Beyond the Realms of Conventional Fiction

Author: Catharine Niuzzo Honaman

Time: 2 days
1 _ hours to read the lesson and “All Summer in a Day”
Materials: A copy of Ray Bradbury’s short story “All Summer in a Day” for each student in your class to read
Access to the Internet/Computer Lab


Students will read the short story “All Summer in a Day” by the famous science fiction author Ray Bradbury. The class will then identify which literary aspects and facets of the story make it science fiction and which could be part of a regular short story. Class discussions will focus on seeing how science fiction is a literary medium that explores the human condition and provides a forum for examining the long-range outcomes of actions and policies of present societies. To reinforce this, the students will spend time in the computer lab visiting web sites with interviews of science fiction writers to read about their approach to writing and their concerns that go beyond literature.

Purpose – This is the Engage Lesson. Students will identify what sets science fiction apart from other genres and what it has in common with the body of literature as a whole.

Students will be able to:
1. Read a science fiction short story with understanding.
2. Identify which aspects of the story set it apart as science fiction.
3. Make connections between science fiction and other genres of literature.
4. Identify the approach to writing and individual concerns various authors have.

English Education Standard
Strand 1: Concept 6: Comprehension Strategies
PO 4. Connect information and events in text to experience and to related text
and sources.
Strand 2: Concept 1: Elements of Literature
PO 1. Analyze the author’s use of literary elements

  • theme (moral lesson, meaning, message, view or comment on life),
  • point of view (e.g., first vs.third, limited vs. omniscient),
  • characterization (qualities, motives, actions, thoughts, dialogue, development, interactions),
  • setting (time of day or year, historical period, place, situation), and
  • plot (exposition, major and minor conflicts, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution).

Strand 2: Concept 2: Functional Text
PO 2. Synthesize information from multiple sources to draw conclusions.

Teacher Background
An appreciation for imaginative writing and science fiction

Resource Websites

http://www.outsidein.co.uk/sadinfo.htm (Information on Seasonal Affective Disorder)
http://www.davidbrin.com/livingplanet.html (David Brin’s official web site)
http://www.adherents.com/adh_sf.html (Famous Science Fiction/Fantasy Authors- excellent list with information about each author and their best known works)



1. Begin the class by asking your students what science fiction they have read, watched on television, or seen at the movies. There is a lot of science fiction in the media and even somebody who does not particularly like it has most probably seen at least one television show or movie that qualifies as sci fi. Ask your students what attracted them to what they have read or seen. Some may enjoy the strong scientific content of the genre while others may be attracted to the free reign imagination is given or the prophetic quality of the stories.

2. Tell the students that they are going to read a short story by one of the most recognizable names in science fiction, Ray Bradbury. Even if some of the students have read “All Summer in a Day,” ask them to read it a second time. As they read, ask the students to write down what specifically they can find in the story that makes it science fiction. Ask them to use their own criteria and these will be discussed later on. Ask them to determine if the story is totally fantastic. If it isn’t, ask them to write down what aspects of our present reality this story explores. Finally, are there any warnings or is there a moral commentary in the story?

3. Give the students time to read the story and record their observations.

4. There should be time after reading to hold the class discussion as “All Summer in a Day” is a rather short story. The students should be able to easily point out that the science fiction aspects of the story are found in the setting, the futuristic time period and the location of the action on Venus. However, there are many correlations to our present experiences. The classroom dynamics that involve jealousy and the difficulty of a new child to fit in could easily take place anywhere. The individual who possesses a special knowledge and is ostracized for having it also rings true. On a deep level, doesn’t every person feel out of place or alone no matter how others see them? SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is likewise a real condition that affects numerous individuals in northern climates during the months that lack strong sunlight. Finally, ex-patriots living in difficult conditions for high pay is still taking place in the world. This discussion could take place at the end of the first day or on the second day before using the Internet.

5. In the computer lab ask the students to look up science fiction authors and see if they can find interviews these people have done in which they talk about their concerns for the environment, the fragile ecosystems of earth, or the impact that humanity is having on the earth. If the students cannot find these specific concerns, ask them what they found as motivators for the writers. What draws authors to science fiction? Do some authors write both science fiction and other types of literature? This is a time for the students to browse in the world of sci fi to learn more about it, to see if its authors fall into the stereotypes in which we put them, to find out about new authors and books for those students who are already sci fi aficionados. An interesting web site to start with is David Brin’s official web site, http://www.davidbrin.com/livingplanet.html. He wrote The Postman among other novels and he deals with environmental concerns.

6. Leave ten to fifteen minutes at the end of the class for the students to share their discoveries with their classmates and you. You may wish to make a list of web sites that the students found to be very interesting or full of environmental health or energy issue information. Hopefully your class will have a range of interests in it, with some students knowing much about science fiction while others may be finding out for the first time that science fiction isn’t just about “weird stuff.” Try to emphasize with the students the diversity that can be found in the realm of science fiction and openness of the genre.

7. Emphasize with the students the diversity that can be found in the realm of science fiction and the imaginativeness of the genre. Ask those who think that they could not possibly find science fiction to be enjoyable or worthwhile to keep an open mind.

Embedded Assessment
There are two class discussions in this lesson that are indicators of how engaged the students are with the material of this lesson. The quality of the students’ answers in these discussions can be used to assess how well they understand the material. The students also have written work from the first part of the lesson. The quantity and quality of their answers can be used to determine how carefully they read “All Summer in a Day” and how thoughtfully they analyzed the story.

Ask the students to bring in a science fiction short story to read in tomorrow’s class. For those students who enjoy science fiction or have read a lot of it already, ask if they can bring in their favorite stories for others to read or a list of what they consider to be the best. If a student is presently reading a science fiction novel, he or she may bring that in to read in class, but make them aware of the fact that they will be asked to write a paper on the book in the Apply Lesson (which is only three days away).

Embedded Assessment

PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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