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TeachNet Disseminator Grant      << Back to all Grant Winners

Frankenstein Mini-Research Project

Subject: English, Social Studies, Humanities

Grade Level: 9-12

Materials: Frankenstein Mini-Project Assignment and Rubric, computers with Internet access, LCD projector (ideally), materials for visual aids

About: Part of the reason Frankenstein is a classic work of literature is because of the different ways people can interpret the text. In order for students to see all the meanings, and find their own, it is important that they learn a little about the context in which Mary Shelley was writing. Each student chooses a Frankenstein-related topic on which they will become a mini-expert. I provide students with a pre-screened list of web resources for each topic through the online tool Trackstar so they can focus on content and not on researching (though they are welcome to explore beyond the provided sources). Each topic had its own list of questions that students must address in the final project. Due to the Trackstar format, the questions are always available at the top of the screen. I can also provide specific guidance for each website. After students complete their research, they prepare a mini-lesson, including a poster and a study-sheet that will teach their peers the basics about the topic in order to help them read Frankenstein with greater awareness. Topics for research include:the Industrial Revolution, Milton's Paradise Lost, Mary Shelley’s life, the Prometheus Myth, Gothic Literature, the Romantic Period, and Mary Wollstonecraft (and the state of women’s rights) Students completed phenomenal, concise research on subjects that helped them grasp deeper themes and allusions when reading Frankenstein. They learned how to pull relevant, important information from diverse sources and consolidate their findings under organized headings, both visually and orally during presentations. As a result of their work and the presentations they heard from their peers, students exhibited much better critical thinking and deeper analysis when reading and writing about Frankenstein. These are just some of the results of this project: • Students found numerous parallels between Victor Frankenstein’s relationship to his monster and God’s relationship to Satan as portrayed in Milton’s Paradise Lost • By learning about the Prometheus myth and the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, students identified Shelley’s themes about respecting nature and not to try to have god-like powers • By learning about Mary Wollstonecraft, several students interpreted the female characters in Shelley’s as ironically not fitting her mother’s ideals for women, while others thought Shelley did this intentionally and then killed off all these female characters as a not-so-subtle continuation of her own mother’s critique of subservient, shallow women. • By learning about Mary Shelley’s own life, students saw parallels between her own sense of loss (of her mother, her early miscarriage when writing the novel) and that of both Frankenstein and the monster.

The final assessment for this project is detailed in the documents provided. Please open "Frankenstein Mini-Research Project Assignment" and "Frankenstein Mini-Research Project Rubric" for details.

Students are allowed a certain amount of choice, which allows for differentiation based on ability and on interest. Those more interested in science and history can choose the Industrial Revolution, while literary-minded students may choose Paradise Lost. The use of Trackstar as a support for student research means that I can spend time on content and NOT on teaching research skills. Those come later in the semester, but it is helpful to not have to do it all right away. It also helps students not feel so overwhelmed (reading Frankenstein was overwhelming enough for some of them!). Trackstar is also helpful as a classroom management tool, as its distinctive format made it very easy for me to see when students had strayed from the research I provided and went into less helpful or irrelevant sites. • It is an excellent way to incorporate humanities naturally and authentically, even though this is officially only an “English” class. • Because I control the content of the research, it is easier to differentiate for special needs students. I steered students who needed more support towards the subjects that were easier to interpret. I also created worksheets to help them organize their notes, leaving other students to organize their findings on their own.

Trackstar is free and available for any teacher (I’ve even helped students create their own tracks). It provides as little or as much structure for students using the Web as a research device. It is also very user-friendly. If a student finds a great website, you can add it immediately and all other students can use and enjoy it Likewise, if you decide a site is not as helpful, you can delete it easily. This is much more adaptable and easy than photocopying packets! Reading Frankenstein was not easy for most of my students, yet they all told me that they liked, appreciated, and even enjoyed this project. Doing it early in the novel gave them tools for analysis and making their own connections. This made for better learning and improved their confidence, not to mention more fun for me! Students may continue online research from home as Trackstar is available anywhere there’s Internet.

 Objectives
Students will be able to identify and analyze literary allusions to Paradise Lost and the Prometheus myth when reading Frankenstein.
Students will understand the historical and social context in which Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, specifically the Industrial Revolution, her own life, and Mary Wollstonecraft’s (Mary Shelley’s mother) contributions to women’s rights at the time.
Students will understand the literary context in which Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, specifically Romanticism and Gothicism.
Students will gain research experience and know how to pick out the important information from a variety of sources about one topic.
Students will practice sharing information through a visual aid, an engaging oral presentation, and a study guide for their classmates.
Students will get to connect their own personal interests to literary research and make their own connections between themselves and their reading of Frankenstein.
Students will understand how an author’s personal experiences and social/historical context can influence how they write a text.
Students will understand how a reader’s personal experiences and social/historical context can influence how they read a text.

