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It was a Dark and Stormy Night

After discussing the themes and ideas of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and exploring the style of the gothic horror genre, students will write their own short story. Students will also prepare and present a brief PowerPoint on the theme they wrote about. Stories will be proofread by peers and graded by peers. A panel will judge the stories based upon a rubric. The winning stories will be read aloud by the student at a “Scary stories told in the dark event.”


Goals & Objectives:
  • Students will be able to describe the literacy genre of gothic horror and trace the history of horror writing.
  • Students will develop writing and editing skills on their own and others works.


  • Students will be able to critically read and draw conclusions about the viewpoint of an author on ideas and concepts.


Materials & Sources:

“The Birthmark” in Mosses from an Old Manse. By Nathaniel Hawthorne. A dark story in which a obsessive scientist seeks to remove an unsightly blemish from his wife’s cheek, his success comes at a high price.


-The students are brought into the library. The lights are turned down low as a model of the “Scary Stories to tell in the Dark Event.” The librarian reads aloud the short story “The Birthmark” By Nathaniel Hawthorne.

-Ask questions about the reading to generate thinking.

  • Set the stage by describing the circumstances that prompted Mary Shelley’s writing Frankenstein
  • Describe assignment

-Ask: What is the role of science? How do people understand that role?

-English teacher introduces the unit on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

-Within the classroom the students study the novel including:

·  Scientific discoveries of Shelley’s time

·  Shelley’s life and other influences

·  Themes in Frankenstein

·  Themes of other gothic horror

·  Modern retellings of Frankenstein

·  Writing gothic fiction

The above is accomplished using various teaching techniques including:

  • Discussion
  • Study Guides
  •   Reading with a purpose
  •  Additional Readings
  •  Responding to readings

 -Students will also review and discuss story writing basics and writing style of gothic and horror books.

-Students are encouraged to read one other horror novel which the librarian will make available. These could include but are not limited to:

  •  Dracula by Bram stoker

  •  Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

  •  The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells                     

  •  The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe.

  •  The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

-The librarian will assist students in assembling a PowerPoint on a theme form the novel. Students will join the librarian in the computer lab. They should already have started the writing on their story and be ready to find material on the theme they are exploring. The librarian will review searching strategies and assist students as needed.

-When the first draft is due the students will separated into groups of 3-4 students. Each student will bring three copies with name removed of their story. Groups will hand papers to the teacher/librarian who will randomly distribute stories to other groups. Each student will read, proofread and offer suggestions on three pieces of writing. Groups will discuss aloud each of the three pieces.

-Students papers will be returned to them and they will be given time to edit and revise the story with attention to their classmates suggestions.

-Students will bring in a final version of their paper with name removed. Students will be given a rubric to grade three other student’s papers. High scoring papers will be then be read by every student in the section; the top story in the class will be chosen.

-On the final presentation day, all students will gather for the students whose writing was chosen to read aloud their writing. On that day the lights can be turned down low and perhaps popcorn could be served, and parents invited.


Each student will produce an original creative narrative based on classic gothic horror fiction. The story must include one philosophical theme or element based upon those found in the novels read and include historical details of place and time. A PowerPoint consisting of a 4-6 slides will be created highlighting and discussing the theme they choose to write on.
Special Thanks to Micheal Bolsoni, Roger Everhart, and Hillary Wackman, of The School of Environmental Studies, Apple Valley, MN
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