Implementation of ‘Don’t be afraid to be afraid’ (SOI-GR-136)

Insomnia

Context

I decided to implement Rafał Mazur’s Learning Scenario ‘Don’t be afraid to be afraid’ in my 7th grade Literature Class. The class consists of 22 students aged 12-13 years old with no previous experience in digital cultural heritage. This meant that I had to adapt the LS for use with younger students since it had been created for older ones.

Playing Games 

The first part of the LS (2 teaching hours) was implemented in the ICT lab at school. The LS suggests a Kahoot game with popular beasts as a starting point. This proved to be an excellent way to begin since it immediately attracted the students’ interest and added a playful note to the lesson. The students identified correctly most of the creatures and had a lot of fun. 

Observing (and creating) Bestiaries

Then we browsed the Europeana Collections and observed images of beasts and imaginary creatures. The students were asked to discuss in groups of 4-5 which of the creatures they observed are the most terrifying and why. Most of them stated that the fact that these creatures have combined features from different existing animals was the most alarming thing about them. Since my students are much younger and they enjoy drawing very much, I decided to add an activity to the original LS, asking them to imagine and draw a creature of their own. They did so by creating new combinations of existing animals. Some students decided to do that digitally, using the photo editing apps on their smartphones.

Some of the creatures created by my students’ imagination
Some of the creatures created by my students’ imagination

Back to the Book

For the second part of the LS (3 teaching hours), we moved back to the classroom.  We now proceeded to examine the techniques used by writers to build fear. The original LS suggests that students examine different forms of art such as paintings, music etc. but since this was a Literature class, the emphasis was given to literary texts. In the Literature textbook we use for this class there is a text named “The ghosts” by Maria Iordanidou which is built around the reactions of people confronted with nature’s wonders and supernatural powers.

We first read this relatively small text and extensively discussed the mechanisms used to create an atmosphere of suspense and anxiety. The students even recalled examples of other horror books or movies they had read or seen. Thus, we created a list of features that are typical in horror stories. 

Writing Horror Stories

Then the students were divided into groups of 4-5 and asked to write a horror story collectively. They needed to implement the techniques we had already discussed and include one of the beasts they had observed or created in the first part of the implementation. To make the procedure more playful, I made an addition to the original LS: I decided to use Rory’s Story Cubes. Each group was given a dice. On the faces of each dice, there are six symbols of different objects or story elements. Each group had to throw the dice three times and include the three random elements in the story they created. This didn’t make things easier for them, as you can imagine!

Students using Rory’s Story Cubes
Students using Rory’s Story Cubes.

Learning and Teaching Outcomes

All the groups created interesting stories and did their best to meet all the requirements. Some of them were really original. They seemed to enjoy the collaborative writing procedure very much and they had a very fruitful interaction discussing the horror features they were going to include. All in all, this LS was a perfect way to help them understand the literary mechanisms used to build fear in a fun and meaningful way (which is always the best way to learn something, especially for young students). The stories they wrote were used to create a digital anthology with StoryJumper. In order to illustrate the book, the students used photos of beasts from the Europeana Collections or some of the drawings they made themselves. 

A page from the digital anthology created with the horror stories written by the students. The photo used is Manticore from BL Royal 12 F XIII, f. 24v (Public Domain Mark 1.0)
A page from the digital anthology created with the horror stories written by the students. The photo used is Manticore from BL Royal 12 F XIII, f. 24v (Public Domain Mark 1.0)
A page from the digital anthology created with the horror stories written by the students. The photo used is Manticore from BL Royal 12 F XIII, f. 24v (Public Domain Mark 1.0)

Did you find this story of implementation interesting? Why don’t you read about the related learning scenario:

Don’t be afraid to be afraid by Rafał Mazur

If you found this story of implementation interesting, you might also like:

CC BY 4.0: the featured image used to illustrate this article has been found on Europeana Collections and provided by the Wellcome Collection.

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