The Importance of Teaching Science Fiction

Learn three benefits of teaching science fiction from both classics and modern favourites like City of Ember.

When teaching science fiction it is important to incorporate both classics and modern favourites. 

From such classics as War of the Worlds and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea to more modern texts like Ender’s Game or City of Ember, science fiction offers a wide variety of stories for first-time and long-time readers alike.  

This underutilized genre offers some significant benefits for classroom use. Let’s discuss three benefits of teaching science fiction today.

Encourage Students Imagination

One important benefit of science fiction is that the settings and situations that the stories offer are unique and creative. They encourage our students’ imaginations. They inspire students to think beyond the box and their own daily lives to the possibilities of what the future may hold.

Engages Readers

Another important benefit of science fiction is that it naturally engages a different set of readers than more typically taught genres do. It is not uncommon to have a student or two in your class that seem to be reluctant or indifferent readers of your typical curriculum materials, yet who will excitedly engage with a science fiction novel no matter how lengthy. 

By including science fiction in your curriculum, you not only appeal to these students, but you also open up this genre to your readers who are unfamiliar with it, thereby encouraging students to branch out and maybe even discover a new genre that they love.

Encourages Deep Discussions

A third benefit is the opportunity to discuss important ideas and situations that are applicable to current life in a safe and non-confrontational setting.  As literature teachers, we are called upon to discuss authors’ messages and meanings all the time. Science fiction allows us to look at charged and divisive topics in a way that removes much of the politics and preconceived notions from the discussion. 

It is much easier to talk about the moral implications of things like war, discrimination, or social structures if you are discussing fictional situations and characters that are not mirrored in students’ daily lives. Once you have completed these challenging discussions and if appropriate, you can then discuss parallels to the real world.

One of the biggest challenges to teaching science fiction though is that because it is not as commonly taught as some other books and genres, there are fewer resources out there to use in your classroom.  This can be a particular problem with newer or less well-known works.  

Here are several resources that can help you with teaching science fiction. 

In this Science Fiction Book Report students complete a reading reflection book report on a science fiction novel of their (or your) choice.

Use these Novel Study Activities with your science fiction selection to focus on the literary elements of plot, character, setting, theme, and conflict as well as the literary devices simile, metaphor, symbolism, and foreshadowing.

And for those science fiction selections that have been turned into movies, check out this Book Versus Movie Comparison Analysis Project.  In this fun series of activities, students will compare and contrast the plot, characters, setting, and theme of the novel and the movie. 

If you enjoy teaching short stories then check out this Short Story Unit which contains four really engaging and popular science fiction stories. Students will enjoy this differentiated and engaging unit that focuses on literary elements and literary devices (plot, character, setting, theme, conflict, similes, metaphors, symbols and foreshadowing). Use this short story unit to introduce or review literary elements and literary devices with your students.

Teaching science fiction should not be a challenge, try one of these lessons with your students.

Additional Resources

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