Teaching the Monster Tale across Genres Narrative Media & Teaching Film

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Edward Scissorplans:

Teaching the Monster Tale across Genres

Narrative Media & Teaching Film

LAE 6881

June 14, 2005
Jennifer Conwell

Joanna Rainaldi

Lauren Tripp

Avni Vyas

Synopsis of the Plot: Edward Scissorhands (PG-13)

The story begins with an old lady telling her granddaughter the story of snow. This opening frame leads into a framed story of how Edward came to live temporarily in a suburban town. Edward Scissorhands is the creation of an inventor who lives in a large gothic mansion at the end of a cookie-cutter suburban cul-de-sac. After Peg, the local Avon woman of the neighborhood brings him to live with her family, the women in the community become enthralled with the strange visitor who has scissors for hands. He becomes a “self made man” when he is able to demonstrate his scissorhanded skillfulness. He cuts bushes, dogs, ladies’ hair and majestic ice sculptures, prompting Peg’s husband and the other citizens to encourage and respect him. Meanwhile, Peg’s teenage daughter, Kim becomes the object of Edward’s innocent affections. Through a series of flashbacks, it is revealed that Edward’s creator took great pains to civilize his creation; however, he died before attaching Edward’s human hands. The rest of the movie centers around Edward’s struggle to belong and eventual exile due to his differences. By the end of the movie, Kim has come to love Edward. She protects him by telling the town that he died fighting with her jealous boyfriend in the mansion. At the close of the movie, it is revealed that the old woman telling the story is an elderly Kim. She concludes the bedtime tale by explaining that before Edward came down from his mansion, it had never snowed in the town.

Unit Objectives

  • Students will analyze the horror genre in print and film texts

  • Students will compare different forms of the monster tale

  • Students will apply reading strategies to the viewing of a film

By Avni Vyas

Day 1 An Introduction to Fear

Introduction/ Purpose: In studying literature, the genre of horror provides an interesting look at humanity: we see the power of fear, and what it can do to communities and individuals. Fear intrigues us because we are scared of what we do not understand. We see how monsters function as tools of fear, and also as empathic, humanized beings with thoughts and emotions. Horror often employs tools of surprise and suspense in film, but also explore the supernatural and unknown. In this unit, students will explore the genre of horror through the film Edward Scissorhands and discuss what it is to be human, what fear is, and how the medium of film accomplishes its goals as a text. The film study will segue into a unit on Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. In today’s lesson, students will analyze what fear is, what they know of it, and how it works.

Students will be introduced to the genre of horror using images and brainstorms to create a semantic map of The Plight of the Monster. Students will, as a class, create a semantic map of Horror based on class discussion and prior knowledge from previous texts, personal experience, and media. Students will also identify, analyze, and discuss the Monster tales they are familiar with, and, as a group, using images, represent an archetypical horror scene through drawing, or collage.

Sunshine State Standards:

La.e.2.4.1 - Student analyzes the effectiveness of complex elements of plot, such as setting, major events, problems, conflicts, and resolutions

La.e.2.4.2 - Student understands the relationships between and among elements of literature, including characters, plot, setting, tone, point of view, and theme.

La.e.1.4.1- Student identifies the characteristics that distinguish literary forms.

  • Students will identify and organize examples of the horror genre.

  • Students will create connections between examples through a semantic map graphic organizer.

  • Students will discuss the role of archetypes in the genre.

  • Students will synthesize examples of the horror genre by using the archetypes by creating a scene from a horror story.

Materials: Overhead/ board where teacher can display class ideas, markers, white butcher paper, magazines, crayons
Preparation: Students will be introduced to the genre of horror. At the beginning of class, students will view images of different characters in pop culture and literature. They will be asked to rate on a scale of 1-5 the “Fear Factor” of the image. They will be asked to justify why or why not each image is an image of horror. (Images and prompt provided at the end of lesson.)

The teacher will lead a brief discussion asking students for definitions or examples of “horror”. As the class provides examples, the teacher will collect these examples on the board. Then, the teacher will ask students if they see any connections between any of the examples provided, and if these examples can be categorized or organized. The class will collaborate on a semantic web based on the examples provided by the students. The teacher will explain, that in addition to the class-generated definitions of horror, a working definition may also be used:

Horror fiction is, broadly, fiction in any media intended to scare, unsettle or horrify the reader. Historically, the cause of the "horror" experience has necessarily been the intrusion of an evil, or occasionally misunderstood, supernatural element into everyday human experience. Since the 1960s, any work fiction with a morbid, gruesome, surreal, exceptionally suspenseful or frightening theme has come to be called "horror".

The purpose of this lesson is not only to introduce the theme of horror, but also to consider the plight of the monster in these horror works. In preparation for Edward Scissorhands, students will consider the differences between a perceived horror, and the perspective of an actual horror (or figure of horror). This lesson should promote discussion and critical thinking by use of familiar horror examples: what creates a horrific atmosphere in films? What naturally scares us? How could something familiar scare us? These questions should segue into the next topic of discussion, the archetypes of horror. Primarily, the teacher should use the students as a resource to provide definitions, but the following can be considered a working definition:

Archetype is defined as the original model of which all other similar persons, objects, or concepts are merely derivative, copied, patterned, or emulated. The term is often used in literature, architecture, and the arts to refer to something that goes back to the fundamental origins of style, method, gold standard, or physical construct.

