What exactly is speculative fiction?
Don’t bother looking for a little sign with a definition hanging from the virtual walls of this exhibition because you won’t find one. With the help of your classmates, you’re going to have to develop your own definition and use this to create a museum-style label for display in your classroom.
So, how will you do this?
1. Join up with other students and form a group of five. This is your Home group.
2. Each group member will explore the works in one section of the exhibition: racial or ethnic diversity; physical, neurological and sensate diversity; sexual or gender diversity; religious diversity.
3. Based on these sections, locate the students from other groups who have been allocated the same section. Come together as a new, Expert group.
4. Within the Expert groups, decide who will take responsibility for each form of story: that is, novels, Children’s and YA fiction, short stories and collections, and series.
5. For your allocated story form, work individually to scan the entries and create a brief summary of the story: using this PowerPoint slideshow for guidance. Make sure you record the title and author, as well as the main focus for the book: Who is involved? What’s the central problem? Tip: To speed up the next step, record the information for each book on a separate card or slip of paper.
What exactly is speculative fiction?
By undertaking this activity, students will increase their understanding about speculative fiction and its breadth of concerns, as well as raise their awareness of a wide range of Australian speculative fiction titles. In this section especially for teachers, you will find tips for supporting students as they explore these topics.
Depending on the group of students, you might need to model the task initially, guiding students through one of sections of the exhibition, showing them how the entries are structured, where to find the information they require, and how to write a brief summary of the story. A brief video has been provided to assist you and your students.
Using the Jigsaw Teaching Strategy
The process described for the students is a variation of the jigsaw teaching strategy. It is a useful strategy to use here, as its collaborative nature will be efficient, speeding up the students’ work. In a variation on the steps outlined, students could form into expert
Writing Museum-style Labels
Students might require some help with creating a clear, helpful museum-style label. There’s help available from the Powerhouse Museum and the Australian Museum. From the types of labels described, the class can make a collaborative decision about what type would be most suitable for the Speculative Fiction definition.
This is a simple and quick method for sharing responses created by a range of groups. In the case of the definitions, students print the draft of their definitions and stick these up on different spaces around the room. Then, in small groups, students walk around and read each of the definitions. After reading all the definitions, they can return to their own space and use what they have read to help refine their own definition. In a variation, the draft definition could be pasted on a large piece of butcher’s paper and students from other groups can write comments of praise and make constructive and respectful suggestions for improvement.
If you have never seen this technique used before, watch a Year 7 Language Arts classroom where the technique is being used, but in a more elaborate way than for the purposes of our activity. The Facing History site might be useful also.
More Information About Speculative Fiction
After students have shared their own ideas based on their exploration of Australian works, they could (with guidance) compare their definitions with the views of Wikipedia, author and poet Annie Neugebauer, and Green Tentacles, a site dedicated to helping people in the speculative fiction industry. Tip: Open new tabs to visit these sites. That way, you can return to AustLit easily.
Sharing Story Titles
By the time this activity has been completed, it is hoped that students will have piqued their interest in some of the many speculative fiction stories created by Australian authors and illustrators. Before moving on to the next part of the trail, students should be given the opportunity to share stories that particularly interested them. As well as verbal sharing in small groups,
Speculative Fiction Vocabulary
No doubt as students have been working, they will have encountered a range of unfamiliar words. Some of these will be important as they continue their exploration of speculative fiction, so it might be worth taking some time and exploring some of these words further using activities such as a vocabulary graphic organizer. For a more permanent, classroom display of key vocabulary, try establishing a Word Wall.
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