Ray Bradbury: The Martian Chronicles
Walter M. Miller: A Canticle for Leibowitz
Stanislaw Lem: Solaris
Philip K. Dick: Blade Runner
Ursula LeGuin: The Dispossessed
Ursula LeGuin & Brian Attebury, eds.: The Norton Book of Science Fiction.
William Gibson: Neuromancer
Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale
Course Work and Grading
Readings and Discussion (50%)
Contributions to the online threaded discussions will be judged by the following criteria:
- They must be made in a timely fashion.
- They must demonstrate a careful and thoughtful reading of the assigned writings, including the study guides and supplementary critical and historical material.
- When discussing fiction, they must attempt to answer at least some of the questions in the related study guide (but please don’t write answers to all the study questions; leave some room for other students to contribute).
- For each assignment each student is also expected to respond to one or more of the points raised by another student, saying more than “I agree” or “I disagree.” Offer examples, additional arguments, counter-arguments, comparisons, related ideas, do comparisons.
- Contributions should not read like book reviews giving purely personal reactions; they should focus on what you have learned or think you can teach others about these texts.
- Try to think of ways you could use what you have studied for this assignment in the classroom and sketch out possible approaches for teaching.
- Posts should act as the opening comments in an ongoing discussion, not seeking to close off debate with the last word, but inviting responses. It is perfectly legitimate to ask questions or ask for clarification of points you don’t understand.
- Contributions should whenever possible bring in useful comparative material from other readings, films, discussions with students, etc.
Responses to other students’ posts in the online threaded discussions will be judged by the following criteria:
- Students are expected to take part continuously in discussion by making responses over the course of a week, not logging in just once a week to do everything at once. The due dates are final deadlines, but students are encouraged whenever possible to do their work earlier so that others have plenty of time to respond.
- You must go beyond merely agreeing or disagreeing to make substantial points.
- You must express yourself in civil language, avoiding insults and dismissiveness.
- Your posts should contribute to ongoing discussion, helping to develop ideas and themes raised in the original posts. Whenever possible try to tie together different viewpoints or make comparisons.
- Responses should not be made constantly to the same individual or small group. Try to spread responses around. If challenging or difficult posts have been made, try to respond to them rather than choosing easier ones.
Research paper (50%)
Research projects will be evaluated according to the following criteria:
- Topics should be chosen from the list provided by the professor, or developed in correspondence with him.
- The choice of topic must be made by the end of the second week of the course and research must proceed in a timely manner.
- Students must continually correspond with the professor about their research, trying out ideas, asking questions, etc.
- WSU library resources must be used; papers may not draw solely on Web resources. Students must display knowledge of the major SF research sources highlighted in the course bibliography.
- Papers must display an ability to draw on scholarly sources to prepare to teach the fiction being studied.
- Papers must be written in standard formal English. For writing tips, see Paul Brians’ Web publication Common Errors in English.
- For citations of sources, use MLA style as explained on the Purdue University OWL pages.
- The final grade will depend heavily on the extent to which the final draft is revised and improved in response to comments by the professor and other class members.
Tips for Collaboration and Netiquette
You are expected to master the basic material covered by the course, be prepared by reading the assigned material (and re-reading material you’ve read before), meet deadlines, actively participate in the Bridge discussion activities, and collaborate with fellow class members to achieve the course objectives. Appropriate professional behavior demonstrating respect for classmates and instructors is expected. Questions of academic dishonesty will be dealt with in accordance the Washington State University Academic Integrity Standards and Procedures.
Since your interaction with your classmates is crucial to this class, any posts made after one week beyond the initial due date for an activity will not be counted for grading purposes.