As a high school or undergraduate English Literature teacher, you can use this climate fiction short story to teach literary analysis of fiction through narrative strategies such as dialogue, chronology, and descriptive richness as used in a short story, the use of figures of speech such as irony and personification, and the development of the element of pathos.
In this lesson plan, you can use a video and allow for a discussion to enhance the act of reading and the understanding of the story. Further, you can use the suggested homework assignment on creative writing to help the students to personally connect with the story. The underlying thread of the story is climate change and its effects on marine biology, with the example of hermit crabs.
Thus, the use of this lesson plan allows you to integrate the teaching of a climate science topic with a core topic in English Literature.
Use this lesson plan to help your students find answers to:
- critically read and analyze a short story by focusing on the minute details (such as the choice of vocabulary) as well as broad strokes (such as emotional effects), in order to build a comprehensive image.
- detect the use of irony, personification, analepsis, and pathos in an example of speculative fiction.
- analyse the primary features of dystopian literature.
- apply the use of irony and analepsis as narrative strategies for fiction
- discuss the interaction between human beings and animals in fiction
- understand the effects of climate change and human intervention on other life forms.
- use group discussions and creative writing as extensions of reading.
Teacher-submitted lesson plan, contributed by Dr. Pooja Sancheti, Visiting Faculty, IISER Pune, India
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About Lesson Plan
|Grade Level||High school, Undergraduate|
|Discipline||Humanities, English Literature|
|Topic(s) in Discipline||literary analysis, speculative fiction, climate fiction, narratology, narrative techniques, figures of speech
dialogues, chronology, descriptive richness, irony, personification, analepsis, pathos, dystopia
climate change, hermit crabs
|Climate Topic||Climate and the Anthroposphere
Climate and the Biosphere
|A list of literary terms for a preliminary discussion:|
|A video that introduces the natural behavior and habitat of hermit crabs and describes an adaptation strategy used by them, in a human induced changed environment.|
|A short story about the interactions between a human and a hermit crab as an example of speculative fiction in the genre of climate fiction (Cli-Fi).|
|Classroom/ Laboratory Activity
Here is a step-by-step guide to using this lesson plan in the classroom/laboratory. We have suggested these steps as a possible plan of action. You may customize the lesson plan according to your preferences and requirements.
Step 1: Introduction of literary terms
Use the list of definitions of literary terms like irony, personification, analepsis, dystopia, and pathos to explain to the students many terms integral to the story the students will be reading subsequently. Use this discussion to set the tone for the story to follow and equip students with some literary tools to explore the narrative.
A list of literary terms for a preliminary discussion and associated web links:
- First person narrator
- Speculative Fiction
- Flashback /Analepsis
Step 2 : Through a video depicting a real-world scenario, introduce an animal character for the ensuing fictional story (Go to the Video)
The hermit crab is a character in the fictional story to be read in the next part of this lesson plan.
- Use the video, ‘Crafty Hermit Crab Finds a New Home in a Food Tin’, by BBC Earth to introduce to your students the natural habitat, behavior, and adaptation strategies of hermit crabs in a coastal region of Thailand.
- Emphasize on the fact that hermit crabs are dependent upon natural seashells and therefore, a balanced ecosystem, for their wellbeing.
- Use the video to discuss how hermit crabs must adapt to a changed environment due to human intervention in their natural habitat.
Thus, use this tool to describe to your students, a real-world scenario for hermit crabs to improve understanding of the plight of the hermit crab character in the following fictional story.
Step 3 : Read the story (Go to the Reading)
- Give each student a copy of Nathaniel Rich’s short story, ‘Hermie’ and ask them to read it carefully.
- Allow them to build their impressions of the story without intervention or guidance.
- Permit students to individually grasp nuances in the text and formulate their emotional responses as readers.
- Remind the students of the literary terms discussed before, to equip them with a sub-conscious grid to describe their interpretation of the text.
Step 4 : Discuss the story
- Now, ask the students to offer their first impressions of the story in brief, and direct the discussion using the points mentioned below.
- Use these discussions to cover both close reading skills (for which students will refer to the text), and broad overview skills thus enabling students to glean information from text and be able to infer and interpret findings.
- You may need to write down certain key words on the whiteboard/blackboard to summarize the discussion.
Use the following points to enable a group discussion for the literary analysis of the story:
- The story has several instances of irony. For example, the term ‘calm blue ocean’ is ironical due to the disturbed nature of existence of the ocean’s creatures as described in the story. Mention other instances of irony that caught your attention.
- What is the narrator’s profession? Pick out all the instances where this is alluded to.
- The story hints are several ways that human beings have intervened and despoiled the environment. What instances can you find in the story?
- The story uses analepsis or a flashback (of memories) to present a different world to the reader. Discuss what impressions of the first-person narrator and Hermie are formed from these, and how the world has changed for them.
- In your opinion, what is the effect of having an animal character converse with a human in this narrative?
- Comment on the ending of the story.
- Hermie’s last ditch attempt to find a home is thwarted by the narrator, and this gives rise to pathos. Discuss.
Step 5: Optional Classroom Activity (Find a copy of the world map)
This second part of the class activity requires a large world map (physical or digital). Ask the students to list all the geographical locations mentioned in the story. Use the map to locate the various places mentioned in the story, beginning with Salzburg. You can use a marker to indicate the connections between these places or thumb pins and a thread to connect these pins.
Then, use this information to discuss the following:
- how far the character of Hermie travelled, in order to find a home.
- the extensive travels of the narrator as an academic.
- the coastal areas mentioned in the story that are affected by human intervention and climate change.
- how the entire world is interconnected and, therefore, what happens in one place can affect other places also.
- Use this exercise to emphasize to the students that the world is not only geographically connected but is also connected by ecological disasters, human intervention and climate change.
Video : Crafty Hermit Crab Finds a New Home in a Food Tin | BBC Earth
Reading : An anthology titled ‘I’m With the Bears: Short Stories from a Damaged Planet’(Paperback) edited by Mark Martin. Verso, 2011