This is the first free GCSE English lesson in a series designed to get you and your teenagers discussing books. I am starting with the section of the GCSE English Literature syllabus where your teenager will need to study a 19th-century novel. This week we will be looking at Frankenstein – a popular choice with schools. Frankenstein is one of the 19th-century choices on both the the AQA and Edexcel exam boards.
The idea of the free GCSE English Lesson is for you to explore books with your teenagers. If they are studying any of the books in the series (and I have included some of the most popular with schools) this will be valuable home study for them and will allow you a good insight into what they will be doing when they return to school. Even if you have an older child who is not doing these books for GCSE, you can still help them to read more widely, understand English better, and stimulate discussions around books. This will be valuable work for their general education and I hope you will enjoy it too. After all, discussions around literature are why book clubs are so popular.
I’ve put in some questions for you as a starting point, 2 research tasks, and I have included the free pdf book downloads.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: A Free GCSE English Lesson
Frankenstein is one of the most popular choices by UK schools for the GCSE syllabus. For the next set of exams it is on both the AQA and Edexcel boards, but it is one book that deserves to be read regardless of exams. If you have never read Mary Shelley’s masterpiece you may be surprised how far removed the original is from the monster with the bolt through his neck that is the most popular modern representation of Frankenstein. It’s a disturbing read that raises questions about humanity, science, and the nature of life itself.
Background to the Book
Mary Shelley, aged only 20, wrote Frankenstein on a rainy day in 1816. She was staying in Geneva with her husband, the poet Percy Shelley, Lord Byron and Lord Byron’s doctor, John Polidori. Trapped indoors by the dreadful weather, they decided to pass the time writing ghost stories. The concept of both Frankenstein, and Polidori’s The Vampyre, came from that rainy day in 1816. See more here
Read the book. Watch the video clip. Then discuss the book together. Whilst you want to hear ideas and personal responses, try to keep a loose framework to the discussion. Here are some ideas of relevant questions to ask. These are, by the way, exactly the sort of questions your child will need to know the answers to if they have this book to study at school.
Shelley uses the device of letters to convey information to the reader. At the beginning of the book, how effective is this device? What information do you learn from the letters?
In chapters 1 to 3, what do you learn about Victor Frankenstein? What was his childhood like?
Foreshadowing is the literary technique of preparing the reader for later tragedy or conflict – how does Shelley use foreshadowing in these chapters?
How do you think women are portrayed in these early chapters? Does this change or remain constant throughout the book?
Chapters 4 – 5: How does Shelley present Victor Frankenstein in these chapters? How does he react to the creature he has created? What point might Shelley be making about science and scientists? How might this link to the society in which Shelley lived?
Chapter 6-8: How has everything gone so wrong for Frankenstein? We return to the device of using letters – what function do you think they have at this point of the book?
Chapters 9-10: How does Shelley use the natural world to show Frankenstein’s mood and to create atmosphere? What language does she use to show us Frankenstein’s state of mind?
Chapters 11 to 14: What are your feelings towards the monster here? Do your feelings change by the end of the book? Why is he so fascinated with the relationship between Felix and Safie?
Chapters 15 to 17: How does learning to read affect the creature? Why does he seek revenge? What ideas does he begin to develop about his identity?
Chapters 18-20: Why does Frankenstein start work on a new creature? What troubles him about this?
Chapters 21-23: Why does Frankenstein keep falling ill? What would you say is the climax of the novel? Did you expect this to happen? Why?
Chapter 24: Has Frankenstein himself become a monster?
Who is the main villain of the book? Is it the creature or Frankenstein? Why do you think this?
How do you feel about the ending?
How is parenthood (fatherhood) explored in the book?
Research Tasks –
Use the internet to find out more about Mary Shelley and the society in which she lived. Think about how this may have influenced her writing one of the most famous books in English Literature.
Shelley gave an alternative title for the book – The Modern Prometheus. Research the myth of Prometheus. Who might be Prometheus in Shelley’s book?
I hope you have enjoyed this free GCSE English lesson and have begun to discuss books in your home, with your family. The next blog will be a lesson on a book which is probably the most popular 19th-century novel at GCSE – Jekyll and Hyde.
A Bit About Me
As well as being a mum, grandmother, practising tutor and education blogger, I am the Founder & Managing Partner of The Tutor Team. We are a family business, where I work with both my daughter Tess and my son Anthony. I am also assisted by Lisa, my PA. We are proud to have a team of 64 qualified, experienced teachers and university lecturers offering high-quality private tuition online.
During the lockdown I’m going to offer you are series of free lessons to help whilst all our children are at home. The next in the series will be the second free English Lesson – 3 Classic English books for you to read and discuss with your family.
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