I've noticed there are a lot of educators (and students) on this message board, and wondered if it would be worth starting a thread where we can share experiences of using Bradbury in our teaching.
I teach Video Production, and have just today used some Bradbury texts as the basis for a storyboarding exercise. I skimmed through 100 OF HIS MOST CELEBRATED TALES, looking for visual story openings. The ones I settled on were "The Pedestrian", "Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl", "The Garbage Collector" and "The Sea Shell". I also used "My Son, Max" from ONE MORE FOR THE ROAD.
Students seemed to take instantly to these texts and found many parts really easy to storyboard - confirming Sam Peckinpah's advice to rip the pages from the book and stuff them straight into the camera.
Has anyone found any other Bradbury to be particularly useful for any other pedagogical purpose?
Incidentally, I was amazed as I skimmed 100 MOST CELEBRATED at how many Bradbury stories begin with a character sitting up and either listening to a sound or moving to a window to look out at something going on. I've been reading Bradbury for thirty years, and had never before noticed this tendency!
[This message has been edited by philnic (edited 10-23-2003).]
I have presented Mr. Bradbury's works to grades 7-12 for the past many years. I have made numerous contacts with teachers and librarian via this venue, many of whom I have stayed in touch with and share materials, illustrations, and audio/video items. Great folks all!
Some of the works I have presented and/or built files on include: Dandelion Wine, Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Illustrated Man, Golden Apples of the Sun, Zen in the Art of Writing, Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, Yestermorrow, and many specifically chosen short stories identified for their themes or style.
Phil, one of the classic window scenes would have to be Douglas Spaulding looking out over the whole of Green Town, Ill., from his grandparents' cupola and bringing awake the summer of 1928 in the first paragraphs of DW!
I have taught Martian Chronicles, as well as several of his short stories, to seventh grade students for many years now. I have also used his short stories when I was working on catchy story beginnings with my language arts classes. I have done extensive author studies on him with my classes. And right now I'm getting ready to use "The Screaming Woman," both the story and the video, for a fun Halloween activity.
I use Farenheit 451 in Comm College courses as a way of discussing the importance of ideas and of truly human interaction (Montag and Clarisse, vrs Montag and his zombie-wife). We go through the dialogs in the text itself and build out from those. We also discuss censorship -- both via government controls and personal limitations based (as Kant says) on fear and laziness. It is less frightening to go with the crowd, and it is less work to just accept whatever ideas the prevailing cultures hands down to you.
But these are ways of becoming less human. As Aristotle says, we are rational creatures.
Funny, I noticed the same thing as I skimmed my library copy of 100 stories. If a story begins with a change for the main character, then Bradbury's use (or over-use) of having his characters look out a window, answer a door or telephone, or wake up in bed serves the purpose to get the ball rolling, as it were. Sloppiness? Not necessarily. Just noticeable when you line up 100 stories. I suspect most writers' work would reveal similar patterns. (And I think this tendency of Bradbury's comes from his often quoted method of writing, that of listening to the metaphors in his head while in that half-dream state in the morning, then jumping up (or jumping off the cliff, as he says) and writing it down (or building his wings on the way down, as he further says.)
Very useful for writers. And a special challenge for your film students and their story-boarding skills.
I've got no problem with Bradbury starting his stories this way. If it's good enough for Kafka and Gregor Samsa, it's good enough for Ray.
And don't traditional blues songs always begin "I woke up this morning..."?
I wonder how many of us here - the ones slightly longer in the tooth - also had Bradbury taught to us when we were younger. I actually first encountered Bradbury in an English class, when we were all given Golden Apples of the Sun to read. "Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl" was just the most startling thing I had ever read at that point, and is still one of my favourites.
In the UK, SF and fantasy have generally been looked down on in education. The only authors who have managed to sneak through are Bradbury, H.G. Wells and John Wyndham. The latter being, in some ways, the British equivalent of Ray: someone who started in the pulps, but gradually rose above them through literary merit.
I have taught F451 to a range of students (and in a range of ways - eg. focussing on a particular aspect/theme). I have also used stories such as 'A Sound of Thunder', 'The Pedestrian', 'The Great Wide World Over there' and 'The Murderer' to stimulate class discussion. Sometimes I simply read a story to students for the pure enjoyment of it. Once we had about 3 weeks of non-stop rain (very unusual for this part of the world) and many of my students thrilled to 'The Long Rain'. Magic.
Ok this is a little off topic but you might explain something for me... The story My son Max - can you tell me what that's about? When I read it I was confused - after I get home from class tonight I'll reread it again, but I doubt I'll be enlightened.
My Son, Max:
My reading of it (or my memory of it) is that the narrator likes to sit in restaurants and "eavesdrop" on other people's conversations by lip-reading. The story recounts his experience of lip-reading a family argument, but the family in question are wise to him and have been stringing him along by acting out a bizarre situation (the details of which I forget).
The only bit I have used in my classes is the first two pages, when the lip-reading routine is established. (It's the visual possibilities that serve my teaching purposes.)
I'd be interested in hearing any other readings, especially if I have misconstrued the whole story (which isn't uncommon for me - I tend to forget plot details rather quickly!)
[This message has been edited by philnic (edited 10-29-2003).]
Okay then... I seem to remember this story totally in a different fashion! I thought that the whole first half of the story was true, but the second was made up by the father....(Kind of to make up for his son telling him he was gay and all...)
On another unrelated topic, why do all the characters in later Bradbury stories seem to drink to excess? Wait, I don't know that this happens in this particular story, but I couldn't help but notice it after his last couple of books...
"Cistern" employs a long dialog between the sisters, one of whom is looking out the front window the entire time. Very effective.
Uh-oh, looks like I'll have to re-read Max! I think I prefer my version, but that doesn't mean my version is the story as Ray wrote it.
You're right, there is a lot of drinking in the later stories, most of it very casual and unthinking. Let's All Kill Constance has lots of drinking activity. Do we know if Mr Bradbury likes a tipple?
He never smoked, but did drink a fair amount before his stroke. His favorite was Olympia Light in a tall can. He changed a lot of his eating and drinking habits after the stroke.
sorry haven't gotten out One More foir the Road yet to reread it, but thanks for the 2 insights. When I do get to it tonite I'll it in mind to guide me along.
I used Fahrenheit 451 in my Reading, Writing and Research class last semester. I had planned this big unit on censorship, I was going to hand out articles and speeches from such folks as Stephen King and others, as well as show episodes of The Simpsons and South Park that dealt with such issues. Alas, it fell through.
I told my students to consider "history" and exactly how history is passed onto us, using the distorted history that Beatty gives Montag about the Firemen's history. I asked my students to think about who writes "history," namely the "winners."
My thesis advisor used The Martian Chronicles in a sci-fi class he taught during the summer. If, and when I ever get around to teaching such a class (one day!), I will use it as well.
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