Looking for compelling science fiction short stories to add to your ELA curriculum? Here are texts to get your secondary students engaged in reading!
Set in the future, dystopian societies, and other worlds, these exciting stories will have students discussing important themes such as the impacts of technology, fear and paranoia, and human vs. nature. Students will build reading comprehension skills by using their own experiences to connect to these science fiction texts.
“The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury (7th Grade)
In this science fiction short story by Ray Bradbury, George and Lydia live with their two children in a house that uses modern technology to bring their imagination to life. When the children create an interactive African Sahara, George and Lydia cannot tell if the lions they face are imaginary or real.
After reading, answer Discussion Question 2, “In the context of the text, how is the Hadley family impacted by their use of technology? Does technology in your home impact your relationship with your family?” Encourage students to pull evidence from the text and their own experiences to support their thoughts.
“Examination Day” by Henry Slesar (7th Grade)
On his 12th birthday, Dickie Jordan learns he will have to take an intelligence exam required by the government. Dickie is curious about the exam, but as usual, his parents dismiss his questions. In a twist ending, Dickie experiences the consequences of gaining too much knowledge.
Have students complete Discussion Question 1, “In the story, Dickie is killed because his intelligence is considered too high by the government. Why do you think the government wouldn't want people to be too smart? How might the government's actions be motivated by fear?”
“All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury (8th Grade)
In “All Summer in a Day,” Margot and her classmates eagerly await the short period of sunshine that occurs on Venus every seven years. None of her classmates remember the last sunny day, but being from Earth, Margot remembers it fondly and struggles to adapt to the rainy way of life on Venus. Margot’s classmates resent her for her experiences and this leads to conflict with the other students.
Students can complete Discussion Question 3, “Why do people form opinions about unfamiliar people and places? How did the children form opinions about Margot based on her experiences? What are some prejudices you may have about unfamiliar people or places?”
“The Machine that Won the War” by Isaac Asimov (9th Grade)
After a long war between Earthlings and Denebians, three men discuss a machine named Multivac that is credited for winning the war for Earth. However, the three men doubt how Multivac made the wartime decisions that led to the Denebian defeat.
Pair “The Machine that Won the War” with the article by BBC, “Can We Teach Robots Ethics?” Ask students to think about how machines are prepared to make decisions. Have students discuss the questions “Do you think there are some instances in which humans should make the decisions instead of machines? How do Machines blur or complicate feelings of responsibility?”
“The Last Curiosity” by Lucy Tan (10th Grade)
Set far in the future, after the destruction of mankind, all that is left on earth is an artificial intelligence called The Woken. In an effort to understand the human experience and mindset, The Woken design an experiment to live as humans and determine their own fate.
As students read this text, have them take note of the details that support change in the experience. Students can answer Discussion Question 1, “In the story, the Woken in the Experiment believe that they get to choose their fate: either to die or to reconnect with the rest of the Woken. Can we really control our fate? Describe a time when you thought you had complete control over a choice you were making, but things didn't go as planned.”
“Excerpts From We” by Yevgeny Zamyatin (11th Grade)
In this science fiction excerpt, Yevgeny Zamyatin describes life in a future dystopian police state. His entries depict a heavily controlled, but technologically advanced society. He considers the past and the freedoms humans once had, but describes the advantages the new society has provided for him.
After reading, have students consider Discussion Question 1, “In the context of this excerpt, what should the future look like? Is this excerpt an example of an ideal future? Cite evidence from this text, your own experience, and other literature, art, or history in your answer.”
“The Star” by HG Wells (12th Grade)
After witnessing a star collide with Neptune, a mathematician warns of a possible collision with Earth. Over the next few days, the star grows in size and brightness as it approaches Earth. Despite many people renouncing the warnings of imminent doom, catastrophic events begin happening across the planet.
As students read, have them take note of the different reactions from people on Earth as the star approaches. Students can answer Discussion Question 1, “Despite the mathematician's warnings, could the people have done anything to avoid this event (keep in mind the time period in which this piece is written)? Consider what could be done now if such an event were to happen. In the context of this story, who was in control—man or nature? Who is in control now?”
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