Websites
I have dozens of links available through my different tracks on Trackstar. Go to http://trackstar.4teachers.org , go to “View Track #” and enter any of these track numbers: The Industrial Revolution: #330317; Paradise Lost by John Milton:#330319; Mary Shelley’s life: #330321; The Prometheus Myth: #330323; Gothic Literature: #330325; the Romantic Period in Literature: #330327; Mary Wollstonecraft (and the state of women’s rights): #330330. Make sure to choose “View in Frames” or it won’t work as well. Each track includes a list of pre-screened resources about the topic, as well as guiding questions and advice over each website. The questions guide the students to find the most relevant information from each resource.
http://trackstar.4teachers.org

Standards
9-12
English
Students read and listen to oral, written, and electronically produced texts and performances from American and world literature; relate texts and performances to their own lives; and develop an understanding of the diverse social, historical, and cultural dimensions the texts and performances represent. They use oral and written language that follows the accepted conventions of the English language for self-expression and artistic creation.
9-12
English
Students listen, speak, read, and write for critical analysis and evaluation. They analyze experiences, ideas, information, and issues presented by others using a variety of established criteria. They use oral and written language that follows the accepted conventions of the English language to present, from a variety of perspectives, their opinions and judgments on experiences, ideas, information, and issues.
9-12
English
Students listen, speak, read, and write for social interaction. They use oral and written language that follows the accepted conventions of the English language for effective social communication with a wide variety of people. They use the social communications of others to enrich their understanding of people and their views.
9-12
English
Students listen, speak, read, and write for information and understanding. They collect data, facts, and ideas; discover relationships, concepts, and generalizations; and use knowledge generated from oral, written, and electronically produced texts. They use oral and written language that follows the accepted conventions of the English language to acquire, interpret, apply, and transmit information.

Day 1: Introduction to the Frankenstein Mini-Research Project
Objectives
Students will get to connect their own personal interests to literary research and make connections between themselves and their reading of Frankenstein.
Students will understand how an author’s personal experiences and social/historical context can influence how they write.
Materials
Copies of Frankenstein Mini-Research Project Assignment and Frankenstein Mini-Research Project Rubric (one per student)
List of Topic Choices prepared on a ballot for students to make their top 3 choices and space on the ballot for students to list potential partners for their project
Prepared tracks on Trackstar. For this unit there are dozens of links available through my different tracks on Trackstar. Go to http://trackstar.4teachers.org , go to “View Track #” and enter any of these track numbers: The Industrial Revolution: #330317; Paradise Lost by John Milton:#330319; Mary Shelley’s life: #330321; The Prometheus Myth: #330323; Gothic Literature: #330325; the Romantic Period in Literature: #330327; Mary Wollstonecraft (and the state of women’s rights): #330330. Make sure to choose “View in Frames” or it won’t work as well.
Projector with Internet-accessible laptop (in order to model the research process)
Procedures
Introduce the students to the new project by going over the assignment sheet and the rubric (briefly).
Give a brief explanation of each potential research topic, making each topic as interesting as possible. It helps to say what kind of student and/or what kind of interests might be met by each topic.
Allow students to ask questions about each topic, then give them time to make their choices.
Collect choices (you will need to figure out groupings and assignments for the next period—groups of 2-3 seem to work well).
Model how to use trackstar. Go to http://trackstar.4teachers.org , go to “View Track #” and enter any of these track numbers: The Industrial Revolution: #330317; Paradise Lost by John Milton:#330319; Mary Shelley’s life: #330321; The Prometheus Myth: #330323; Gothic Literature: #330325; the Romantic Period in Literature: #330327; Mary Wollstonecraft (and the state of women’s rights): #330330. Make sure to choose “View in Frames” or it won’t work as well. Walk the students through the research process for one topic, showing how the different frames work, especially the frame at the top with specific guiding questions for each site. You may want to model how to copy and paste information from the websites, and how to copy and paste the guiding questions into a Word document so that they can take notes electronically as they research.
Homework
No homework for the students (unless they want to explore the tracks on their own). Your homework is to assign groups to topics.
Assessment
Observe them the next day with the computers to see if know how to navigate Trackstar in order to do their research (as you modeled today).

