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TeachNet NYC  |  Lesson Plans  |  Teachnet
Writing a Short Story Based on Kindred

Project URL:


How it works:

As students read Kindred, by Octavia Butler, they become any character except the main character, who is telling the story. As the character, the students write 13 journals or letters and tell what is happening in the book. The students post these journals or letters on the class online discussion forum, where they can read each other's writing and respond.

Students also go online to explore a list of links (provided by the teacher) on slavery in the USA. They look at all the links and choose the ones that interest them most, read these thoroughly, then summarize at least 5 links and note for which research they recommend reading these links. Furthermore, they can use historical details from these links for their own short stories which they will write based on a few aspects of Kindred.

For the short story, there is a chart with all the literary terms they must illustrate, such as plot, characters, conflict, theme, setting. They also include historical details from the antebellum South and have a modern character who goes back in time. These stories go through several drafts before they are posted on the school's web site for all to see.

In order for students to understand and recognize literary terms, they are discussed in class in relation to the novel. We discussed in depth themes, characterization, and character conflicts, as well as searching for historical details in Kindred about the antebellum South and slavery.


Technology: Students will use computer applications for word processing, publishing work to a virtual classroom space, and reviewing teacher-developed materials; navigate the Internet efficiently to locate specified relevant sites, employ the Internet as a research tool and resource, compile, analyze and evaluate the data collected while visiting an Internet site, use critical thinking and established research skills to evaluate the credibility and appropriateness of web sites and the validity of the information available at the sites.

Language Arts: Students produce written work that makes connections to related topics or information. They critique their own writing and a classmate's writing, revise drafts, and publish to a wide audience. They provide evidence of critiquing a public document. They use both primary and secondary sources of information for research. They recognize a range of literary elements and techniques and use these elements to interpret the work. They recognize the relevance of literature to contemporary and/ or personal events and situations. They write their own imaginative texts using plot, character, setting, dialogue, conflict to engage the reader. They maintain a consistent point of view, first or third person.

Social Studies:  Understands how the past affects our private lives and society in general; knows how to perceive past events with historical empathy; analyzes the effects specific decisions had on history; understands that the consequences of human intentions are influenced by the means of carrying them out.

Materials used:

Students used a class discussion forum available free to teachers at nicenet.org. Also used was an Internet connection, a browser, and a word processing program.

The Students:

The students were sophomores with a wide range of ability. Often the more advanced students in computer technology spontaneously helped those with little previous experience.

Overall Value:

The idea of studying slavery may be repugnant to some teachers and students, but it was quite amazing how most students became involved in reading the novel even though some of them initially though it would not interest them. This topic should be studied, especially in the light of a recent movement to pay the relatives of former slaves reparations. The hideous facts of this country's history should not be hidden, but exposed alongside the unfortunate histories of many countries such as South Africa, Argentina, Serbia, and Sudan.

By becoming different characters and posting their writing as those characters, students are using their imagination and sharing their knowledge with each other.

Students are spared several hours of finding links on slavery by using the teacher's already listed links. But they learn what the URLs mean and how to use these URLs in the future for further research on different topics. They also learn more historical details and background on the topic of slavery, which is the basis for the novel. They can also use historical details they choose for their own short story.

Writing the short story provides students with the opportunity to use literary terms they have identified in the fiction they read as well as use their imagination.


The chart created on the web page for the students to help them write the short story seemed to allay anxieties about their ability to write their own story. The novel seems fairly long to some students to read (264 pages); students who read slowly will need adequate time to finish reading assignments.

Peggy Maslow has been teaching English and using technology at Franklin K. Lane High School for 16 years. At first she used basic TRS 80 computers and gradually she has moved up to using the Internet and web-authoring tools in her lessons with students. 

E-mail: pmaslows@gmail.com

Estimated Class Periods To Complete: 10 or more

Subject areas: English, Social Studies

Beginning Grade Level: 9

Ending Grade Level: 12

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