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Dan Risinger

Conan Kmiecik
ENG 361
November 2, 2014
Frankensteining Frankenstein: Making the Case for Writing Assignments

One day I intend to teach Frankenstein to 9th graders. I will pronounce it Fronk-uunschteen. They will not understand. Perhaps at the end of the lesson they will have an
appreciation for Gene Wilder, but it is more important that they develop an appreciation
for writing. I think Frankenstein appeals to a large audience: it has elements of science
fiction, it is a good example of romanticism, it was written by a woman, and it is a classic
that is referenced in pop-culture all the time; most students will find something in the
work which interests them. I will use Frankenstein as an anchor point for a number of
writing and research assignments in a nine-week lesson. By the end, students will have
completed a journal, written two five-paragraph essays, and developed an opinion on
transhumanism and its link to Frankenstein based on research and their reading of the
novel. Students will then Frankenstein their assignments into a larger capstone
presentation. My goal is to develop students understanding of the writing process while
showing the students how literature mirrors and comments on reality.
Frankenstein is an epistolary novel; it is composed of letters, which appear like a
journal. In her article Journaling Across the Curriculum, Penn State Educator Cheri
Ross advocates teaching through journals, advising teachers to emphasize that writing in
their jourals will help the students learn the material, that you are interested in their

questions and comments--not their spelling, grammar, and punctuation (Ross 3). The
journal creates an environment for authentic writing. What is authentic writing? In her
article Authentic, Dialogic Writing: The Case of a Letter to the Editor, Heidi Hallman
explains that authentic writing is writing which is purposeful, meaningful, and engaging,
[it] goes hand in hand with dialogic principles of reading and writing (Hallman 46).
Throughout the article, Hallmans emphasis is on the importance of dialogism, a theory
primarily concerned with the idea that all language is produced as response to other
language (Hallman 44). Having students journal about their reaction to the book theyre
reading or the research they are performing constitutes authentic, dialogic writing; it
causes students to engage in a dialog about the texts they are consuming. Hallman
[urges] educators to promote authentic writing in the English classroom through the
viewing and teaching of text as dialogic [as a lens, it causes] students to
produce...responses to other texts.(Hallman 44). For my journaling assignments, I will
have students responding to prompts about the text, they will also record their reflections
about their research experiences. The journal will document of students thought process
as they explore the worlds around them. Journals create an excellent space for farming
and developing ideas which could be used in a future essay, maybe even a five-paragraph
essay.
The five-paragraph essay is a formulaic structure that can make writing seem as
pieced together as Frankensteins monster. In her article, Defending the Five-Paragraph
Essay, High School teacher Byung-In Seo says that The five sentence paragraph and
the five-paragraph essay are clear and easy to follow for an inexperienced writer, (Seo
15) she continues High school students have a tendency to believe that all writing is

equal... They need to be taught that writing comes in different forms and the content is
reflected in the form (Seo 16). By having students journal and produce five-paragraph
essays they will see that writing can be quite varied. In teaching Frankenstein, I would
have students write two five-paragraph essays, one to help them organize their ideas on
the themes in Frankenstein, and one exposing connections they have found between their
research and the novel. These five-paragraph essays will function as building blocks
within the larger context of my project. Harvard graduate Jocelyn Chadwick examines the
history behind the five-paragraph essay in her article Rethinking Writing and Student
Engagement; she says, Alexander Bain set the framework [for the] five-paragraph
essay [and he anchors] his rationale on Aristotles five cannons of rhetoric(Chadwick
15). She goes on to say that she does not find the five-paragraph essay to be engaging.
Because of its rather non-engaging nature, Chadwick set about to create what [she now
calls] digital strategies, strategies that engage students from two directions: the required
content knowledge and the connections [to the world of meaning](Chadwick 16). The
final outcome of my lesson will engage students in this type of thinking.
I want to utilize the digital strategies Chadwick spoke of in her article Engaging
Students in Authentic Multimodal Research and Writing by adopting a multimodal
project Karen Moynihan created. Based on a book called The Orchid Thief, Her
assignment, which took twelve weeks, required print sources, internet sources, field
research and interviews. After performing their research, students created visual
components like graphs, a presentation on their topic, and a final paper. Three days were
scheduled for peer editing, and one of these days was entirely devoted to grammar and
mechanics. The project culminated with in-class PowerPoint presentations. After twelve