Day 2: First Mini-Project Computer Research Day
Objectives
Students will have gained research experience and know how to pick out the important information from a variety of sources about one topic.
Students will begin to understand how an author’s personal experiences and social/historical context can influence how they write.
Materials
Computer lab and printer
Frankenstein Mini-Research Project Assignments (students should have them from the previous day, but bring extras just in case)
List of assigned student groupings and topics (figured out from the ballots the day before)
Prepared tracks on Trackstar. For this unit there are dozens of links available through my different tracks on Trackstar. Go to http://trackstar.4teachers.org , go to “View Track #” and enter any of these track numbers: The Industrial Revolution: #330317; Paradise Lost by John Milton:#330319; Mary Shelley’s life: #330321; The Prometheus Myth: #330323; Gothic Literature: #330325; the Romantic Period in Literature: #330327; Mary Wollstonecraft (and the state of women’s rights): #330330. Make sure to choose “View in Frames” or it won’t work as well.
Procedures
Greet students at the door to the computer lab with their topics and group-mates’ names.
Tell them to get started, following the procedure you modeled for researching in Trackstar the day before.
Walk around the room, conferring with students, making sure they’re following the proper procedure.
Give students warning toward the end of the period to save/e-mail/print their research.
Homework
Start consolidating research into a cohesive visual aid and presentation. Students may continue online research from home, as Trackstar is available via the Internet. They must bring materials printed and ready to work with for the following class period.
Assessment
Conferring with students as they research, check printed research as an “exit card” for them to leave the computer lab.

Day 3: Frankenstein Mini-Research Project In-Class Work Day
Objectives
Students will have gained research experience and know how to pick out the important information from a variety of sources about one topic.
Students will have practiced preparing and sharing information through a visual aid, an engaging oral presentation, and a study guide for their classmates.
Materials
Research materials students have collected the previous day
Access to one or more computers (for follow-up research if students need or for preparation of PowerPoint presentations), possibly a laptop and projector for teacher's model presentation (definitely not required)
Materials for students to construct visual aids
Prepared model presentation, visual aid and study guide for teacher to model final project for students
Procedures
Have students get into their groups.
Model a brief presentation on a topic not included in your options (“Natural Philosophy” or “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”). Make sure to show how to engage the audience in some way, use visuals to enhance the presentation, a study guide with empty spaces to fill as they listen to your presentation, and keep it short (5-10 minutes).
Give them part or all of the period (depending on length of periods) to work on preparing their research. This is for students to decide what information to include, how to organize it for their oral presentation, their visual aid and their study guide.
Homework
Students may finish the presentation preparation at home or use another in-class work day. I gave them two in-class work days, with their study guides due the day before presentation so that I could make photocopies for them. Remind them that, in addition to their presentation materials, they must also type a reflection answering an essential question for this project and reflecting on the process (see final two bullets on the assignment sheet).
Assessment
Assessment of their work will occur on the presentation days.

Day 4: Frankenstein Mini-Research Project Presentations
Objectives
Students will be able to identify and analyze literary allusions to Paradise Lost and the Prometheus myth when reading Frankenstein. They will also understand the historical and social context in which Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, specifically the Industrial Revolution, her own life, and Mary Wollstonecraft’s (Mary Shelley’s mother) contributions to women’s rights at the time. Finally, students will understand the literary context in which Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, specifically Romanticism and Gothicism.
Students will have gained research experience and know how to pick out the important information from a variety of sources about one topic. They will have practiced sharing information through a visual aid, an engaging oral presentation, and a study guide for their classmates.
Students will get to connect their own personal interests to literary research and make their own connections between themselves and their reading of Frankenstein.
Students will understand how an author’s personal experiences and social/historical context can influence how they write a text.
Students will explore how a reader’s personal experiences and social/historical context can influence how they read a text.
Materials
Students must bring their presentations prepared (oral presentation, visual aid, and study guide was already submitted for copying). If students are late with the study guide, they are responsible for making their own photocopies.
You may need laptop and projector if students are giving PowerPoint presentations.
Photocopies of students’ prepared study guides
Copies of the rubric for the teacher to grade as he/she watches the presentations
Procedures
Introduce the day’s plan, with a few presentations scheduled (I’d recommend spreading presentations out over the course of several days, as students lose attention after 3 or more). Remind students that they are obligated to take notes on the study sheets provided. You may choose to give a quiz/test on the presentations or hold them accountable for the information in a paper later.
Have groups present, assessing them as they go on the rubric provided.
Allow for brief question-and-answer session after each presentation, making sure they are highlighting the connections between their topic and Frankenstein.
Homework
If you are going to give a quiz on the content covered in the presentations, have students study for it.
Assessment
Students are assessed on their oral presentation, the visual aids, and their written personal reflections. The rubric provided is used to guide scoring. I also required students to reference other sources in their final paper on Frankenstein. They can use information from classmates’ presentations or go back to the resources still online on Trackstar to inform their work.

Helena Miller

helena.miller@alumni.brown.edu

School of the Future
127 East 22nd Street
New York, NY 11215

Helena Miller began teaching at Harmony School in Bloomington, Indiana. After four years, she pursued her masters in public affairs and worked in education policy in Washington, D.C. Helena came to New York City in 2003 to help start and run the high school after-school program and teach 7th grade math and English at City Hall Academy, a professional development laboratory in the Department of Education. In 2005 she had the opportunity to help start a new public charter high school in Hilo, Hawaii and came to School of the Future in 2006 immediately following her year in paradise.


Important documents for this lesson plan.

Frankenstein MiniResearch Proj Assignment.doc
Frankenstein MiniProj Rubric.doc

 

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