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TeachNet NYC: Lesson Plans

In Search of Dracula: History and Imagination



How it works:
Starting with the image of Dracula as both historical and supernatural character, this program takes the reader into the realm of imagination seen across times, peoples, and types of cultural products. The theme is the effect of supernatural beliefs reflected in history, language, literature, and the arts. The program is accessed easily by students and teachers alike. In Search of Dracula is open-ended; many activities can be added by the author or the students themselves. The user is taken to various activities and directions that appeal to different forms of learning: reading, brainstorming, writing, critical thinking, and others. You are invited to a presentation of sources and a discussion on the supernatural and its mythical sources. Then you go to the historical sources on Vlad Tepes, the real King of Wallachia who seemed to have generated the Western image of Dracula. The students learn to evaluate sources, understanding the difference between primary and secondary sources, between facts and fiction, and reliable and unreliable information. The evaluation component will then be applied to Web-produced information, so that students will know how to assess information downloaded from the Internet.

Other activities take the reader into the world of literature and the arts. Fiction is intricately connected to the supernatural. The students use Internet sources as well as Web-based activities (quizzes and discussion forums) to learn more about mystery stories and supernatural characters in novels and movies. Here, activities on literary elements and  the reading and the writing processes (in accordance with the educational standards in English) are useful. The Internet and the new forms of media are the keystone of this entire learning piece. The format is accessible and user-friendly. Students are invited to explore the topic on their own and construct their own instruments of learning and assessment using the on-line layout.

Standards addressed:  
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  listen, speak, read, and write for critical analysis and evaluation; 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.

The students consider different historians' analyses of the same event or development in history to understand how different viewpoints and/or frames of reference influence historical interpretations. They evaluate the validity and credibility of historical interpretations of important events or issues in history, and revise their interpretations as new information is learned and other interpretations are developed.

Materials used:
A computer lab with Internet connection and Microsoft Word is required.

The students:
This program was used with an ESL student population that has at least two years of schooling in the United States and is preparing for the high school commencement exams in English, Social Studies, and other disciplines. The unit also meets the needs of the mainstream student population in the areas of English and Social Studies. As a prerequisite for full participation in these activities, students need to become familiar with Internet navigation and a word processor program such as Microsoft Word. Other computer skills, such as the use of on-line tests, discussion forums, and the making of simple Web pages, will be added later during the execution of the required activities.

Overall value:
I found it very useful to write a program for teachers and students on the basis of the fact that teaching is learning in another way. Students should be offered challenging activities and be invited to fully participate in the learning process. The diverse and open character of this program invites teachers and students to rewrite, enrich, and assess the learning experiences contained here. This program approximates the features of active learning: circular, open-ended, motivational, diverse, and interdisciplinary. The Internet is the central medium of communicating information here. I tried to include some lesser-known features: Web tests, discussion forums, Web page assessment tools, and audio and video streaming. Other Internet "gadgets" can be added to the project as they prove to be necessary learning tools.  Most activities contained here invite decentralization of instruction and the use of multiple methods to teach and learn. The teacher will find this a valuable resource in presenting important concepts in English language and literature, as well as in Social Studies.

The Web site of this project can be "played with." Allow students to search, experiment, and follow the many links provided. Then you can focus on a specific activity such as source evaluation, the writing process, or the literary elements of a story (the "deconstruction" of a mystery story). Every component has plenty of support material in the form of links, tests, and suggested activities. I invite you and your students to enrich and adapt this experience based on your own needs and educational goals.


About the teacher:
Dinu Pietraru is an ESL teacher in a large high school in Brooklyn, NY. He has used the Internet in instruction for several years. Please see the school Web site Dinu maintains:


Subject Areas: 
English Language Arts


Grade Levels: 



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