The following concepts should be addressed:

Monster- This is the person/ being/ object that strikes fear into the community, or is shrouded in mystery. Often misunderstood? (examples include: Grendel, the Loch Ness monster, Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula)

Hero- the character willing to confront the monster or the unknown

Setting- the place where the story takes place- how does this add to the story, and how is it like a character?

Fear- What is the source of fear in the community that creates a monster? Examples of fear within the horror genre can stem from psychological horror, physical horror, fear of the unknown/ unnamed.

Students will then add to the semantic map by identifying archetypes within the horror genre.

Practice: Students will form groups of four. They will be asked to use their understanding of archetype and the horror genre to create a scene from a horror story. They may use whatever resources they have in the room: magazines to create a collage, markers to draw a scene. Students should address the archetypes discussed in class as a basis of their final work. Groups will be asked to share their visuals and explain how they incorporated the concepts of a horror genre
Evaluation: Student’s evaluation will be based on participation in discussion, completion of semantic map, and participation in creating the visual. Group work will be based on addressing the themes discussed, and explaining them to the class.

Images used in Presentation:

Rate the following images on a scale of 1-5 based on how scary they are. 1 is about as scary as a ball of yarn. 5 is the stuff nightmares are made from. Justify each rating so we know why an image did or did not successfully frighten you.

Narrative Structure and Freytag’s Triangle

Introduction/ Purpose: Using the previous day’s lesson on horror, students will build upon this knowledge with an introduction to the narrative structure of Freytag’s triangle. Students, after being introduced to the narrative structure of story, will impose the theme of horror within the structure by following Freytag’s triangle to complete a story map in which words (monster, dark, bright, love, alone, creation, destruction, evil, good, kitten, popcorn, balloon, water gun, boot, shirt, axe, poison) and images (an old house, a night sky, a dark forest, ballet shoes, a fruit basket, and a dog) inside. Students will draw an image or word from their envelope at random and will use it to support the plot of their horror story. Using these images, students will construct a plotline based on their understanding of horror and Freytag’s triangle.

Sunshine State Standards:

La.e.2.4.1 - Student analyzes the effectiveness of complex elements of plot, such as setting, major events, problems, conflicts, and resolutions

La.b.2.4.2- Student organizes information using appropriate systems.

La.b.2.4.3- Student writes fluently for a variety of occasions, audiences, and purposes, making appropriate choices regarding style, tone, level of detail, and organization.

  • Students will recall previous day’s findings by applying them to the horror genre.

  • Students will analyze the components of Freytag’s triangle and narrative structure.

  • Students will synthesize the genre of horror and narrative plot structure by creating the plot of a horror story based on given information.

Materials: Handouts with Freytag’s Triangle and story map, envelopes, words, images

Preparation: Envelopes with slips of paper containing the words monster, dark, bright, love, alone, creation, destruction, evil, good, kitten, popcorn, balloon, water gun, boot, shirt, axe, and poison along with images of a night sky, a dark forest, ballet shoes, a fruit basket, and a dog will be distributed to each group.
Presentation: In the beginning of class, the teacher will review the previous day’s lesson, drawing on the semantic web that the class collaboratively made, and ask for any new additions. After reviewing the purposes of yesterday’s lesson, students will be introduced to Freytag’s triangle. The teacher will explain each component of the triangle, calling on student input as support. The common definitions for each stage of the triangle should read as follows:

Beginning/Exposition- At this period of the storyline, characters are introduced, setting is revealed, and the stage is set.

Rising Action- Here, we see the characters interact with the plot, which develops both character and plot. We begin to see the conflict in the story that creates momentum for the plot to move forward. This is where things get complicated.

Climax- The climax of the story is the highest point of conflict or tension. Things, till this point have been building up till a final act determines the rest of the plot.

Falling Action- Here, the story begins to wind down, and we see how the characters react to the climax, and how things settle.

Resolution- The plots wind down, the characters accept a shift in their states.
Practice: Students will divide into groups of six. Each group gets an envelope with the words and images inside. Each student is responsible for a portion of the handout. (Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, Resolution) Each student will draw a prompt from the envelope and develop the story line in sequence with the rest of their group. Students will apply their understanding of plot structure and genre by creating the skeleton to their own story. The words and images provide suspense and surprise for students, who do not anticipate the next step of the plot’s story, much like the audience of a horror film. The prompts also encourage the students to adapt these words and images to fit not only in their role in the plot outline, but to fit the genre of horror. This requires collaboration and creativity on behalf of the students for a successful storyline. Students will share their stories with the other groups. (Perhaps a flashlight and a darkened room can serve as ambience for a ghost story setting.)

Evaluation: Students will complete their individual handout, highlighting the part of the story they were responsible for. Successful assignments demonstrate an understanding of the parts of plot, and incorporate prompts to align with the horror genre.

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