weeks of preparation, the students found that, when writing their final paper they
couldnt get the words down fast enough... Said one student I feel like this paper, more
than anything else Ive ever written, has allowed my true voice and style to come
through. This paper definitely allowed me to grow as a writer (Moynihan 74). My
research project will be very similar. After completing Frankenstein, students will begin
their research into transhumanism. They will be expected to correspond with opponents
and proponents of this radical development in our species evolution. As they research,
the students will figure out where they stand on the issue, and discover how many of the
difficult moral questions which accompany human cybernetics were raised in
Frankenstein. The students will create a PowerPoint using information from their
journals and essays, using graphs they have created relating to our consumption of
technology or time-lines documenting our technological development over history. The
research is dialogic, as the students are responding to text, but they are also immersing
themselves in the real world, thereby creating authenticity, and using the digital strategies
described by Chadwick.
In his article A Catalogue of Invention Components and Applications Thomas
Rivers breaks down the invention process into seven components. Rivers says that
motivation is crucial, and that teachers ought to create assignments which are like the
situations that motivate real writers outside the classroom setting (Rivers 520).
Creating and presenting research is the bread and butter of the academic world that is
populated by real writers. Rivers also notes the importance of investigation, stressing that
if students are going to be motivated to write they need to know that to write means to
discover(Rivers 521). By keeping a journal of their reactions to the novel and their

research, students will participate in the discovery process of writing. Rivers stresses that
we ought to help students become aware of the abilities they already possess for primary
investigation (Rivers 526). By writing their first essay on the themes of Frankenstein,
my students will perform a primary investigation upon their own opinions. Their skills as
interviewers will appear during their research process. By completing the assignment,
students will discover a number of ways to investigate a topic and how to present and
organize research.
My students view of the world will be informed by their research; they will have to
take a stance on the issue of Transhumanism. Is immortality a possibility? Is it favorable?
Is it a lonely barren waste? It is a big question, but I feel that high school students are as
ready as anyone to start considering it, and Frankenstein is the perfect doorway into this
issue. The assignment is only the vehicle for the larger idea that students need to chew on.
As teachers our job is to make learning palatable and interesting. If we can create an
environment that encourages authentic writing with dialogic sensibility, students will find
themselves discovering how to think about society and how to view literature as a mirror
of society. Through journaling, students will be able to explore their own thoughts, which
they can structure with their short essays. With the large project, students can begin to
scratch the surface of the world of any type of discourse. This assignment will give
students a taste of what to expect in the academic realm, those who like it may discover a
passion for the humanities as a whole. I hope I can teach this lesson in the future because
I am curious to find out what ideas my students will be bring to the table.

Works Cited

Chadwick, Jocelyn A. "Green Pens, Marginal Notes: Rethinking Writing and Student
Engagement." English Journal. National Council of Teachers of English, 2012. Web.
3 Nov. 2014.
Hallman, Heidi L. "Authentic, Dialogic Writing: The Case of a Letter to the Editor."
JSTOR. English Journal, 2009. Web. 3 Nov. 2014.
Moynihan, Karen E. "A Colectibles Project: Engaging Students in Authentic Multimodal
Research and Writing." NCTE, 2007. Web. 3 Nov. 2014.
Rivers, Thomas. "A Catalogue of Invention Components and Applications." NCTE, 1982.
Web. 3 Nov. 2014.
Ross, Cheri L. "Journaling Across The Curriculum." Dialogue journals. Clearing House,
n.d. Web. 3 Nov. 2014.
Seo, Byung-In. "Defending the Five-Paragraphy Essay." NCTE, 2007. Web. 3 Nov.
2014.