Have you ever daydreamed about impossible events? Maybe having a superpower? Or having access to a secret world that no one else can see? Humankind seems to have an innate fascination with the impossible (or improbable?), and in no other genre than fantasy is this trend most pronounced.
Authors have the ability to use any technique they wish to craft a world of their choosing, not bound by the physical laws of reality. However, this does not mean that fantasy or magical realism has no relevance to the real world!
In this unit, we will examine the role that fantasy and make believe plays in our lives. We will read David Almond’s novel Skellig and examine extracts from more traditional fantasy stories as well. Focussing on the prominent themes, symbols and motifs of these fantastic stories, we will see that while they may be unrealistic, they contain ample insight hidden behind the illusion. We hope you enjoy the unit!
Session One – ‘Fantastic Creatures!’
In this introductory session, we will start getting creative! We will learn what symbolism means and then create symbolic creatures in groups. We will then base a creative writing sample on one of these fantastic creations!
Session Two – ‘Fantasy vs. Magical Realism’
Today we will start by investigating the differences between two ‘fantastic’ genres – fantasy and magical realism. We will then begin reading Skellig and, applying our new knowledge, hypothesise as to what the advantages of both genres are and why David Almond might have chosen to write such a story.
Session Three – ‘Haunted Houses’
Setting does more than just create atmosphere – it can also be symbolic. Today we will analyse a passage, visualise the setting and discuss how imagery can be used to create both atmosphere and meaning.
Session Four – ‘That’s So Deep!’
Literary works often make references to other people, places, things (even other literary works!). These are called allusions and they can help add to the ‘literary weight’ of a piece as well as enhance a reader’s enjoyment. Today we will research about some upcoming allusions from Skellig and make connections and predictions about the novel.
Session Five – ‘Searching for Symbols’
Over the course of these lessons we will continue to read Skellig (as a class and individually) and hunt for literary symbols. We will interpret what they might mean and communicate our understanding in two well-written paragraphs.
Session Six – ‘The Significance of Skellig’
We focus on ‘big-picture’ thinking now that we have finished reading Skellig. We will review the novel, build vocabulary, learn to make connections between topics and discover how to find themes in literary works.
Session Seven – ‘Symbols into Themes’
We will apply everything we have learned about themes and symbols in an analysis of Skellig. After introducing the first summative assessment task, we will begin planning for our analytical essay by looking for themes and symbols in the novel.
Session Eight – ‘Exceptional Editing’
Not many people understand the difference between editing and proofreading, but it is a pretty big deal! Editing is a major step in the writing process. In this session we will learn about what editing involves and then peer and self-edit our essays.
Session Nine – ‘Creative Characters’
In this lesson we will read extracts from a number of fantasy stories and see how authors create symbolic characters through appearance, actions, interactions with objects / setting and imagery. Then, we will do some descriptive writing of our own about an original fantastic character.
Session Ten – ‘Visionary World Building’
Now that we have learned how to write descriptively about a symbolic character, we need to create a visionary world for them to inhabit, as well as a biography (or background). We will read an extract from Ursula LeGuin’s A Wizard of Earthsea before doing some creative writing of our own.
Session Eleven – ‘Symbolic Language’
Now that we have learned about how the content of a story can be symbolic, let’s learn how to make the style symbolic as well! We will explore the use of figurative language in enhancing a theme and start preparing for our final creative project.
Session Twelve – Final Lesson
We will first finish self- and peer-editing our stories before summarising our learning for the unit in a general discussion.