Science Fiction

"Science fiction is something that could happen – but usually you wouldn't want it to. Fantasy is something that couldn't happen – though often you only wish that it could."

Arthur C. Clarke (1917 - 2008), British science fiction writer
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LESSON OVERVIEW

This free ESL lesson plan on science fiction has been designed for adults and young adults at an intermediate (B1/B2) to advanced (C1/C2) level and should last around 45 to 60 minutes for one student.

While science fiction is obviously a form of entertainment, it also explores the philosophical consequences of our current actions and can serve as a warning for the future. Predictions from science fiction have also inspired many of the advances in technology we enjoy today from the iPad to antidepressants (although we are still waiting for the hoverboard from Back to the Future II). In this ESL lesson plan on sci-fi, students will have the opportunity discuss and express their opinions on issues such as what science fiction is, sci-fi books and films, and what the genre has warned us about.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for National Science Fiction Day, which takes place in the United States in January. For more lesson plans on international days and important holidays, see the calendar of world days to plan your classes for these special occasions.

For advice on how to use this English lesson plan and other lesson plans on this site, see the guide for ESL teachers.

PRE-CLASS ACTIVITIES

Reading activity
Before the English class, send the following article to the students and ask them to read it while making a list of any new vocabulary or phrases they find (explain any the students don’t understand in the class):

The Conversation | “Why science fiction set in the near future is so terrifying”

The article talks about some of the warnings science fiction has given us about what might happen in the near future, including the threat from artificial intelligence and ideological threats to society. At the start of the class, hold a brief discussion about what the students thought about the article. What did they think about the content of the article? Did they agree with what was written?

Video activity
To save time in class for the conversation activities, the English teacher can ask the students to watch the video below and answer the listening questions in Section 3 of the lesson plan at home. There are intermediate listening questions and advanced listening questions so teachers can decide which would be more appropriate for their students. Check the answers in the class.

The video for this class is called “How Science Fiction Can Help Predict The Future” by TED Ed. The video looks at the profession of futurists, those charged with making predictions about the future, and how science fiction can assist, and has assisted, in making these predictions.

IN-CLASS ACTIVITIES

The focus in the class is on conversation in order to help improve students’ fluency and confidence when speaking in English as well as boosting their vocabulary.

This lesson opens with a short discussion about the article the students read before the class. Next, the students can give their opinion on the quote at the beginning of the lesson plan – what they think the quote means and if they agree with it. This is followed by an initial discussion on the topic including what the students think about sci-fi, the predictions made in works of science fiction and what technology from sci-fi the students would like to have.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with science fiction such as far-fetched, geek and cautionary tale. This vocabulary has been chosen to boost the students’ knowledge of less common vocabulary that could be useful for preparing for English exams like IELTS or TOEFL. The vocabulary is accompanied by a cloze activity and a speaking activity to test the students’ comprehension of these words.

If the students didn’t watch the video before the class, they can watch it after the vocabulary section and answer the listening questions. Before checking the answers, ask the students to give a brief summary of the video and what they thought about the content.

Finally, there is a more in-depth conversation about science fiction. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as whether or not sci-fi tends to be optimistic or pessimistic about the future, whether we could be trapped in the Matrix and what themes would make a good sci-fi story.

HOMEWORK

After the class, students will write about their opinion of the sci-fi genre. This could be a short paragraph or a longer piece of writing depending on what level the student is at. The writing activity is designed to allow students to practise and improve their grammar with the feedback from their teacher. For students who intend to take an international English exam such as IELTS or TOEFL, there is an alternative essay question to practise their essay-writing skills.

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